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Airport move is debatable, but Governmental City plan is outrageous
Long-time readers of The Panama News may recall that several years ago, when the government was contemplating the relocation of Panama City's commuter airport from Paitilla, we took an editorial stand against moving it to Albrook due to safety and urban planning concerns. However, the move to Albrook was made, at a cost of several million dollars.
Now we have a different administration, which is planning to scrap that investment and move the airport to Howard or Tocumen, in order to make room for a Governmental City development. Many commuters object, particularly citing the inconvenience of having to cross the Bridge of the Americas or drive out to Tocumen on the way to and from work.
The concerns of commuters, residents of Kuna Yala and other isolated communities whose only transportation links with the capital are by air, and small aircraft owners are rational, though they represent the wants and needs of a minority of the population. Their arguments should be taken into account, along with contrary concerns.
However, the plan for the Government City is to turn the airport at Albrook over to private developers, who will build a complex of office buildings, for which they will be receiving rent from the government for decades to come. That plan is wasteful and corrupt on its face and merits summary rejection.
The country already owns many unusued buildings at Clayton, Howard, Rodman and Kobbe that can be converted into a Government City. At those reverted former military bases there is plenty of open space to build whatever can't be had by converting existing facilities. There is no reason other that political patronage for people who neither need nor deserve it for the government to be renting office space from any private company or individual. The Moscoso administration's sharp increase in office space rent payments over those paid by the Pérez Balladares government is a function of its corruption rather than any attempt to meet public needs.
One argument sometimes put forward for the Government City plan, that the Legislative Assembly needs a new headquarters and that the only alternative to Albrook is to cut down more of the Metropolitan Nature Park, is questionable in the first instance and specious in the second. The legislature needs reform, not more space for the games it plays.
The proposal to move Panama City's commuter airport from Albrook ought to be considered, weighing the costs of investments to be abandoned in the balance with all the other arguments pro and con. The Moscoso administration's proposal for a Government City at Albrook should be taken off the table and shouldn't play any part in this urban planning decision.
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