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WhyPanama
Costa del Este
Panama City, Panama 







Donna


Tom


Tom



More News - 2009 & earlier

December 2009

Happy Anniversary to my sweetie of 34 years. Today we celebrated our anniversary for the 4th time in Panama. It's amazing how fast those four years have flown gone by ... we're still getting to know our new home.

We celebrated Christmas a bit different this year - we wer introduced to "nochebuena" the Christmas Eve tradition in Panama. We visited with our neighbours until midnight when we rang in Christmas and watched fireworks that rivaled New Years. When we woke up Christmas morning the fireworks were still going off in our area.

We enjoyed a Christmas dinner with our neighbours Sandra & Jose Luis and their 3 boys. The dinner was a combination of Argentinean, Panamanian and Canadian traditional fare.

This week we have the pleasure of showing Paul & Maryann Panama City. They've been in Panama at the Decameron for over a week and having a blast. This will give us a chance to show them the city.

We are looking forward to New Years eve as we will be ordering Chinese take away from Lung Fung. If we're up we will probably take our champagne to the roof to watch the fireworks again. Donna has a new video camera toy to try out.

We're also looking forward to our friends Wayne & Elaine arriving in January.

We will have our 2009 Year in Review slide show on line this coming week - so look for it.

The new government has been debating the proposed new land titling law 71 for the past couple of weeks amidst some very strong opposition. The main issue is the stubborn belief on the part of the government that it owns all the land held in the "derecho posesorio" (Right of Possession). You will remember that I've told you that prior to taking office now president Sr. Ricardo Martinelli declared his support for titling all the ROP land free and fast. After much debate the outcome seems to be that the government will title the first 5 hectares of ROP land at no cost. Any land above 5 hectares will be subject to a fee dependant on the area of Panama. This fee structure was introduced to discourage investors that the government thought were taking advantage of the new titling laws. As we've seen before this is not over, the devil is in the details, and that means in the implementation regulations that have not yet been drafted. If they hold to the 5 hectares at no cost, that will be a huge benefit to the average Panamanian, and to many expats that bought beach front property under ROP.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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Our Open House was excellent - thanks so much to everyone who can out - we really enjoyed talking with everyone. Your generosity toward the Arraijan shelter was so kind. Thank you. We delivered all the food and money you brought. I hope you can join us next year.

To all our friends who weren't here to contribute in person but stepped up and contributed on line we thank you - we delivered the money to Mari Pily today. Talk about timing. Mari was a bit distraught as she has been needing food and money and wasn't sure where it was going to come from.

On a similar note, Donna received a phone call from a young teacher here in Panama inquiring about the Arraijan shelter - I guess he wasn't sure exactly who was behind it and if it was legitimate - see, he wanted to contribute his Christmas gift giving - he met Mari yesterday and gave her a very generous donation.

Christmas is about giving - because we feel blessed we want to help others. And so many people do. Here in Panama, in Canada, the USA - we know there are many people who go unrecognized but who contribute a lot. We salute each of you. The Arraijan shelter is but one good cause. There are many. The need is huge - but the capacity for good is even bigger.

A couple of friends from St. Albert arrive Monday for a couple of weeks. They are going to spend Christmas and New Years with their family at a resort on the Pacific - it will be very different than the -20 C they are living in right now.

Over the past couple of years we've been reporting on the state of the affairs of the land titling in Panama. As you know the largest percentage of land in Panama is held in a form of ownership called "direcho posesori" or Right of Possession (ROP). Last year as the outgoing government was winding down it passed a law number 23. It was designed to provide a title to all the ROP land. Both presidential candidates were supportive of the new law, however, as soon as the new government took power it scrapped this law in favour of another proposed law 71 that would see the island and coastal lands excluded from the titling. What a shame.

There are hearings to be heard on the third reading of this proposed law this coming week. As always it will be interesting to hear how that progresses. Kind of sad in my mind that the government is forcibly controlling the coasts and islands.

On another note when we first came to Panama we opened a bank account at a local bank and if you've been through that process you know how difficult that can be. You need at least letters from banks in your home country along with other references in Panama. After 3 years in Panama we thought it would be easier so we went to another bank to open an account. Were we surprised when we were told we still needed all this same material even though we've had a record in Panama for 3 years. And we were told it would take about a month to get approval and open the account. My suggestion - when  you come to Panama, open as many accounts as you are comfortable so you will have some options if you care to change banks some time later.

Also, if you purchase a condo and you have any windows facing south consider having some film installed. After 3 years we finally had this installed this week and what a difference in temperature.

We've also had a lesson in fans - turns out bigger is not better - we installed a fan in a small room and it did not work worth anything - so we checked with the manufacturer and they confirmed it - use a smaller fan for results.

 

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Christmas is definitely in the air.

If you live in Panama City, or plan on being in the city December 17th between 3:30 pm and 9 pm, why not join Donna and I at our annual Open House - simply email Donna at donna@whypanama.net and let her know you can make it and she will give you directions and our telephone numbers.

One of my Alberta friends on Facebook, Dr. Karen Osburn told me it was -41c yesterday in St. Albert. I have such a hard time picturing that kind of temperature anymore.

Our tree is up - Donna did another amazing job decorating it - this years theme - Teddy Bears and Nutcrackers. Check it out at http://twitpic.com/slvyp

We've both looking forward to so many things this holiday season - our annual open house (see above), Christmas dinner with our neighbours Sandra & Jose Luis and their sons, our 34th anniversary, Paul and Maryann (friends from St. Albert) as they visit Panama, and of course the craziness of New Years fireworks in Panama City.

When our friends Jim & Missy were here last month we found out that they are aficionados on sausage making - who knew :} It's one thing we've missed is the ability to buy a variety of sausages like English bangers or Italian hots. Donna & I are going to use Jim & Missys expertise and start making our own. Should be fun. Yummy for sure.

If you've been reading our site you know we took the Royal Caribbean cruise out of Colon last year - well, we liked it so much we are doing it again in February. Check out some pictures and Donna's recap at http://www.icangarden.com/pix/jpgs/cruiseRC-2009/Slideshow-Cruise2009/index.html 

New items added this week include a culinary guiide/lexicon link from Glenn, Panama Holiday calendar thanks to David, new links including a coffee estate and updates on garden clubs in Panama.

We love Panama, you know that if you have been reading some of this site over the past few years, but one aspect that just tears our hearts out are the strays. There as so many and such a huge need. That is why we built the website - They Need Your Love - please check it out and support the shelter. 

We sent a note to our friends in Canada and we were thrilled to have a number of them respond with a gift for the shelter. If you are a pet person you know how much it means to these pets to have a home where you are loved and food in your belly. Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org 

If you don't want to commit to a monthly amount you can choose to make a one-time donation.

Can you help - will you ask your friends to help

www.THEYNEEDYOURLOVE.org

Have you read any of Donna's articles in the Visitor magazine. Almost every week she has a garden related article written specifically for Panama. She needs your help in finding great gardens, garden clubs, garden supply stores - email her, twitter her, facebook her -

Don't forget to follow the development in Costa del Este in pictures.

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet". Donna's Twitter handle is "ICanGarden" - follow us.

 

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Lots of announcements recently from the new government from wanting to restore the beaches along the downtown Panama City's new Cinta Costera to more crack down on corruption. 

Are you planning on visiting Panama - do you hve any questions - we may not know the answers but I am pretty sure we can find someone that can. So feel free to email us.

We've made many changes to the Arraijan Shelter site - we are getting ready to send out an email with an appeal to see if we can't organize enough pet lovers support to cover the monthly cost of the shelter.

We love Panama, you know that if you have been reading some of this site over the past few years, but one aspect that just tears our hearts out are the strays. There as so many and such a huge need. That is why we built the website - They Need Your Love - please check it out and support the shelter.

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org 

If you don't want to commit to a monthly amount you can choose to make a one-time donation.

Can you help - will you ask your friends to help

www.THEYNEEDYOURLOVE.org

Have you read any of Donna's articles in the Visitor magazine. Almost every week she has a garden related article written specifically for Panama. She needs your help in finding great gardens, garden clubs, garden supply stores - email her, twitter her, facebook her -

Don't forget to follow the development in Costa del Este in pictures.

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet". Donna's Twitter handle is "ICanGarden" - follow us.

November 2009

While it was a really busy week it was a good busy week if you know what I mean - it feels like we accomplished a fair bit. We also met Missy & Jim at the airport. They are back in Panama checking out the area around El Valle. They are convinced they will likely end up renting for a year and visiting the surrounding area to see where they might want to settle down.

We've been watching signs of Christmas going up all over Costa del Este. Every year they put up lights on the trees lining the main road - it's really cool to see almost 2 km of lights in the trees. 

We've made many changes to the Arraijan Shelter site - we are getting ready to send out an email with an appeal to see if we can't organize enough pet lovers support to cover the monthly cost of the shelter.

