Jackson, Pizza Hut shuts down in Panama and some make a political issue of it


Say WHAT about the economy?

by Eric Jackson

First, the Pizza Hut outlets here were a property of Franquicias Panameñas SA, a company that has several different fast food franchise chains in its portfolio. They hold KFC and Dairy Queen here. They used to have the rights to Taco Bell here, but sold those in 2018.

Do we acknowledge what some people published back then, with furious denials and denunciations in response? You could tell by the empty billboards, by the empty storefronts, by the stalled construction projects, back during the run-up to the 2019 elections. The real question was who would eat the losses from an overextended, too indebted economy, with all this unsold inventory of so many sorts, from things on shelves to business locales without much or any business. Who would take the hit? Who would gobble up the bargains at reduced prices?

THEN, the epidemic hit us.

It will be the subject of business school studies and perhaps legal cases for years to come, but who got bailed out to what extent — and really, for what — are questions naturally asked and unlikely to be fully and candidly answered. Some of the more abusive schemes we have read about in publications whose editorial lines slant against the PRD. But it’s probably more realistic to look for and at things by examining families, old school friends and inter-generational business partnerships as much or more than in partisan terms.

Businesses big and small have taken big hits these past few years. Individuals rich and poor have also taken big hits. Some have received more, some less, in the way of rescues from public coffers or via public policies.

Overall, almost everybody in the private economy is hurting. On the public side, a few crooks have made out like bandits because they ARE bandits. But even the slimiest politicians are paying more for everything now, so more often than not have seen a reduction in their standard of living.

And so it has gone with the little fondas, the more formal sit-down restaurants, and the fast food chains.

THIS parent company says that it plans to expand KFC and put as many of the displaced Pizza Hut people to work as possible on that side of their business. How badly might that hurt Pio Pio or this or that little fonda? We shall see.

Yeah, pathetic demagogues are blaming President Cortizo. Ricky Martinelli is blaming lazy working people who took Monday off when Christmas was on a Sunday, and who plan to take next Monday off as well.

But you know, people who take that extra day in the Interior due to this holiday season’s calendar will by things on their days off. Mom and pop fondas, people who sell things on the streets, fast food chains owned by some rather wealthy people will register some additional sales. Even as foreign tourists from lands richer than ours trickle back and start to spend money here, it’s the “national tourism” — Panamanians taking breaks from their usual routines to travel, enjoy and consume in Panama — that has driven most of our tourism sector. Just because it’s so complicated and so much of it is off the books that it’s hard to quantify doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Don’t spend money you don’t have, and don’t expect others to do so either. But be kind. Be understanding. Be generous. Be a good neighbor. The hard times aren’t over for very many people here. A bit of ordinary decency goes a long way toward getting us all past these hard years.


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