5 or 15 billion … or whatever?

A few years ago we got a dressing down from a little fourth-grade girl who was annoyed about the way nothing was being said about the questionable reduction of the estimated cost for the Panama Canal expansion.

The initial estimate was $ 15 billion, she reminded us, but no one seemed to remember that figure when Senor Sponge – or whatever his name is – began addressing U.S. port officials in an effort to raise money for the project.

On his several fund raising tours, $ 5 billion (not $ 15 billion) is what he was claiming the expansion project would cost, and no one – except these fourth-graders – batted an eyelash at this different estimate. Apparently though, enough money was raised because the canal’s expansion program is well along.

Well along, maybe. From Panama City on January 24th, the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) reported that the Canal Expansion Project is “moving forward to reach its goal of bolstering the waterway’s capacity in order to provide a better service to its customers.

“To date,” the report concluded, “the program is 50 percent complete.”

The Expansion Program was begun in 2013 and was scheduled to be completed by mid-2014, you’ll recall, but on January 27th we heard from Panama Canal Administrator, Jorge Quijano, that the program “is half done. We estimate based on the progress that we can begin commercial transits mid-2015,” he said.

Next we’ll hear that, along with an adjustment in time, there’ll be an adjustment in the publicized estimate of $ 5 billion. Up to $ 15 billion, maybe? Cost overruns, y’know – things like that.

Much like the urgings on the part of Senor Sponge – or whatever his name is – the CEO of the PCA, Alberto Aleman Zubieta, has slammed port officials in Canada and the US for not making the most of the Panama Canal expansion.

Zubieta stressed, according to a story in Port Technology, that if East Coast ports continue to delay the upgrade of their respective facilities then Panama itself will not realize the benefits of the canal doubling its capacity.

Again, the impoverished U.S. taxpayers are expected to foot the bills so that others can rake in the resulting profits. And all that money being raised for U.S. dredging and port expansion projects – where do you think it’s all going? To U.S. contractors? Is it possible that the Senors Sponge and Zubieta have been raising American dollars, without dipping their hands in the cookie jar?

[You don’t know very much about Panama, do you?]