- Keynote: H.E. José Domingo Arias, Vice Minister of Commerce and Industry, Panama
- Keynote: Philip Yeo, Chairman, SPRING Singapore, Special Adviser for Economic Development, Prime Minister’s Office (view background presentation)
- Keynote: Frank Heemskerk, Member of the Board of Management, Royal Haskoning
- Moderator: Don Ratliff, Executive Director, Georgia Tech Panama Logistics, Innovation & Research Center
Frank Heemskerk: Happy to see economic relations between Panama and Netherlands growing stronger. President Martinelli is visiting Netherlands this year, discussing how to avoid double taxation between the countries. These have been some of the fastest negotiations ever.
Location is important, but it needs to be maintained and shared. The Netherlands’ success is a combination of location, business/tax climate, and quality of life. Education is very important and people want the best environment for their children. Freedom of press and freedom of speech — this is what people want. The Netherlands has met these goals and this the reason for their success.
Panama outpaces the Netherlands on GDP growth, but this an advantage to the Netherlands and to Singapore as it creates more wealth and more trade for the entire world.
José Domingo Arias: Panama has been developing it’s place as a trade and logistics hub for 400 years, starting with the gold trade from the continent’s Pacific coast to Spain. Terms have now changed. Trade comes from the west of the United States and travels to the east.
The Canal will expand its capacity to be able receive bigger ships. This takes a great deal of investment. Panama is already the eleventh most competitive country in the world, and offers the most efficient and competitive port in the Western Hemisphere. The free trade zone of Colon moves $20 billion in trade a year. The airport Tocumen is seeing 12 million passengers per year and expected to see this grow to 14 million. The government is also in the process of building the highway between Panama City and Colon and extending the highway across the country. The most important thing is that the government is doing all this with global commercial partners.
We are focusing on developing teaching and education in Panama, especially executive education. Most of these students are from the public sector. Our long term project is to renovate the country’s entire education system. Our private partners and universities have the capacity to identify their needs are and will handle their training.
Experience exchange with Singapore and the Netherlands is vital for us. We have studied their model. We are learning enormous amounts from Singapore in terms of technology, a field in which they have considerable experience. Someone from the private sector asked me what guarantees we could provide that we can deliver. Our prestige is on the line, and our style of the administration is to get things done.
Panel conversation: Success comes from collaboration of the private sector, the public sector, and investigations. The impressive thing about Singapore is they never stop trying to be the best, even though they are considered by many to be the best. Panama is trying to encourage entrepreneurship. How can it encourage creating a “critical mass” of ideas?
Will East coast U.S. ports on the East Coast be able to handle new big ships that will be passing through the expanded Canal? If not, this will be to Panama’s advantage as it mean ships will be unloading their cargo, although the United States will catch up eventually.
Panama is more of a logistics hub than a trade hub. Panama needs to build on this and improve. Suggestions include broadening the agenda using better social policy and better water management. Singapore and the Netherlands have been able to convince shippers of the value of going through Rotterdam’s and Singapore’s ports. They’re efficient, tariffs are cheaper, and they’re easier to use. Panama should follow these models.
More in http://www.as-coa.org/blogs/panama2011/