We love Panama, you know that if you have been reading some of this site over the past few years, but one aspect that just tears our hearts out are the strays. There as so many and such a huge need. That is why we built the website - They Need Your Love - please check it out and support the shelter. 

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org 

If you don't want to commit to a monthly amount you can choose to make a one-time donation.

Can you help - will you ask your friends to help

www.THEYNEEDYOURLOVE.org

Panama for the first time - I love talking to new explorers about Panama - there is so much to love.

We are looking forward to seeing Jim & Missy this month as they visit Panama and December we'll be visiting with Paul & Maryann. 

Have you checked out the pictures on the site? Do you have any restaurant or visitor suggestions we need to add? We'd love to hear from you.

In spite of all my comments recently, if you are planning to visit Panama - email us - if we are around and its convenient for you it would be fun to meet. A couple of friends we met this way, Missy and Jim are visiting again in November and we can't wait to see them and get caught up.

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet". Donna's Twitter handle is "ICanGarden" - follow us.

I promised you more pictures last week as Donna was snapping away as we drove to causeway and on our way home. She did the same today and I will for sure put them on the site for you. You will be amazed at the construction downtown.

 

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Rain - I guess that is the news of the past week. So much of Panama was inundated with rain. Too much rain for most areas. There were reports of flooding from Boquete to Panama City. It seems so odd in a country that is used to rain that flooding would still be a reality. I don't have any statistics so I am not sure if this year really is an anomaly or not.

We're getting ready for our Christmas open house we've had every year both here in Panama as well as in Canada for more than 13 years. This year we will continue to ask people to bring a small something for the shelter in Arraijan - They Need Your Love.

Donna & I have been working on changes and updates to all our sites. Last week I added all of Donna's articles she has written for both Vivir Bien and for the Visitor. Check them all our in our new section called "Gardening". This is a brand new section on WhyPanama.net - and it is there for all the gardeners in Panama. Help Donna create the most comprehensive site of gardening information in Panama. From Clubs to Suppliers to personal or public gardens, this area will grow as  you contribute. Donna has already received some great responses - make sure you look at the gardens and other articles submitted by gardeners.

ICanGarden.com will be running a series of brand new contests in the coming months. At this point the prizes can only be shipped in Canada or the USA - maybe we'll be able to run some Panamanian contests.

We've had some messages from folks coming to visit Panama for the first time - I love talking to new explorers about Panama - there is so much to love.

We are looking forward to seeing Jim & Missy this month as they visit Panama and December we'll be visiting with Paul & Maryann. 

Have you checked out the pictures on the site? Do you have any restaurant or visitor suggestions we need to add? We'd love to hear from you.

In spite of all my comments recently, if you are planning to visit Panama - email us - if we are around and its convenient for you it would be fun to meet. A couple of friends we met this way, Missy and Jim are visiting again in November and we can't wait to see them and get caught up.

We love Panama, you know that if you have been reading some of this site over the past few years, but one aspect that just tears our hearts out are the strays. There as so many and such a huge need. That is why we built the website - They Need Your Love - please check it out and support the shelter. 

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org 

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet". Donna's Twitter handle is "ICanGarden" - follow us.

I promised you more pictures last week as Donna was snapping away as we drove to causeway and on our way home. She did the same today and I will for sure put them on the site for you. You will be amazed at the construction downtown.

 

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Great news - Donna is now the official garden contributing writer for the Visitor weekly magazine. Check her articles on line or pick up the magazine - its free at almost all the hotels in Panama.

Donna is looking to you for help in developing the gardening section on the site. Check out what she's added already in Gardening Articles - Gardens, Garden Suppliers and Garden Clubs. Please email her at donna@whypanama.net with any information you have.

Last week the Panamanian Government held an informational session in the Continental Hotel mainly to help placate some of the upset ROP owners who have been contacting their embassies worried that their homes were in jeopardy. In the meeting the government representatives assured the audience they did not intend to fast track the new proposed law 71 and would welcome input. Later in the week the newspaper reported the government would be holding hearings that could lead to 3rd reading as soon as November so getting much feedback and being able to analyze it seems unlikely.

November is holiday month in Panama - there are 3 statutory holidays and 2 others observed by banks and governments. Here is a link on the Visitor to an explanation of all the holidays.

We are looking forward to November as it is the month they start stringing the lights on the trees all along the main street here in Costa del Este - and when they are lit they are amazing - they really do get you into the holiday mood even it is 30+ degrees C outside.

The monstrous Christmas store here in Costa del Este has been open since August if you can believe it - really hard to get into the mood in August :}

We've had some messages from folks coming to visit Panama for the first time - I love talking to new explorers about Panama - there is so much to love.

We heard from some of our old friends in Alberta that they've booked a Christmas / New Years holiday in Panama - it will be good to see Paul and Maryann.

Have you checked out the pictures on the site? Do you have any restaurant or visitor suggestions we need to add? We'd love to hear from you.

In spite of all my comments recently, if you are planning to visit Panama - email us - if we are around and its convenient for you it would be fun to meet. A couple of friends we met this way, Missy and Jim are visiting again in November and we can't wait to see them and get caught up.

We love Panama, you know that if you have been reading some of this site over the past few years, but one aspect that just tears our hearts out are the strays. There as so many and such a huge need. That is why we built the website - They Need Your Love - please check it out and support the shelter. 

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org 

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet".

I promised you more pictures last week as Donna was snapping away as we drove to causeway and on our way home. She did the same today and I will for sure put them on the site for you. You will be amazed at the construction downtown.

 

October 2009

Paradise Lost ?

The good news is that if you have or want a condo in Panama City your paradise is safe. but if you want a piece of Paradise on a beach in Panama you had better be looking at an existing development owned by a Panamanian or a very high profile company like Decameron or your piece of paradise may be in danger.

I've been writing about the changes in the laws regarding titling of land in Panama being contemplated by the new government of President Martinelli.

It seems that from this point forward unless you are a huge very wealthy development company or a well connected Panamanian getting a title to a property on an island or a coastal property may be at an end.

Don't get me wrong, the proposed law 71 has not passed and it yet may go through so changes that could be very favorable. What concerns me is that fact a government official can decide to radically change a law like one concerning titling and one that has constitutionally entrenched rights.

Many people I know that came to Panama 8-10 years ago and settled in either Bocas or on the Azuela Peninsula are now facing sleepless nights wondering when some government employee is going to come along and tell them there home and land are no longer theirs and they have to either pay the government for the right to occupy (not own) the land or they will have their home demolished or given to someone who is willing and able to pay.

One quick note - the new exit tax just introduced to commence Jan 1, 2010 has been increased to $40 from the existing $20.

In spite of all my comments recently, if you are planning to visit Panama - email us - if we are around and its convenient for you it would be fun to meet. A couple of friends we met this way, Missy and Jim are visiting again in November and we can't wait to see them and get caught up. Some of our other friends from Alberta may be here sooner if their land deal on the Caribbean goes through. Had the pleasure of talking to another new friend looking at Panama - Terry & Susan are from WI and might be visiting in the spring. Nice sounding people.

We love Panama, you know that if you have been reading some of this site over the past few years, but one aspect that just tears our hearts out are the strays. There as so many and such a huge need. That is why we built the website - They Need Your Love - please check it out and support the shelter. 

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org 

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet".

I promised you more pictures last week as Donna was snapping away as we drove to causeway and on our way home. She did the same today and I will for sure put them on the site for you. You will be amazed at the construction downtown.

 

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We had a great time at the Dolce Coffee House for Canadian Thanksgiving. We had a friend in from Bocas and we met some great people over dinner.

This last week was a bit insane. The office was busy and at the same time the government of Panama decided to put forth a new proposed law that will affect over 1 million Panamanians concerning the titling of lands owned under the derecho posesorio. The thing about this new proposed law is the only people that know of this law are the ones in the government and the small band of people at the consejo consultivo.

These is a well written article in the latest Panama Guide. It was written by a very knowledgeable person on the subject and I know she interviewed some of the leading experts in Panama. Check it out here http://www.panama-guide.com/article.php/20091010092352710  

The meetings in Panama City this last week were in my opinion incredible. And not a good incredible. Hundreds of Panamanian citizens attended the meeting to voice their disapproval only to be told in one instance the meeting was cancelled and on another instance they held the meeting but had the audacity to tell the assembled crowd that they were not going to be allowed to speak that particular meeting was for the deputies alone.

Do you own derecho posesorio land (ROP) - you need to be in Panama City next week - you need to bring everyone you can - you need to email the group working to help to find out what you can do - the email is conconsultcivil@yahoo.com

If you are planning to visit Panama - email us - if we are around and its convenient for you it would be fun to meet. A couple of friends we met this way, Missy and Jim are visiting again in November and we can't wait to see them and get caught up. Some of our other friends from Alberta may be here sooner if their land deal on the Caribbean goes through. Had the pleasure of talking to another new friend looking at Panama - Terry & Susan are from WI and might be visiting in the spring. Nice sounding people.

