The guy Mulino chose to oversee railroad construction…

2d suspension
There are caveats. Should one or two mistakes over the course of a career be all that matters about qualifications? Should the conflicts of interest of those who raise the issue count in the calculations? Are there more specific qualifications that should be demanded for running a national project with a price tag in the billions? Screenshot from the Gaceta Oficial, wherein the man chosen to head the biggest project that President-elect Mulino advocates had his engineer’s and architect’s license suspended for a year for negligently building a San Miguelito housing development on a landslide-prone spot.

Questionable appointment, questionable questioners

by Eric Jackson

La Prensa has pointed out that Henry Faarup, the man chosen to head a Panama City to David train project, has twice had his professional license suspended for negligent work by the Engineering and Architecture Technical Board (JTIA, an agency of the Ministry of Public Works).

So what, exactly, has been Mr. Faarup’s career, and why might La Prensa be sensitive to any issues arising from it?

For one thing, La Prensa’s founder, Bobby Eisenmann, is a real estate developer like Faarup. That daily is set up to have no one controlling owner, but other heavyweight families in the real estate and allied banking and construction industries — the Tribaldoses, the Planellses and the Sucres, for examples — have their current or historical associations with La Prensa or with the political and social circles in which those folks move. Not to get into the conspiratorial world view that’s all the rage in parts of US society these days, but in business and social circles they’d tend to be aware of real estate developers and their reputations. But on the other hand to the extent that they might be business competitors it could create conflicts of interest that might lead on to expect an undue slant in reporting.

From the Gaceta Oficial, a prior suspension for Mr. Faarup, for six months in 2006.

Set aside this old Panagringo hippie’s distrust of Panama’s elite families, if you can, but without forgetting that there is no such thing as “completely objective journalism” where the experiences, upbringing, schooling, native tongue and social situation of the reporter impart no bias. Both a ruthless late Chinese politician and an outstanding Chinese-American reporter, Chairman Mao and Joie Chen respectively, in their own ways warned us that there is no such thing as writing without a point of view. With those two boulders of salt about bias in mind, and given Faarup’s public record, consider two things:

  1. Does a career as a real estate developer especially qualify an engineer to direct the construction of a railroad?
  2. Given the common faults of Panamanian transportation construction — bad drainage or no drainage is a biggie — and a changing climate, can we expect prudent routing and construction techniques with a longer view than toward the immediate future with respect to to this expensive railroad project?

I don’t know. I’m not an engineer. I just have a decade on a small Rust Belt city building code appeals board, and a couple of terms on that place’s city council to instruct me, which doesn’t and shouldn’t get me an engineer’s license.

Plus, I do know that people learn from mistakes, that the guy who is knocked down can get up and win the fight.

It does, however, seem to be a time for rude questions.


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