A snapshot of policy trends and successes in the region.
The Panama Canal Expansion Program (PCEP), launched in September 2007 and scheduled for completion in 2014, is expected by its proponents to have the greatest impact on global shipping of any project underway today. Once completed, the $5.5 billion project will roughly triple the size of vessels that can pass through the Canal, from the current maximum of 4,400 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) to 12,600 TEU.
In a December 2010 article, The New York Times echoed the general consensus that the project will lead to “the biggest shift in the freight business since the 1950s, when sea-faring ships began carrying goods in uniform metal containers.”
Nevertheless, at the midpoint of the project’s timeline, there are important questions about what has been achieved to date, and in particular, about how effectively ports outside Panama will be able to handle the larger ships and the associated increased volume of traffic.
For the Autoridad del Canal de Panamá (ACP), the good news is that 19 percent of the work was completed by the end of 2010. Expansion is focused on four primary areas: the construction of new locks on the Pacific and Atlantic sides; excavation of new locks for the channel’s northern access; improvements to existing navigational channels; and improvements to the Canal’s water supply and draft dependability.
Phases one and two of the excavation of the Pacific Access Channel are complete. These first steps—clearing land, including a former munitions range—were necessary for further expansion and the relocation of roads. Initial work also focused on preparing for construction of the third set of locks. This will be led by the Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC)—a conglomerate including Spain’s Sacyr Vallehermoso, Italy’s Impregilo, Belgium’s dredging and marine engineering company Jan de Nul, and Panama’s largest construction company Constructora Urbana SA (CUSA).
The 2010 U.S. Census results underlined not only the dramatic growth of the U.S. Hispanic population but its high mobility. In the last decade, data show that the number of Hispanics jumped by 43 percent—from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010—with this group accounting for over half of the total U.S. population increase. Latinos also continue to live in new destinations. Since 1990, the number of those living in the nine states with the historically highest concentrations of Hispanics shrank by 10 percentage points to a total of 76 percent.
The rise of the Hispanic population, together with an immigrant population estimated at 38.5 million (of which more than half are from Latin America), continues to spark a variety of public policy and private-sector responses. The most worrisome has been the explosion of anti-immigrant bills in state legislatures, which claim to be reacting to the absence of nationwide comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) and lack of enforcement.
More than 6,600 immigration-related bills were introduced in states between 2005 and 2010. Although only 838 bills were enacted, this level of activity is a clear illustration of the anxieties and fears in many parts of the country.1
The most controversial bills focus on the estimated 10.8 million undocumented immigrants, of whom approximately 62 percent are from Mexico, followed by El Salvador (5 percent), Guatemala (4 percent) and Honduras (3 percent).2 But as the debate about Arizona’s SB 1070 demonstrated, these bills and the political climate they respond to (and create) also affect U.S. citizens of Hispanic ancestry.
In Canadian hockey, currency fluctuations can be almost as important as player skills. When the Canadian dollar, or loonie, began approaching parity with the U.S. dollar in late 2007, fans in Winnipeg and Québec City were thrilled. Financial constraints (along with a lack of owner interest) had driven the Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix in 1996 and the Québec Nordiques to Denver in 1995. But many now believe that the loonie’s rise has opened the way for a return of National Hockey League (NHL) franchises to both cities.
This optimism may not be warranted. Potential owners forecast an uncertain long-term value of the loonie, which is critical for the success of Canadian professional ice hockey. In the last half of the 1990s and early into the new millennium, the U.S. economy was growing faster than the Canadian economy. Although ticket sales remained high for Canadian NHL franchises, the weakening Canadian dollar meant that U.S. teams were typically stronger on non-ticket revenues such as payments for media rights, regional sports networks and sponsorship. This put further stress on small-market Canadian teams, and importantly, decreased their attractiveness as investments.