We love Panama, you know that if you have been reading some of this site over the past few years, but one aspect that just tears our hearts out are the strays. There as so many and such a huge need. That is why we built the website - They Need Your Love - please check it out and support the shelter. 

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org 

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet".

More pictures to come this week - Donna was snapping away as we drove to causeway today and on our way home.

 

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Are you joining us for Canadian Thanksgiving dinner at the Dulce Coffee House on Monday - it's located on via Argentina from 1 pm to 10pm or until it runs out.

Last week the Ministry of Finance, put another amendment to the land titling laws. The first hearing is Monday at the Asembea in the azul room starting at 9am - if you have any interest or concerns about the state of (or lack of) the land titling in Panama be there. Bring as many friends as you can. The government needs to hear your voice. Last year when the previous government was addressing this issue the old Ministry of Finance and Castatro put forth the same sort of poor proposals. It was only the vocal presence of local Panamanians that brought the government to their senses and they created Law 23. But with the waning days of the old administration it did not pass the necessary regulations that would have seen ProNAT manage the process. Instead we have this new challenge.

These is a well written article in the latest Panama Guide. It was written by a very knowledgeable person on the subject and I know she interviewed some of the leading experts in Panama. Check it out here http://www.panama-guide.com/article.php/20091010092352710  

If you are planning to visit Panama - email us - if we are around and its convenient for you it would be fun to meet. A couple of friends we met this way, Missy and Jim are visiting again in November and we can't wait to see them and get caught up. Some of our other friends from Alberta may be here sooner if their land deal on the Caribbean goes through. Had the pleasure of talking to another new friend looking at Panama - Terry & Susan are from WI and might be visiting in the spring. Nice sounding people.

I know I do go on sometimes about some of the issues in Panama - I know I do - but remember - AI also chose to move here, am still here, and for the most part love the country, the people and for sure the climate.

You may remember me talking about our quest for a Ruben sandwich and our struggles finding corned beef and rye bread. I want to tell you I was so amazed to receive an email response to a note I sent Riba Smith regarding rye bread. The response came within the same day and it was well written and pleasant. How cool.    

We love Panama, you know that if you have been reading some of this site over the past few years, but one aspect that just tears our hearts out are the strays. There as so many and such a huge need. That is why we built the website - They Need Your Love - please check it out and support the shelter. 

The last couple of weeks I mentioned the Arraijan shelter again. This is a really worthy cause - this shelter looks after so many dogs and cats that it is a huge burden financially - can you help? I spent some  last weekend on the shelters web site. There is still a lot of clean up and organization to do to make it easier to navigate but it's a bit better - suggestions - feedback.

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org 

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet".

More pictures to come this week - Donna was snapping away as we drove to causeway today and on our way home.

 

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I talked last week about Canadian Thanksgiving - and how I suggested two charities as causes to promote at the dinner.

Before I could get the Mirimar to confirm the charities tables I heard the Canadian Association was "back in" with the dinner and somehow overnight they had 200+ coming. I contacted the person in charge of the Cdn Assoc and was told in some of the rudest way that they would not have any charities at the event. Period. Full stop. No discussion.

I know just because someone is another Cdn expat that it doesn't mean they are any better person - but one hopes - in this case was I disappointed.

So, if you are reading this, are a Canadian and thinking of the Mirimar / Cdn Assoc dinner - reconsider - and think about joining Donna & I at a restaurant in El Cangrejo called Dolce Coffee House it is run by a Canadian Angel Bakx. She is offering a full turkey thanksgiving dinner with a glass of wine for $18 - we will be there around 5pm - turkey will be served - from 1 pm to 10pm or until it runs out.

Maybe before next year we Canadians that are thankful for our bounty can get together and do something for a couple of local worthy charities instead of just focusing on filling our face and meeting other expats without the concern of having to be bothered with charities.

Also this week the Panamanian government, well the Ministry of Finance, put another amendment to the land titling laws. I got a copy and while I don't profess to have the level of Spanish or legal background required to comment without help, it appears that this amendment will put the titling of land in Panama back into the stone age.

I am going to a meeting tomorrow at the meson de prado on tumba meurto to hear others thoughts on this new amendment and to hear what changes might be proposed. 

If you are planning to visit Panama - email us - if we are around and its convenient for you it would be fun to meet. A couple of friends we met this way, Missy and Jim are visiting again in November and we can't wait to see them and get caught up. Some of our other friends from Alberta may be here sooner if their land deal on the Caribbean goes through. Had the pleasure of talking to another new friend looking at Panama - Terry & Susan are from WI and might be visiting in the spring. Nice sounding people.

I know I do go on sometimes about some of the issues in Panama - I know I do - but remember - AI also chose to move here, am still here, and for the most part love the country, the people and for sure the climate.

On another note Donna & I got a hankering for a Ruben Sandwich last week. So the hunt started for the ingredients - Corned beef or pastrami, rye bread, sauerkraut and russian dressing/mustard. Well no corned beef to be had except in cans. So pastrami was next - found only turkey pastrami - so that had to do. Rye bread was another matter - we tried the bakeries first - like Viva la pan, Canadian bakery, petit paris and the ones in Riba and Super 99 - no luck. We did find pre-packed rye so that had to do. Not great but ok. Never did look for russian mustard/dressing - just ran out of steam so we used a really good dijon. The end result was actually pretty good. Last night we ventured into making home made calzones. Yum.    

We love Panama, you know that if you have been reading some of this site over the past few years, but one aspect that just tears our hearts out are the strays. There as so many and such a huge need. That is why we built the website - They Need Your Love - please check it out and support the shelter. 

The last couple of weeks I mentioned the Arraijan shelter again. This is a really worthy cause - this shelter looks after so many dogs and cats that it is a huge burden financially - can you help? I spent some  last weekend on the shelters web site. There is still a lot of clean up and organization to do to make it easier to navigate but it's a bit better - suggestions - feedback.

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org 

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet".

More pictures to come this week - Donna was snapping away as we drove to causeway today and on our way home.

 

September 2009

We had a great time Tuesday night at the Sheraton Hotel for the Concert held to benefit the foundation "Oir es Vivir" (to hear is to live) - this is a group that provides funding for audio impaired people wanting to obtain a cochlear implant.

The Concert was a night of Sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven - I've had the distinct pleasure of hearing both featured performers - Prof. Luis Fernando Morales and Graciela Núnez before but they were excellent.

This week was quiet news wise - especially concerning the issues of land ownership. Donna went to a symposium for garden writers in Raleigh NC. She had a great time.
 
More development going on in Costa del Este - hard to believe in this real estate market developers are still willing to start new condo projects.

The recent Panama Post had an interesting article entitled - "Memory of a Nation". The article outlines the 57 historical heritage sites in Panama. Check it out here.

October 12th is Canadian Thanksgiving and in past years the Canadian Association hosted a dinner at the Mirimar Hotel - apparently they have chosen not to this year. Not sure the reason but I understand the Mirimar is offering a Thanksgiving dinner non the less.

I suggested to the Yahoo group "PanamaCanadians" that we have a couple of worthwhile charities at the door for those who want to help.

The Mirimar is offering the dinner for $25 and tickets can be purchased at the door but they'd like an indication of numbers so please call at their number is 206-8888, ext. 6073

One of the charities I suggested is very close to our hearts.

We love Panama, you know that if you have been reading some of this site over the past few years, but one aspect that just tears our hearts out are the strays. There as so many and such a huge need. That is why we built the website - They Need Your Love - please check it out and support the shelter. 

The last couple of weeks I mentioned the Arraijan shelter again. This is a really worthy cause - this shelter looks after so many dogs and cats that it is a huge burden financially - can you help? I spent some  last weekend on the shelters web site. There is still a lot of clean up and organization to do to make it easier to navigate but it's a bit better - suggestions - feedback.

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org 

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet".

If you are planning to visit Panama - email us - if we are around and its convenient for you it would be fun to meet. A couple of friends we met this way, Missy and Jim are visiting again in November and we can't wait to see them and get caught up. Some of our other friends from Alberta may be here sooner if their land deal on the Caribbean goes through.

 

Final - Notice - September 22, 2009 

Join us Tuesday night at the Sheraton Hotel. This is a great cause and is worthy of your support.

Have you got your tickets yet - make sure you get to Excedra or Argosy Books to buy your ticket.

I am really pleased and excited to let you know about a Concert to be held on September 22nd at the Sheraton near the Atlapa Convention Center. The Concert is being held to benefit the foundation "Oir es Vivir" (to hear is to live) - this is a group that provides funding for audio impaired people wanting to obtain a cochlear implant.

