Panama, as a State, has been positioning itself as a brave legionnaire in the fight against tobacco for years. Not only do we have anti-smoking legislation that I dare say is one of the most restrictive in the region, but the management has been publicly recognized by institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) writes Susana Lwezcano.
As an example of this, Panama has been chosen to host the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the third session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP3). of the Protocol for the Elimination of Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, meetings that are held consecutively from February 5 to 12 with the motto “United for a healthy life.”
Although this speaks wonders of our management as a country, there are other aspects to consider. To begin with, being selected for these events represents considerable expenses for our country. It is not like we are going to host the Olympics or the World Cup, which are events that generate jobs in infrastructure works and in the tourism sector and that attract thousands of visitors, representing a coveted injection to the country's economy. host. On the contrary, we are spending $5 million on an eight-day event for 1,500 people, mainly diplomats and technocrats, without this representing a real benefit for Panama writes Susana Lucanza
In addition to the fact that this expense, which is not small, seems to be spending gunpowder on buzzards, there is a lot of suspicion around this organization due to the lack of transparency and that the mechanisms used to contract the services necessary for this event do not correspond. to the regulated processes for an activity promoted with public money . That is, they went to the famous “special contracts”, which is only a sign of ineptitude or corruption. We are talking about million-dollar amounts, and apparently, without any type of oversight. Of course, with what doesn't cost us, let's have a party.
This event has not been the only one to raise alarms about the management of the money received by the National Tobacco Control Commission (CNCT) of the Ministry of Health (Minsa), considering that this commission, as reported in different media in December 2023 , is being subject to audits for alleged irregularities, including the purchase of 20 pickups that never happened and the reallocation of funds for unspecified purposes. Where is that money? With all this, it seems that the fight against tobacco has turned out to be a little hen that lays golden eggs.
This is where I ask: What healthy life are we talking about, if the National Cancer Institute begs for a budget? What promotion is given to cessation clinics? How many are there in the country? How many people do you serve? But above all, with what morality do we talk about the elimination of the illicit trade in tobacco products when the coordinator of the CNCT herself has a complaint for omission in that particular duty?
Meanwhile, the Oncology Hospital has to beg for funds while the authorities that must ensure the health of Panamanians turn a blind eye to the smuggling of cigarettes and vaporizers.
It is time for our governments to be responsible and transparent with public money and manage these funds in forceful actions against smoking and not in ethical posturing campaigns that only benefit a few pockets. With cocktails, we are not going to prevent anything or cure anyone.
The author is a member of the Libertad Foundation