Clearing Up Panama City Sidewalks

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Following the recent passing of amendments to a 1954 regulation relating to the use of public spaces, the Mayor’s office has begun clearing sidewalks of encroaching traders. Businesses must now apply for a permit for activities that extend beyond their physical space. The permit carries a monthly fee of US$200, with an additional US$25 per square meter of occupation.

The new regulations have met with conflicting reactions in Casco Viejo, where the measure first went into operation. On the one hand, restaurant owners and street vendors resented the end to their previously free ride on streets and plazas… on the other hand, much of the local community welcomed the regulation with relief and gratitude for the newly freed space on sidewalks.

Permits, which will be valid for a period of two years, will not be issued for sidewalks located in front of schools, universities, hospitals, churches, gymnasiums, convention centers, and public offices. Sanctions will range from US$500 to US$2,000. Until now the penalty has been US$10.

The timing of the amendment has led some to believe this is part of Mayor Blandón’s overall plan for the improvement of the city with a call for tenders already issued for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of sidewalks and public spaces from Via Espana to Plaza Cinco de Mayo. Those tenders are in excess of US$90 million, according to La Prensa.

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