The Concert is a night of Sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven - I've had the distinct pleasure of hearing both featured performers - Prof. Luis Fernando Morales and Graciela Núnez.
 
Tickets can be purchased from Argosy Books, Exedra Books and any Riba Smith Supermarkets.
or you may email musique.pourvivre@fdcsales.com 
Tickets are limited - but your support would be really appreciated.


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Once again Donna is off on another trip with her garden writers friends and colleagues. 

It seems that not a week goes by without some mention in the newspaper or on the email forums about some problems concerning the ownership of land. Over the coming months and maybe years, i am sure this will get settled, it is just how and when and how many more families with dreams will have to suffer in the interim. 

The recent Panama Post had an interesting article entitled - "Memory of a Nation". The article outlines the 57 historical heritage sites in Panama. Check it out here.

While Donna & I were walking this Sunday morning around Costa del Este we noticed a group of young people gathered by the edge of the water. From the looks of them they were gathering to start a clean up of the coast of its garbage. If you've been to waters edge of Costa del Este you will be familiar with the amount of plastic and other garbage that flows down the river and out in to the bay each time it rains, only to have it pushed back up against the shore. It seems that the organizing group was the Audobon Society - protecting the habitat of the birds.

It seems like so long ago that we've been at the beach on the Caribbean side. The last time Donna & I went the power went out on us and we had night of darkness. It was actually quite peaceful. The second day without power wasn't quite as much fun so we left :{ When she gets back from her trip I want to head back out again, hopefully with better results.

We love Panama, you know that if you have been reading some of this site over the past few years, but one aspect that just tears our hearts out are the strays. There as so many and such a huge need. That is why we built the website - They Need Your Love - please check it out and support the shelter. 

The last couple of weeks I mentioned the Arraijan shelter again. This is a really worthy cause - this shelter looks after so many dogs and cats that it is a huge burden financially - can you help? I spent some  last weekend on the shelters web site. There is still a lot of clean up and organization to do to make it easier to navigate but it's a bit better - suggestions - feedback.

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It's great to have Donna home even if it is only for a couple of weeks. :} 

We heard from Missy & Jim this week - they're coming back to Panama in a couple of months. It will be good to see them again. The last time they fell in love with El Valle and they will spend some more time there this go around. Like everyone considering Panama as a retirement location we've always counseled spending lots of time visiting as many locations during as many different seasons as possible just to be sure of their decision. Missy & Jim are very thoughtful people and I know they will make the right choice. 

This past week a local newspaper, La Estrella, has been running a series of articles regarding the lack of "rule of law" in Panama when as it concerns land ownership. The focus has been Bocas del Toro - but from what I understand the same issues exist all over Panama. Check some of the articles here.

And speaking of land ownership issues I attended the AMCham seminar this week entitled - "Panama - a World Class Tourist Destination". So what does a tourist seminar have to do with land ownership issues. Three things actually. First, the new tourisism minister Salomón Shamah had indicated his support fo the titling of the ROP land previously so I was curious to see if he would continue that support now that he was in the government. During the question & answer period he answered a direct question about his stance on ROP and titling. His quote - "Possessory rights have the same force as property titles,"

The second reason was I was wondering if anyone would ask if he would support titling ROP land for tourist oriented projects located on the coastal lands or islands. Thirdly, I wanted to know if there would be any change in the position of the government as it pertained to residential tourism. In addition to Minister Shamah there were a number of excellent speakers. Glenn Jampol from Finca Rosa Blanca in Costa Rica speaking on boutique hotels (Donna had the privilege of visiting his hotels last month and said they were amazing).  Sam Talleferro spoke on what the current government needs to do to promote business in Panama. One of his main points - Rule of Law.

The last point this week - the new Cinta Costera - the new coastal road along what used to be Balboa Ave. See a short article on it in the Panama Post.

The last couple of weeks I mentioned the Arraijan shelter again. This is a really worthy cause - this shelter looks after so many dogs and cats that it is a huge burden financially - can you help? I spent some  last weekend on the shelters web site. There is still a lot of clean up and organization to do to make it easier to navigate but it's a bit better - suggestions - feedback.

 

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Donna arrived home from Malaysia this week. Good to have her home. Great to have a long weekend here first weekend at home. We get to spend some time together as she recuperates from her long trip.

No recent news on the Gillinghams in Bocas regarding their land invasion by a local wealthy family. Still hoping this is resolved in their favour as this would help provide some comfort to all land owners, ex-pat and Panamanian. 

Last week I mentioned the Arraijan shelter again and I was thrilled to have a lady email saying she wanted to visit and support the shelter. This is a really worthy cause - this shelter looks after so many dogs and cats that it is a huge burden financially - can you help? I am going to spend some major time today and tomorrow on the shelters web site. There is a lot of clean up and organization to do to make it easier to navigate.

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org

Yet more happenings in Panama these days with the new president and new government. In addition to all the silliness regarding the land titling the new government decided this week to stop all short term property rentals in Panama unless they are through a registered hotel

I know I am not from Panama and for that reason I know I really don't understand all the cultural and historic background for many of the government decisions, but it seems to me that it is almost schizophrenic. On one hand, the government spends 10's of millions of dollars promoting Panama as a tourist destination and then on the other hand it seems to do everything in its power to stifle tourism. If I was a business owner that had a marketing group being hampered by other management decisions I would step in and make sure one or the other is stopped. Why waste the money if you have no desire to have the tourists?

Last week I heard from a few friends that are still considering Panama for their retirement. One asked a really interesting couple of questions. First, she asked - "when you returned from Canada recently what did you feel you needed to bring back that you couldn't get in Panama?" When I thought back I had to admit there were very few items - mainly a couple of things that were unique to Canada - Donna's favourite Presidents Choice Thai Peanut sauce and a German white wine we can't seem to source here.

The second question was, "after 3 years in Panama, if you were moving now, what would do differently this time around knowing what you know now?" Again a really good question but Donna & I were a bit unique. When we decided to move to Panama we also decided to work with our Canadian firm in opening an office in Panama which meant we needed to be in Panama City. If we did not have to move to the city (or Panama specifically) I would spend more time looking at other areas as we really knew very little about Panama or its various areas. 

August 2009

This week was another first for us here in Panama City - we had 3 funnel clouds out by the airport and they caused quite a bit of damage especially in the poorer areas as the buildings are not as well constructed. One of the windows in the building next door blew out and we lost the bulk of a tree out front of our condo.

I haven't mentioned the Arraijan shelter for a few weeks - this is a really worthy cause - this shelter looks after so many dogs and cats that it is a huge burden financially - can you help?

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org

Another bit of an update - we heard from Linda Gillingham in Bocas - you will remember she and her husband Dave are fighting to hold on to their titled land that is under attack by a very wealthy local family. She tells us the judge has recused himself due to a historic conflict of interest. All this really means for Linda & Dave are more delays. Stay tuned/

So many interesting things happening in Panama these days with the new president and new government. I never really thought what a coalition government would mean in Panama. In Canada it means one party assumes power but has to keep the other opposition parties satisfied or they will bring the government down. Here it means that the parties comingle in the roles of running the government. So what you get is the President from one party and his Minister of Finance from a totally different party and at odds with the Presidents agenda. Hard to get used to :}

Funny how year  to year I don't remember the weather - this July and August we've had such odd weather - high winds - major rains. I'll have to keep track next year to see if it is similar as I really don't remember those kinds of high winds. No more earthquakes at least - something to be thankful for!

With respect to the ongoing titling issue it seems now that the new government is not going to adhere to the law as passed by the former government as they believe too many greedy land developers are going to get rich over the change from Right of Possession (ROP) to a title. Their thought they are floating around now is to title all the land owned by the "poor" (not sure how they will apply a means test). No specifics on what they are going to do with the ROP land owned by the "greedy developers".

 Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet".

 

 

---------------------------------

 

I haven't mentioned the Arraijan shelter for a few weeks - this is a really worthy cause - this shelter looks after so many dogs and cats that it is a huge burden financially - can you help?

Would you be willing to sponsor a dog or a cat for as little as $15 per month? - check out the web site at www.theyneedyourlove.org

Another bit of an update - we heard from Linda Gillingham in Bocas - you will remember she and her husband Dave are fighting to hold on to their titled land that is under attack by a very wealthy local family. She tells us the judge has recused himself due to a historic conflict of interest. All this really means for Linda & Dave are more delays. Stay tuned/

So many interesting things happening in Panama these days with the new president and new government. I never really thought what a coalition government would mean in Panama. In Canada it means one party assumes power but has to keep the other opposition parties satisfied or they will bring the government down. Here it means that the parties comingle in the roles of running the government. So what you get is the President from one party and his Minister of Finance from a totally different party and at odds with the Presidents agenda. Hard to get used to :}

Funny how year  to year I don't remember the weather - this July and August we've had such odd weather - high winds - major rains. I'll have to keep track next year to see if it is similar as I really don't remember those kinds of high winds. No more earthquakes at least - something to be thankful for!

