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Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2006, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
Panama Canal referendum: Your views
Ship in the Panama Canal
Gustavo Gutierrez sent this picture of a container ship in the canal
The people of Panama will go to the polls on Sunday to decide whether to approve a $5bn project to expand the waterway which provides their economic lifeline.

Panamanian readers told the BBC News website their views on the canal's biggest proposed expansion since it opened in 1914.

GUSTAVO GUTIERREZ, PANAMA CITY, PANAMA

I will vote "yes" because the expansion project is necessary to keep the canal competitive.

Gustavo Gutierrez
It has more than 90 years of service to the maritime industry and it is time to revamp it to keep up with current market and technological needs.

The direct contributions from the canal to the government of Panama will be in excess of $600m this year.

With an expanded canal, that number will more than double.

Therefore the indirect benefits of this expansion will bring incalculable benefits to the Panamanian people.

AZUCENA FILLO HARO, PANAMA CITY, PANAMA

This expansion is a nightmare for the people of Panama.

Around 40% of the population lives in poverty and the country is in huge debt, which this government has increased by $1.5bn over a period of two years.

The total national debt is around $11bn - and this in a country with a population of only three million.

We cannot carry the burden of such a mega-project when the country is facing all sorts of problems.

The government has been irresponsible in proposing such a project and promoting it in the US and elsewhere.

JUAN DIEGO REYNA, PANAMA CITY, PANAMA

Juan Diego Reyna
I plan to vote in favour of the expansion.

If you ask me this project should have been proposed long ago - not just to expand the canal but to improve navigability through the route and its locks.

We need to catch up with market requirements.

Some aspects of the project may not be as clear as we would like.

There's always a political element to such an important project and as regrettable as that is, it's inevitable in any country today.

However, I trust my country and its people fully to complete it successfully.

We operated the canal long before it became truly ours, but this project will be conducted entirely under the Panamanian flag - a true source of pride for this great nation which remains open to the rest of the world.

ELISABETH, CHIRIQUI, PANAMA

There has been little information and a lot of government propaganda surrounding this vote.

I don't know what to believe.

A container ship entering the Gatun Lock heading towards the Atlantic Ocean
Jon Rocque sent this image of a ship entering the Gatun Lock
On the one hand the expansion may be good for Panama.

However, on the other hand it will ruin a lot of the nature in the surrounding area.

When people have asked where the money will come from to fund the project, the government haven't really said anything convincing.

All they said was it would pay for itself from the extra revenue from bigger ships. I have my doubts about that.

People need more information and we are worried that not everyone will know what they are voting for when they go to the polls.

TOMAS PORTILLO, PANAMA CITY, PANAMA

I will vote in favour of the expansion of the Panama Canal.

It will secure the future for the next generation of Panamanians and everyone who works in the maritime industry here.

This expansion will create 40,000 direct and indirect jobs and will provide an opportunity for Panamanians to improve their standards of living.

This is the right time and the right place to go ahead with this huge project.

Panama has always been at the crossroads of the Americas and the rest of the world.

This is an opportunity for the country to strengthen its position.

ROBERTO MENDEZ, PANAMA CITY, PANAMA

The Panama Canal widening project is not a good move for the Panamanian people.

It is not financially sound.

Panama would be better off if the revenue earned from ships using the canal were used to foster the country's development and overall wellbeing.

Therefore the people ought to reject the proposal to widen the canal and instead look for a better alternative.




SEE ALSO
Panama approves canal expansion
15 Jul 06 |  Americas
Panama plans huge canal expansion
25 Apr 06 |  Americas
Country profile: Panama
12 Jul 06 |  Country profiles



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