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Panama and sustainable development

Interview - October 22, 2014

The United World team held a meeting with M.r Ramón Arosemena, in order to discuss the current situation of Panama’s Ministry of Public Works. He described the sector’s main characteristics, its growth related obstacles, and the great potential it has. Additionally, he described the relations with the United States and potential investors. Finally, he talked to us about the new government’s qualities and the Panamenian people’s profile. He stressed the importance of the canal’s enlargement as a main growth booster.


Panama is going through a crucial moment in its history. The country has been sustaining an average annual growth of 8% in the last few years. Additionally, the country’s infraestructures are being renewed. What will be the new government’s public investment strategy? What is this government’s main mission?

The legacy our president wishes to leave is socially orientated. The objective is to face poverty and satisfy the Panamenian people’s basic needs (health, education, housing, infraestructure, etc). We want to reach every community in the country, for there are many which have been neglected by every single previous govermnent, and whose complaints have never been paid attention to. We want to include the inhabitants of these communities into the country’s productive circuit.

This is going to be a combination of public services and transport systems. The first projects we would like to execute will be the ones benefitting the areas outside the city, where our pooorest population is located. The social element is this goverment’s priority.

Considering that the development of infraestructures stands as a key element in regards to the canal; what role will the canal’s enlargement play within Panama’s goal of becoming a logistics hub in the region? How is the Ministry facing these issues and what is expected to be achieved?

I have a very close work relationship with the president. I know his vision is focused on helping the neediest, that’s why he wants to bury the history of the two Panamas, and to establish the idea of one true Panama. This is the only way we have of carrying out all the developments you mentioned and of taking actual advantage of the canal.

President Varela has said that during the following two or three years he intends to attract around $35 billion dollars destined to develop public transport, among other areas. Where are these funds expected to come from? What is Panama doing in order to awaken the foreign investors’ interest?

In its economic track, Panama has been growing for the last 20 to 25 years. This provides the investors with a certain amount of trust.

I believe this government is very focused on justice and honesty, on demonstrating to investors that things are being done the right way, under the existing regulations. I have received a very North American education, and this means things are done the way they have to be done, without favouritism. This is one of the reasons why I am here. We need to show the world that we do things properly, in a fair and transparent fashion. We have put together a team of young professionals who possess the best possible qualities.

What is Panama’s connectivity like? How are you planning to strenghten the sector?

We are in charge of highways, bridges, drains, but not of airports. Eventually we will be in charge of hospitals and schools too. We will also be very involved in the building of the fourth bridge above the Panama canal, which is in process of decission making regarding design and some other specificities.

US construction companies have lost a great deal of international presence due to, mainly, the lack of transparency in public tenders. Is there an existing will of working with US enterprises? What should Panama’s position and message be in regards to this?

Fifty years ago, North American companies had a deep impact and presence in every Latin American country. Little by little, this is being lost and they are gradually moving away. But I also see it from the perspective of the amount of work opportunities that appeared in the US. Even today there are plenty of jobs and coming to work in South America represents a risk.

Nevertheless, I have heard that there are companies, like Brown from Texas, for example, which are deeply interested in in building the bridge mentioned before. Additionally, there are other companies already operating here. I believe this has something to do with the government’s image as embodying positive change. This governments injects peace and safety.

Do you believe that the fact that you have abandoned the private for the public sector, and have come here to perform this job will strengthen the investors’ trust and safety? 

I do believe so. One of the main reasons I am here is that I felt honoured when I was sought after to perform this task. Secondly, and in the same line, the president explained to me that he wanted clarity, honesty and justice. I decided to join his project because he described what he had in mind regarding the poorest and neediest of us, and because the project meant coming back to my homeland to repay as much as I could.

I am convinced I came here for all the right reasons and I am looking forward to helping as many people as possible. I am certain we will work in the best way anyone ever has. All these issues made me come back here, even more so than the economic variable. To do things out of sheer love, and not always money, is a lesson I want my children to acquire.

I would like to leave the legacy of having done the right thing, better than before. I want the quality of every project to be according to Panama’s needs and standards. In addition to that, I would like to achieve better results than those reached before, spending less money, and enthusing every single worker to take part on the process, for things can be done the right way and without incurring into irregularities. They need to realise that Panama comes first, especially the unseen versions of the country nobody takes on account.

We believe there is a new Panama since the arrival of this new government and it’s worth communicating. This is a real country which deserves to be recognised for its identity. What would be your final message in order to position Panama’s image as it actually is, countearcting the negative perception the country has? How are you planning to ensure sustainable growth and permanent business opportunities?

Panama is full of good people. It is a country that grows on a daily basis, and can count on serious, formal and worldwidely important businessmen. Moreover, with this government everything will function much better and in an entirely transparent manner. We are a small but quite wholesome country, where everything can be found.

I would encourage them to come and invest. The possibilisites are open to benefit from. Beyond the existing problems we may have, and beyond the fact that we ought to take care of our less privileged population, I see a longlasting democracy, which is fundamental. Regarding economy, we are one of the most stable countries in the region. Furthermore, with the canal’s remodeling opportunities will multiply themselves.