With respect to the ongoing titling issue it seems now that the new government is not going to adhere to the law as passed by the former government as they believe too many greedy land developers are going to get rich over the change from Right of Possession (ROP) to a title. Their thought they are floating around now is to title all the land owned by the "poor" (not sure how they will apply a means test). No specifics on what they are going to do with the ROP land owned by the "greedy developers".

 Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet".

 

--------------

Did you check out the pictures of Bocas and the surrounding area I posted last week? I hope so - there were some great areas to visit.

Donna & I just got back from our visit to Canada. The first time for me in 3 years. We had a great time visiting friends and family. We got to meet our newest great niece Zoey as well as her sister August.

I have to admit my favourite part was not the weather. It was the single hottest days for Edmonton this summer and while the days were up to Panama standards the night time was just too cold for me.

We had a chance to really talk about Panama and all the opportunities - and just how gorgeous it really is - especially the Caribbean side. At least 3 of our friends committed to visiting this year and checking out for investment.

We had to really work at a list of "what can't we get in Panama that we could in Canada that we just had to bring back with us". Not many items for sure and even less when faced with a 50 lb per bag limit imposed by most airlines :}

One special event was the 100th Anniversary Celebration night of the Edmonton Horticultural Society. I had the pleasure of being their president for a couple of years in 2001 and they were honoring all of the past presidents. Great to see all of our friends in the EHS. I was especially pleased to run into the conductor of the Edmonton Symphony as a new EHS member. David is an amazing conductor - we really loved his series Symphony Under the Sky every September long weekend. Could be something to think about for Panama.

I had one piece of disturbing news when I returned to Panama. It seems that the regulatory portion of the new titling law has been revised yet again. When the new law was passed by the old government it held so much promise for the Panamanian people. But from the first look at the new regulatory law the bureaucrats have all but cut the feet out from under the new law. Where the new law saw all ROP land as needing to be titled and not subject to concessions, the regulatory piece sees island property as being subject to the old Law 2 or concessionary rights. Bad move.

If you are reading this and concerned you need to write both your legislative member as well as your senator. Also, write the consultative body appointed to help the government - conconsultcivil@yahoo.com - tell them all - "title all the ROP land - no exception - no concessions - do not allow any chance for graft or special handling - all the land should be titled - AS IS. This is extremely important for all Panamanians.

Fianlly, a word of advice. If you are considering what TV provider - SKY or CableOnda - do not choose SKY. Simply put their customer service is non existent. Email me directly if you want to know all the details. I'd be happy to share my experiences.

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet".

 

 

July 2009

As promised there are hundreds of pictures of our trip to Bocas del Toro with our friends Alan & Geri.

We chose to spend several days visiting Bocas del Toro. We flew from Panama City to Bocas Town where we were met by Izzy from Selva del Mar an amazing B & B run by Susan & Izzy.

Over the few days we were privileged to visit several unique places in Bocas. We were toured around two very unique locations. The first was Green Acres, a cacao plantation run by David & Linda Cerutti. We were treated to not only a first hand look at how cacao is grown but also how it is processed into raw chocolate. I've never tasted pure unadulterated chocolate and it is very, very different than the candy bar you buy in the stores.

Another day saw us at Finca los Monos a botanic garden started and run by Lin & Dave Gillingham. You've heard me talk about them many times as the couple that fighting to save their home and land from parties that want to steal it from them. This 20 acre property is so passionately cared for you can see it the minute you arrive.

Selva del Mar is the place to go if you want to relax, soak up the calm, tranquil live of a Bocas Island while at the same time enjoying some great hospitality, then this is the place. Sitting on the deck, sipping a wine, maybe not heaven, but pretty close to it I would think.

Bocas Town is unlike anywhere else in Panama. From the time we arrived until we left it was more like our visits to Antigua than Panama. Bocas Town has a distinct Caribbean feel and is full of tourists, young and old. Lots of good restaurants and bars to keep anyone occupied.

I've been reading more on the new president and his first month has been full of some very interesting things. For instance he closed down the Figali marina that has had so much bad press for it blatant disregard for the environmental laws or the land use they were given. The new president showed up with the police and shut down the marina and gave notice that they had 30 days to make things right. Apparently he is also looking to take on the Bern group for what is reportedly huge multi-million dollar outstanding fees due the government.

If he keeps on this track he will make a difference. I am less worried whether he actually gets a rapid transit off the ground than I am if he is able to halt the corruption and the lack of respect for the laws already in place.

Maybe the news that the judge involved in the case of Dave and Lin Gillingham recusing himself is a welcome sign of this change. We shall see.

Donna & I are getting ready for our trip to Canada. I can't believe it has been almost 3 years since I've been back. I am looking forward to visiting our friends, but I am not looking forward to the weather. While it is summer there the day time highs are low 20's and the night time temperatures are 8-10 degrees - yikes - we're going to freeze - :}.

I've been enjoying my month on Twitter meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet".

----

Our new government lead by Sr. Ricardo Martinelli took office with some extremely high hopes riding on his new presidency. Some of the hopes expressed are that he is able to clean up the corruption in the government and at the same time lead Panama out of the economic downturn. I always worry when so much hope is placed on one man with such a short time in which to accomplish the goal. Think of how long Panama has lived with corruption. It reminds me of my fight with weight. I constantly remind myself it took 50 years to get here - all I really need to see is a constant move in the right direction.

We heard from Lin Gillingham on the 3rd - here is her note in full.

BOCAS BOTANICAL GARDEN, 3rd July, 2009
Re: Compania Faustina, S.A. “Proceseo de Deslinde y Amojonamiento de la Finca 3499” in Bocas del Toro, involving property legally owned by David & Lin Gillingham.
We have been informed today that the eighth planned invasion/inspection of our land by the First Circuit judge, Manuel Garcia, for the 9th July at 9am is in limbo! Judge Manuel Garcia has asked to be removed from our case. We believe the invasion/inspection will once again be ‘suspended’. Who knows what will happen next? As Alice said, “It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”
During one week in April, over a thousand people, both Panamanians & foreigners, signed the Petition to the Supreme Court, to “Stop the Harassment of Legal Land Ownership in Bocas del Toro”, asking that lawful processes be followed and not abused.
We would like to thank all those people who have supported us, so many of whom we do not even know, who are willing to be with us during all the invasions planned for our property. When we have more information we will publish it.
Lin Gillingham
 

If you are not familiar with all the background on Lin & Dave's fight read the previous comments in our More News section.

We took our first trip on new roadway in front of Ave Balboa that fronts all of downtown Panama City. The new road is called "Cinta Costera" and is amazing. We were so impressed to see so many people out Sunday am early strolling, biking, roller blading and running. My only hope is every respects the area and "picks up - after themselves and their pets".

I also heard from a very reliable source that the departing government of Sr. Martin Torrijos never did sign into law the companion portion of Law 459 that would have laid out the method of implementation of the new titling law. This is both good and bad news. The good news is the companion implementation piece had many items that personally I did not find held with the spirit of the new titling law. The bad news is the titling process will likely be held up for some time as this gets sorted out. Add to this that I heard as well that the new government is going to amalgamate all of the former groups that had any control over land titling into one entity and you have another good new/bad news scenario. The good news is more opportunity for managing the process in an orderly fashion. The bad news is more opportunity for potential corruption - power corrupts - absolute power corrupts absolutely. And I can imagine the old departments will not go away willingly or easily.

And if all this is not enough news - Panama City had two earthquakes in a 48 period over the weekend. When we were investigating Panama the lack of natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes was a huge plus. Not that we were mislead. In fact in the history of Panama City there have been very few earthquakes and none more than 6. There have been many outside the city toward Costa Rica and toward Columbia but none that registered any real magnitude in the city. I've been told by locals that the buildings built in the city are all built with earthquakes in mind and have dampeners installed. Well that may be true, but Donna and I have watched many being built right from the initial hole being drilled to the final outer layers and we never once saw any indication of anything other than just concrete over rebar. I was impressed by our building and the ones in our area that they all weathered a magnitude 6 with no damage visible.

I am working on several hundred pictures of our visit to Bocas del Toro - and Selva del Mar - the great B&B run by Susan Guberman Garcia and her husband Izzy - a great place to kick back and enjoy if you are thinking of Bocas. Hopefully I will be done sometime this week.

June 2009

Donnas birthday today - she is back from Costa Rica. She had a great time visiting a number of resorts. She will have an update and pictures in teh coming weeks. Are you following Iran on Twitter & Facebook - amazing how the new media has allowed a revolution to be world wide - think of all the revolutions of the past - what would have happened if they had these tools.

