MEXICO CITY, July 7 (Reuters) - Panama’s new president on Monday visited supermarkets to check that they had implemented food price controls to cut the cost of living, measures which also will hit the pocket of his predecessor, retail magnate Ricardo Martinelli.
The controls on 22 basic goods including potatoes, beans, chicken and tuna, fulfill a campaign promise made by center-right President Juan Carlos Varela, who won election in May.
“This state effort is aimed at benefiting all Panamanians,” Varela said arriving at one supermarket in Panama City.
The controls are supposed to save Panamanian families $58 a month. At up to $624 per month, the minimum wage in Panama is high, but the country has a large informal economy and the cost of food has been running higher than overall consumer prices.
Varela previously served as vice president to Martinelli, who owns one of Panama’s largest supermarket chains.
After helping him to victory in 2009, Varela fell out with Martinelli, and said after his own election there was no doubt the measures would affect his former boss.
Stores that do not abide by the price controls, which went into effect on Monday for six months, will face fines of up to $10,000, Varela said. The opposition has criticized the measure, claiming it could lead to food shortages. (Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)