Press Release


President of Panama and OAS Assistant Secretary General Inaugurate Competitiveness Forum of the Americas

  October 3, 2013

The President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli , the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Albert Ramdin, and the Executive Secretary for Economic Affairs and Competitiveness of the Ministry of the Presidency of Panama, Kristelle Getzler, today inaugurated the Seventh Americas Competitiveness Forum, with the theme " Infrastructure and Technology Shaping the Countries of Today."

The President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli , based his address on the importance of investment in infrastructure and cited his own government as an example. He said when he took office in 2009, " there were a lot of imbalances" in the country. He said that "when one studies government, the first thing some economists and political scientists say is that we must encourage certain sectors so that those sectors serve as the driving forces of economic growth." But when the government invests in certain sectors, he explained, the benefits are often limited to those sectors.

The Panamanian President said that investment in infrastructure, however, leads to benefits across sectors, and therefore, "for every dollar in the budget, Panama invests 45 percent in infrastructure. So Panama is a country that is under construction, and in this massive amount of infrastructure is the key to the growth experienced by Panama," he said.

"The future of Panama is very promising," continued President Martinelli, noting that a number of laws and reforms his government has implemented in the fields of taxation and liberalization of the economy as well as successes in the connectivity of the country by air with the rest of the world, the expansion of broadband, and improvements in the national education system, among other areas.

For her part, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, whose country will host the next Competitiveness Forum in 2014, praised the efforts of Panama to strengthen its position as a "global hub" and increase its competitiveness through investment in infrastructure, notably with the expansion of the Panama Canal.

The Caribbean country's Prime Minister said that "the mix of talent and experience at this Forum is the formula for success that has driven this forum" since its founding. "Today, it has grown into one of our Hemisphere´s largest public-private policy dialogue and business events," she added.

"Creative and innovative strategies combined with the human imagination are the assets that drive competitiveness," said the Prime Minister, explaining the theme of the 2014 Forum in her country." We have an abundance of talent in this room representing every aspect of human development. Our challenge is to put our talents to work to produce meaningful ideas and workable solutions to manage infrastructure and technology development in the Americas," she said .

Assistant Secretary General Ramdin opened by saying that the selection of infrastructure and technology as the central theme of the Forum "encapsulates the success story that is Panama, and speaks volumes about the vision of its leaders and talent of its people."

"When you look around the world, infrastructure is an area that has grown despite the financial crisis, and will continue to grow substantially both in the developed world and in emerging markets," said Ramdin. "We know that a country can not be competitive without the roads, airports and ports necessary for trade. This infrastructure is essential to support inclusive social progress and sustained stability, to address more the systemic development challenges of today, such as rapid urbanization, natural disasters, adaptation to climate change and its mitigation, and health, food security and energy," he added.

The senior OAS official added that in the current environment, in which many governments have high debts, "it is imperative to unlock the capital of the private sector, its knowledge, and identify new and creative financing mechanisms," while he made a call for a hemispheric level ministerial dialogue with the private sector "to discuss business facilitation, market expansion and regional cooperation for energy infrastructure, telecommunications and physics."

Meeting of Ministers

In the context of the Forum, the OAS Assistant Secretary General participated in the private meeting of Finance Ministers of the Hemisphere, who are part of the "Pathways to Prosperity" initiative, which seeks to connect the Western Hemisphere through the promotion of inclusive growth, prosperity and social justice. The primary objective is to work to facilitate regional trade and competitiveness, strengthen micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), develop a modern workforce and advocate for sustainable business practices.

Addressing the meeting, Ambassador Ramdin urged countries to continue engaging and pursuing all initiatives and platforms that promote the principles of the initiative such as sustainable development and social inclusion. “Through our collective efforts, sharing our best practices and experiences, we stand a better chance of overcoming the challenges before us. Our goal must be to build a culture which supports our people, peace and prosperity," said the senior OAS official.

In parallel to the Forum, Trinidad and Tobago will host the next meeting of "Pathways to Prosperity," and Ambassador Ramdin said he was "confident that Trinidad and Tobago will build on the success marked by Panama. The Caribbean is a key location, which we believe can benefit as a whole from the outcomes of these initiatives."

The Seventh Americas Competitiveness Forum of the Americas runs until tomorrow Friday, October 4, and primarily aims to facilitate the development of business and enable the exchange of ideas and knowledge to make the countries of the Americas more innovative, productive and competitive, and thus to improve the living standards of its inhabitants.

The opening ceremony of the Forum was concluded by the Executive Secretary for Economic Affairs and Competitiveness of the Ministry of the Presidency of Panama, Kristelle Getzler, who highlighted the presentation on Wednesday of the Second "Signs of Competitiveness in the Americas" report 2013 " which emphasizes the challenge of competitiveness in the panorama of the region’s future.

The Forum was held previously in Atlanta (United States) in 2007, 2008 and 2010, in Santiago de Chile in 2009, in the Dominican Republic in 2011, and in Cali, Colombia in 2012.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.

Reference: E-368/13