I was upset to hear our Canadian Embassy in Iran was not one of the many embassies accepting casualties yesterday. I sent a note to our ambassador in Iran and the Foreign Affairs.

If you have any influence with any of these people or with the incoming government of Sr. Martinelli support Lin & David - this could be any of us - or any Panamanian for that matter.

Update on Finca los Monos Botanical Garden, Bocas - they met with the representatives and lawyers from the Eleta Group  and while negotiations are continuing the legal process involving their land continues and the next date set for the invasion of their property is July 9th at 9 am. If you are in Bocas, or know someone in Bocas, please support Lin and David in their struggle.

I was pleased to read in her note that they delivered their petition to "Stop the Harassment of Legal Land Ownership in Boacs del Toro, Panama" to the Supreme Court of Panama and to the Minister of Tourism.

They also hand delivered letters to the Ambassadors to Panama from the United Kingdom, USA, and Canada as well their counterparts appointed to represent Panama in these countries.

I have been working on the donation part of the Arraijan Pet Shelter - www.theyneedyourlove.org - it has taken me some time to finally figure out how to allow our friends from Canada and the USA support the shelter financially.

You can now donate a simple $15 per month to help feed one dog or one cat. Mari has over 200 dogs and 100 cats to feed and car for medically. Will you help? Please.

Another piece of news this month. The 20 year property tax exoneration is based on having a building permit issued before July 1, 2009 and  the improvements registered in the Public Registry before December 31, 2009. That means that all the projects that are visible today will be eligible for the 20 year tax relief but anything starting this fall will not. Most of you may not think this a big deal but when you consider the tax rate of Panama is over 2% that adds up in a hurry if you do the math. Imagine a $500k condo with the tax relief being sold next to one without. The one without will have a $200k tax burden that the other one doesn't - which one would you buy :}

And that brings me to the property tax. I am pretty sure when this kicks in there will be an increasing swell of disbelief / shock / anger that will be felt across the country.

One of our friend Alan Ross, an investment advisor (see www.trustintelligence.com ) did a calculation for me of the impact of the 2% tax on a property versus a property that is covered by the tax exoneration.

Paying a 2% RE tax on a $400k condo is the same as having a $160,000 mortgage on a home, paying 5% interest forever (because real estate taxes, unlike mortgage payments, never end).

Add the 1.5% condo fees minus the savings of perhaps $500 per year on the "free" NG you get, and the yearly total is $13,500 (on a $400k apartment), which is the same thing as adding a 5% perpetual mortgage for $279,000.

So net net, your cash flow for buying a $400k condo with RE taxes and 1.5% condo fee is the same as buying a private home for $679,000 that has a 20 year tax exoneration and no condo fees.

----------

There are a dozen or more condo towers under construction near our home in Costa del Este. I've not heard anything to contrary so I wonder how many of them will make the July 31, 2009 deadline for the 20 year tax exemption .

Interesting timing that this week in the Visitor had an article on how some developers get away with providing occupancy permits that are to say the least, premature - meaning they are really saying the condo is ready when it is not.

Many of the condos are delivered in what's called "grey" condition and the new owners are responsible for finishing the inside walls, floors, fixtures and ceilings. On the other hand, owners that expect a completed unit might be in for a surprise especially if they simply pay the final funds when requested and not check the condition of their unit.

Remember, this is Panama, not Canada. We love it here but we have to remind ourselves periodically that things are different here. While so much appears similar, it bears remembering that this is a different culture and it has a different set of rules. It is important to learn them and make sure you do your due diligence on everything.

If you are considering Panama or you've already made the move to Panama, do you belong to any social networking group - Yahoo group, Facebook, Twitter - these groups can be an invaluable sources of information and they can provide help in times of need. We all have our embassies and consulates but these are real people here to help. Join something, get involved. I don't mean you have to like or enjoy every expat. We've met a number we like and others not :}

One of the groups this week had a great piece on "what type of 'gringo' are you"? if you haven't seen it and you want a copy email me - tomd@tsdconsulting.ca

We haven't heard any recent news on David and Linda Gillinghams plight in Bocas del Toro - this is the couple that are in danger of having their land taken from them even though they not own it but they have a full title as proof.

Donna arrived home Friday from England where she was leading her tour group to the Chelsea Flower Show. If you haven't checked out her two web sites you should. Gardening Tours www.gardeningtours.com and www.icangarden.com Plus she is also on Twitter at http://twitter.com/icangarden

I have been working on getting new photos online for this site and also Donnas two sites. As well I've been working on additions to the web site for the animal shelter in Arraijan www.theyneedyourlove.com - do you notice all the stray dogs and cats around Panama - most of them are suffering in one fashion or another - either they are starving, or they have some injury that has not been treated or they have one disease or another. Imagine this many small suffering children. It has to break your heart. They need your love. I know most of you can't  take them into your home but you can into your hearts. Consider supporting the shelter with food or donations. Email me at tomd@icangarden.com and I will help you help them. We have been so blessed to be involved with Mari and her shelter. You will too.

No new news on the land on the Caribbean yet - probably will have to visit again next weekend.

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The days and weeks go by so quickly. For the past 2 years we've been exploring the Costa Arriba, the costal area from Colon to the San Blas Islands with a view to buying a plot of land and building a weekend home.

We've taken a boat and explored this entire coast, stopping at any and all areas where we could bring the boat in to see what was being developed.

When we first visited this coast using the old road to Colon it would take us from 2-3.5 hours to get out to the beach area. Now with the new toll road complete that driving time is cut in half.

May of our friends have visited over the years and have agreed this coast has so much more to offer in the long run. I think the question on everyone's mind is how long and at what cost. Not cost as in money, albeit that will go up over the years, but the cost to the pristine nature of this area. What I really don't want to see is a repeat of the Pacific coast development - large, exclusive, high end homes, townhouses or heaven forbid, high rise towers.

10 Wonders of Panama - IPAT announced the winners - read the story here

The 10 Wonders of Panama

  1. Bocas del Toro: Island of Birds (Caribbean Sea)
  2. Coclé: The Natá Basilica (Pacific Coast)
  3. Colón: Fort San Lorenzo (Caribbean Coast)
  4. Chiriquí: The Cangilones de Gualaca (West)
  5. Darién: Piñas Bay (Eastern Pacific Coast)
  6. Herrera: Santo Domingo de Guzmán de Parita Church (Center of the country)
  7. Los Santos: Santa Librada de Las Tablas (Center of the country)
  8. Panamá: Lake Bayano (East of the capital)
  9. Veraguas: San Francisco de La Montaña Church (Central highlands)
  10. The Panamanian indigenous ethnicities (Ngobe Bugle, Emberá, Wounan, Kuna, Chocoe, Teribe, and Naso)

We've been privileged to meet many of the locals and for the most part they are just genuine, country folk you would find anywhere in the world trying to make a living and care for their family.

One of the issues to be addressed still is the titling. If you've been reading this site over the past 18 months you will know how involved I was during all the political wrangling that went on last year trying to get the government agencies to realize that the land ownership was not the issue, it was owned by the people who possessed it, not the government, the issue was the actual registered title.

The government finally signed the law 458 into effect this year and Panama will now enjoy a system of fully titled land across the country and with that the economic prosperity it will bring to the people of Panama.

This titling will also see another boom in real estate as so many people try and jump on the band wagon.

Speaking of titling and land purchase, check out this article - http://www.panama-guide.com/article.php/2009042117394391

One other article Donna ran across was entitled "A Fight Against Poverty

I am working on getting some new pictures of Panama uploaded but there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day some weeks.

We will also have some pictures online next week of our Royal Caribbean Cruise we took in March out of Colon. The pictures are ready, I just need Donnas' day by day recap. If you are interested in Columbia or the ABC Dutch Antilles Islands, this is a must do cruise.

 

o all those who are interested in investing in Panama, this is incredibly important!

Sign the online petition - now - we only have until May 7th

Read the full story about the Gillinghams struggle with an obvious land grab in Panama in the "more news"

This week was back to normal with Donna home but she is heading off again in a week for her tour to the Chelsea Flower Show in England.

My business partner and his two older children headed back to Vancouver after a whirlwind tour of Panama. They saw so many places in Panama from Taboga to the Caribbean to El Valle. I know they had  great time and will find an excuse to visit again.

The election in Panama is over and we have a new president, Ricardo Martinelli, best known for his ownership of all the Super 99 grocery stores in Panama. A businessman that should bring business sense to government, or we can hope. Like president Obama, Martinelli ran on a platform of "change". Panama is a great place but it could use some changes. One of these changes would be to make good on the promise to weed out corruption at all levels.

