From Diario de Centroamérica, by José Pelicó:
Intervention over Port Santo Tomás Welcomed
The business sector sees the government of Otto Perez Molina’s intervention with the company Portuaria Nacional Santo Tomás de Castilla (Empornac), in Puerto Barrios, Izabal, as positive as this will put things in order and prevent further corruption.
Through Government Agreement 53-2012, the intervention was announced as indefinite, starting from yesterday, so as to make services transparent and more competitive.
Carolina Castellanos, executive director of the Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce (Amcham), stated: "The provision is positive if they solve the problems of evasion, corruption and smuggling", such as those committed in Puerto Quetzal, which was also under intervention measures last year.
Roxana Baldetti, vice president of the country, said the purpose of this decision is to make the Empornac to become competitive.
"Ports are a key element for the country’s competitiveness, and the better management and has transparency they have, the stronger the competitiveness," said Luis Godoy, president of the Guatemalan Association of Exporters (Agexport).
However, employers were concerned about the setbacks that the measure could cause to trade facilitation. "With the intervention of Puerto Quetzal procedures were slow," said Castellanos.
However, the AmCham and Agexport and reiterated that "transparency in handling and loading and unloading attracts more trade."
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In order to curb smuggling and corruption President Perez Molina has announced that there will be interventions in five of the twelve customs offices in the country .
The customs offices will be taken over by the Executive through the Superintendency of Tax Administration (SAT), a task which will be undertaken by the Guatemalan military.
The company Guatemalteca de Níquel has requested a piece of land in Santo Tomas de Castilla for a coal plant from which would produce nickel be exported.
This was confirmed by Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, who said the company's request is for the machinery to be used in the exploitation of the mineral.
A study revealed that an international tender to award a concession for the lease of 35 thousand square meters would have generated more income for the state.
It was also noted that the essential new container terminal could have been built with the Port of Quetzal’s (EPQ in Spanish) own funds: "The EPQ is a profitable company, which in 2010 had earnings of Q137 million [$17.4 million] and in 2011 Q120 million [$15.3 million]. It also has between Q680 and Q700 million [ $86.6 million to $89.1 million] in banks.
The private sector is asking the government to repeal the new tariff schedule in the ports of Quetzal and Santo Tomas de Castilla, saying it there is no justification for it and the competitiveness of ports is deteriorating.
According to employers, the increase is not only unwarranted, but also directly impacts the cost structure of firms, which end up passing on the prices increases to end consumers.