We took the new road to Colon last weekend. Amazing. The old "free" road could take from 1.5 hours to 3 hours depending on the traffic and construction. The new road drops that to 40 minutes. We've already heard of more Panamanians venturing out to Colon and the Caribbean when 2 years ago they would hardly ever mention the name Colon without sneering.

Another of the major projects underway in Panama City is almost ready, the new Cinca Costera - or the main road along the water downtown Panama. This will radically change the complexion of the old Balboa avenue, for the better. Of course the next big issue will be the sewage treatment. Right now the sewage from downtown Panama City is dumped into the bay in front of multi-million dollar condos. Hmmm.

I am working on getting some new pictures of Panama uploaded but there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day some weeks.

 

May 2009 

This is the power of the internet at it's best. Righting wrongs and changing lives and making a difference. Tom and I met Lin and her husband earlier this past February when we went to Bocas del Toro to visit this incredible botanical garden (along with a coffee finca and had a fabulous time staying at Casa Selva del Mar) .

I was touched by their passion for Panama, this beautiful botanical garden that is such a gift of love from them to the people of Panama - and then they started speaking about the horrendous property struggle they are up against. This piece of paradise to them didn't start out to cost thousands and thousands of dollars, but it has now...all due to a land grab.

Please read below and then click on the link to take you to the petition to sign. We both have signed it because I believe in human rights, those who have done due diligence in order to own something, and then when it stands to get ripped away from you...well it is heart breaking.

I hope you will agree - that it just has to stop. Time is fast approaching (May 7th) so take a moment after signing the petition and forward this email to those you think are as concerned as we are.
Donna


Ten years ago the married couple LINDA y DAVID GILLINGHAM, of British and New Zealander nationality respectively, bought several titled properties in the outskirt of the City of Bocas del Toro, in Colon Island, by means of public deeds duly registered in the Public Registry of Panama, with surveys approved by the Real Estate Survey Registry (Catastro). In their properties the GILLINGHAMS built the house where they currently live, and also a Botanical Garden and a plant nursery to which care and development they are devoted. The properties, properly fenced and marked, are in the name of their Private Interest Foundation SIMIANA FOUNDATION, Foundation which is registered at fiche N° 32114, Redi Document No. 1463702, of the Mercantile Section of the Public Registry.

On January 8, 2009, the Circuit Judge of Bocas del Toro appeared at their door, accompanied by experts, lawyers and Court personnel, requesting to enter their property in order to perform a Judicial Proceedings of “survey and demarcation of boundaries”. Aware of their rights, the GILLINGHAM requested the Judge to show them the Court Order to enter and search their properties, Order which the Judge had not issued, nor issued at that moment, therefore proceeding to leave with all of his attendants towards a close by hill where he placed the experts with the purpose of performing their job from there.

The case is of a Judicial Proceeding of “survey and demarcation of boundaries” which, according to the Judicial Code, is a special proceeding whereby the owner of real estate property asks the Judge to set the boundaries in relation to a neighboring property. It is a “non contentious” (without litigation among the parties) process, however if one of the parties timely files a complaint against the boundaries set forth by the Judge, the process becomes “contentious” (with litigation among adversary parties). It is not a process to “recover possession”, since other special proceedings exist for this, called Possessory Injunctions and Complaint of Repossession.

In this case, and according to the file, COMPAÑÍA FAUSTINA, S.A., belonging to the GRUPO ELETA, represented by lawyers of the law firm MORGAN Y MORGAN, asked the Court for the survey and demarcation of boundaries, “on all sides” of plot N° 3499, which is registered in the name of COMPAÑÍA FAUSTINA, S.A., of which, however, they have no possession neither totally nor partially. In the area where this property is supposed to be located, there are only properties registered in the Public Registry and with surveys approved by the Real Estate Survey Registry (Catastro), properly fenced and marked by their owners and possessors, as is the case of the married couple GILLINGHAMS.

To ask for a survey of demarcation of boundaries in these circumstances, in which there is not any material possession and there are owners with property deeds duly registered, constitutes a procedural invention which should have been rejected by the Judge. In the event this procedure is enforced, its consequences should not have an effect on the possession of registered owners.

According to the Public Deed filed by COMPAÑÍA FAUSTINA, S.A., of which there is evidence in the file, Plot N° 3499, which survey and demarcation of boundaries it requested, was segregated (separated) from Plot N° 901, whose current owner is MINERVA BLANCANEAUX QUINTERO, and adjoins with said property by all its sides, reason whereby the Court summoned only her to the proceedings.

The attorneys of Mrs. BLANCANEAUX, owner of Plot N° 901, formally asked the Judge to end the case, because this type of proceedings is being denaturalized, and its purpose is to set the boundaries of one property in relation to a neighboring property, and which can not be done if COMPAÑÍA FAUSTINA, S.A., does not materially possess even a square millimeter in the area. The Judge, Mr. MANUEL GARCIA, dismissed this claim and denied to grant the appeal remedy to his decision. The Superior Court of David has not declared itself yet on the De Facto Appeal promoted by Mrs. BLANCANEAUX’s attorneys.

Meanwhile, the Court experts, those of COMPAÑÍA FAUSTINA, S.A, and those of Mrs. BLANCANEUX, agreed in their technical reports on the following:

1. The study of the surveys shows that the Plot that COMPAÑÍA FAUSTINA, S.A., asked to be delimited, would not be surrounded by its mother Plot N° 901, as it is described in the public deed of its incorporation, and would not even adjoin it. On the contrary, the surveys place it far from the mother Plot;
2. The plot which COMPAÑÍA FAUSTINA, S.A., asked to be delimited would be inside of Plot N° 5713, owned by the married couple GILLINGHAMS, wherein is the house where they live, the botanical garden, and the plant nursery where they have worked for more than 10 years, and
3. COMPAÑÍA FAUSTINA, S.A., does not possess in whole or in part the Plot it is asking to be delimited “on all of its sides”, nor has materially any portion of land or possession in the area.

Judge GARCIA has now summoned the Court expert, the one of COMPAÑÍA FAUSTINA, S.A., and the one of Mrs. BLANCANEAUX, to enter with him into the property of the GILLINGHAMS, against their will, on Friday March 27, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. with the purpose of determining the boundaries which the Plot of COMPAÑÍA FAUSTINA, S.A., would have inside the GILLINGHAM’s Plot, knowing that the actual effect of these acts is not a legal one, because its outcome does not change at all the current possessory situation, but is a demonstration of force by COMPAÑÍA FAUSTINA, S.A., shown in the harassment of a family in their home and place of work which belong to them.

The married couple LINDA y DAVID GILLINGHAM have requested this communication in order to have the situation they find themselves in, be known, in face of the actions of the Circuit Judge of Bocas del Toro, hoping to rely on your support at this moment and in the near future, if these acts of harassment continue.

Sincerely,
DR. RICARDO RANGEL

 

April 2009 

Donna arrived home safely from China - the more she visits China the more she loves it -- she and her tour group had a great time from Beijing to Shanghai - she'll have pictures available soon at http://www.icangarden.com/picttour.cfm or http://www.gardeningtours.com

I've been having fun on Facebook and Twitter recently. Check me out on both Thomas Dawson - PanamaTweet on Twitter and http://profile.to/tomdawson for Facebook.

This weekend is the grand opening of the new shelter in Arraijan -- if you can help - are interest in foster parenting a dog or cat - let me know - we'll have a brand new section available soon on our web site http://www.theyneedyourlove.org - a place where you can sponsor a pet for as little as $10 per month -

We're still looking for people to assist a new friend of ours, Mari Pily, who runs an animal shelter where she feeds over 200 dogs and 100 cats on donated money from her friends. We are trying to find a more structured method of making sure there are sufficient funds there every month. Can you help? Do you know anyone who can provide food or expertise in getting into businesses who can help? email us if you can.

Did you hear the news --- the President of Panama has signed the new law 459 that will see all the land in Panama titled - no more ROP - derecho posesorio -- this is a huge step forward for Panama and its people. This will allow farmers to invest in their land, fisherman to feel comfortable no one is going take their land and investors more comfortable in considering Pamana.

Two new interesting articles on Panama in our new section - Articles - Panama News - one on a library opening hear San Carlos and other on an award won by the Smithsonian. Donna wanted me to make sure everyone saw. Click for the full article

Donna asked me to mention Spay Panama again as we see so many stray dogs and cats that are so thin, it almost breaks your heart. This could all be eliminated or at least reduced if only the strays were spayed.

Go to www.SpayPanama.org to make your contribution - do something - get involved. There are lots of animal shelters that could use your support as well. Email us if  you want to know how to help.

Check out Donna's monthly articles being published in Vivir Bien -- in Spanish and English -- so she is now published in English, Cantonese and Spanish.

Interested in Beach front property development?

Contact us if you are interested in a new development on the Caribbean coast of Panama.

We believe the Caribbean side of Panama is truly undiscovered and is a jewel waiting to be enjoyed.

email us for more information >>

March 2009

My brother-in-law and his son were here for a week. John is a partner in a large architectural firm in Victoria BC. Quinn owns and operates his own technical graphics company. They were both here looking at properties with me on the Caribbean. I know you've heard lots from me on the Caribbean and how we want to get a residential development going there. There has been a lot of interest lately and I want to get something finalized.

We met two local architects John could work with and they both have some interesting ideas.

Next week my other business partner and his son and daughter arrive for a bit of holiday mixed with work. Seeing that I can't have partner meetings in Canada anymore without running afoul of Canada Revenue Services, Ted needs to come here for those things.

Donna is still in China. She arrives home next week as well and then heads out for England in three weeks.

--------

In March we met a really nice couple from LA traveling through from Ecuador. They are business associates of Donna but she'd never met them. We spent a day touring around Panama City showing off our great new home. I love doing that.

Mid March we drove out to Colon 2000 and boarded the Enchantment of the Sea cruise ship from Royal Caribbean. The cruise took us to Columbia, Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. The ship was amazing. 2600 guests and 800 staff but you never felt like you were on board with that many people. Of course the food and the crew were first rate. We've already talked to our friends Wayne & Elaine about doing this cruise in 2010 when the come back to Panama.

If you have not been following the news regarding the proposed titling of the untitled ROP (Right of Possession) land it seems like we go one step forward with the support of the common people of Panama and then 20 steps back when the government agencies get involved. Essentially the issue is the people believe all they are asking for is the piece of paper registered in the Land Titles Registry showing they own the land that they, and some cases their family, have been on for years. The government on the other hand think they are "selling" the land to people and worst they see this as a "land grab" by foreigners. Hmmm - seems like this may take a bit more than originally thought but I still believe it is in the best interest of Panama and its people as it will allow the average Panamanian to comfortably invest in his own land without worries of losing that investment.

My brother-in-law and his son arrive on the 8th - just after Donna heads to China. He is our architect for the new cove project we are trying to finalize and get approved.

February 2009

Our friends from Kingston, Geri and Alan were here last week. This is their 3rd visit and they are still looking to decide where to put down roots. They are in Boquete this week and we are meeting them in Bocas this week.

We have booked a few nights in Bocas del Toro. We've booked at a small resort called Casa Selva del Mar on Isla Cristobal run by Susan Guberman Garcia and her husband Izzy.  Again, we've been told so many good things about Bocas we are really looking forward to enjoying our time there.

There is still so much to see of Panama. We need to visit the Darien area and the Azuero peninsula. Those will come later.

Our architect from Canada, (actually my brother-in-law) will in Panama in April to finalize the design of the units on the cove. Hopefully by then we will have the test holes drilled and the results back. Then we need to finalize the project proposal for approval by the government.  By the time he arrives the new toll road should be complete from Panama City to Colon.

We are putting the finishing touches on a new web site for the pet shelter run by Mari Pily. We hope to have it running before the end of the month. There will be a ton of material to add but we need to get it going so we can start doing some fund raising - it is such a huge need.

We're still looking for people to assist a new friend of ours, Mari Pily, who runs an animal shelter where she feeds over 200 dogs and 100 cats on donated money from her friends. We are trying to find a more structured method of making sure there are sufficient funds there every month. Can you help? Do you know anyone who can provide food or expertise in getting into businesses who can help? email us if you can.

-----

We met another couple visiting from Canada and spent a great day with them showing off our new adopted country. Janice & Manny came here from Vancouver. We had corresponded but somehow my last email ended up in her junk mail and she thought I had ignored her. I don't ignore anyone so if you think I have, check back, something must have gone wrong. When we found out how bad the experience of their first days was, we knew we needed to spend time to help them see Panama as we see it.

I've continued to add new photos. This week I've added all of our pictures on our San Blas sailing trip we did with Wayne & Elaine. We booked our trip with San Blas Sailing. We've sailed before in Greece and had loved that so much we were worried that this might not be as good. We had nothing to worry about. The San Blas Islands are simply amazing. They are picture postcard perfect. My only concern is that so many of them are just sand and palm trees that they have nothing to stop them from being eaten away by the sea. In fact a number we stopped by were doing just that. The palm trees on the windward side were just falling into the sea. A shame. But there are so many islands.

The people were also incredible. Hospitable, friendly, undemanding, kind, smiling, but from the background history of this area they are incredibly strong, determined and fierce when it comes to their land.

We have booked a few nights in Bocas del Toro next. We've booked at a small resort called Casa Selva del Mar on Isla Cristobal run by Susan Guberman Garcia and her husband Izzy.  Again, we've been told so many good things about Bocas we are really looking forward to enjoying our time there with our friends Alan & Geri from Canada.

There is still so much to see of Panama. We need to visit the Darien area and the Azuero peninsula. Those will come later.

I am sure I will have more on the beach development and the titling in the weeks and months to come.

January 2009

I've been updating some pictures - there are so many, it will take me several weeks  just to get through them - but check them out.

We have lots of work to do planning our beach area and the next few weeks will help us bring some of the final bits together after almost 18 months of planning. It's fun and frustrating at the same time as there are so many things to make sure we've covered before we start as we will be responsible for some many peoples moneys.

The Asemblea finished its fall session without a resolution on the proposed changes to the laws governing the coastal lands and the islands when it comes to titling the Right of Possession lands. It is on the agenda for the March sitting. Both presidential candidates have pledged their support for the initiative but as in all politics world wide its not in the bag until the ink is dry on the new law.

As Donna & I take our walks around Costa del Este it's interesting to see a few of the projects sitting dormant or not moving forward at all, yet at the same time when Wayne and Elaine asked about units in our building the asking prices seemed to be from another time and place. I think it may take some time for the reality of the condo real estate market in Panama City to hit home. It's not 2006 and there are not plane loads of people arriving with check books in hand ready to buy a condo site unseen, that won't be built for 3 years. We're not in Kansas any more Todo :}

But I am an optimist, I just think the market needs to readjust and then move forward.

I am sure I will have more on the beach development and the titling in the weeks and months to come. We have more friends coming in February. Alan & Geri are from Ontario and they fell in love with Panama on the first visit. Now it's just finding the right location.

-----

Our friends Wayne and Elaine just left Panama and we'll miss their company. They are lots of fun to be around.

We have lots of work to do planning our beach area and the next few weeks will help us bring some of the final bits together after almost 18 months of planning. It's fun and frustrating at the same time as there are so many things to make sure we've covered before we start as we will be responsible for some many peoples moneys.

The Asemblea finished its fall session without a resolution on the proposed changes to the laws governing the coastal lands and the islands when it comes to titling the Right of Possession lands. It is on the agenda for the March sitting. Both presidential candidates have pledged their support for the initiative but as in all politics world wide its not in the bag until the ink is dry on the new law.

As Donna & I take our walks around Costa del Este it's interesting to see a few of the projects sitting dormant or not moving forward at all, yet at the same time when Wayne and Elaine asked about units in our building the asking prices seemed to be from another time and place. I think it may take some time for the reality of the condo real estate market in Panama City to hit home. It's not 2006 and there are not plane loads of people arriving with check books in hand ready to buy a condo site unseen, that won't be built for 3 years. We're not in Kansas any more Todo :}

But I am an optomist, I just think the market needs to readjust and then move forward.

I am sure I will have more on the beach development and the titling in the weeks and months to come. We have more friends coming in February. Alan & Geri are from Ontario and they fell in love with Panama on the first visit. Now it's just finding the right location.

_____________________

We celebrated our third Christmas and New Years in Panama with our long time friends from Canada.

Wayne & Elaine arrived in December and we all packed our things and headed to the San Blas to spend 3 days sailing.

What an amazing place - the islands are just pristine. The water is incredible. We hired a boat through San Blas Sailing and our boat was the De Capo, skippered by Mats.

We visited numerous islands and enjoyed great food. The sailing was as much fun as we remembered from our times sailing with friends in Greece. We'll do that again for sure. Pictures to come.

On the land titling front its been a wild few weeks. The committee charged with hearing the proposed changes agreed to forward the proposed law 459 to the main Asemblea after they saw the grass roots ground swell of native Panamanians that attended the meetings from all over Panama. Both presidential candidates voiced their support of the new proposed titling laws. 

When the main Asemblea heard the proposal last week just before the year end and from my perspective it looks like they just decided to "run out the clock" on this session without really dealing with the issue.

This is not going away for sure. But it's interesting how so many Panamanians see the proposal as a land grab by foreigners and that the government is "selling" the best part of Panama when in fact it is the local fisherman and farmers that simply want a title to the land they already own.
 

Read the comments from the other years

More News  - 2011
More News  - 2010

More News  - 2009
More News  - 2008 & earlier

 




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