Nearshore Americas

World Economic Forum in Davos: Panama President Says Latin America Must Grab the Opportunity

Source: Euronews

The impact of emerging markets is a major focus of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

With the world economy moving from post-crisis to a tentative bounce back phase, the World Bank has estimated that emerging countries will be contributing almost half of global growth this year. Latin America has an important part to play and euronews spoke to the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli.

“This has been described as the century for Latin America, Panama is part of that surge. Is it really the century for Latin America?”

Ricardo Martinelli, President of Panama – “It better be because we have been lost, we have lost so many centuries that we haven’t taken the full blown opportunities that have been presented to us. I think this is the opportunity that Latin America has and we shouldn’t let it go by again.”

“So it is an opportunity, but could it be an opportunity that is squandered? We saw what happened in the west with the debt crisis. Is this a pattern that could be repeated in Latin America?”

Martinelli – “No, because what happened in the west was that the banks were not fully capitalised and they followed lending policies that were not proper. The banks in Latin America have a solid capital structure and they have been more wise. And so a debt crisis, in that respect, won’t happen.”

“One of the big issues at Davos has been the shifting power structures, so Latin America is now going to become a much bigger decision maker. How can you ensure that you act as a unified force?”

Martinelli – “I am very surprised that there are only 58 persons from Latin American, including Brazil, in Davos. There are over 2,400 (attendees), out of that 1,000 are Americans, only around 50 are Indians, 100 or so are Chinese, 300 are British: so I believe those countries in the Far East (Asian Pacific region) and Latin America will have to get more involved, in order to be in a place like Davos, because this is the meeting point of all the people that run and rule the world. They may not be presidents, but they are ones who influence the policies that developed countries have.”

“So, Davos is an elitist club and it is keeping hold of its power?”

Martinelli – “It is an elitist club and it is not very easy to get invited, I am invited as the president of a country, so I definitely would like to help and promote more Latin American companies to become members of this elite organisation and attend Davos.”

“You’ve got exclusive access to other heads of state when you come here, but what do you get out of Davos when you come?

Martinelli – “Mostly likely I will get people to know Panama, Panama is on the map and a lot of people are going to come up and see that Panama is a very good place to invest and do business. First of all, one of the companies which is coming to Panama, has promised us 1,000 jobs, and there are others who definitely want to come and see the Panama experience, because Panama is the only country in the world run by a businessman, not run by a politician and there is a hell of a difference between a politician and a businessman.”

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“Why is Davos relevant to the average person?”

Martinelli – “Because, this is where everything starts, this is the beginning of the river, the stream, which becomes a bigger river down stream. Over here is where people make policies that make (affect) individual human beings, the John Does in all those countries. He doesn’t understand why people are promoting the environment, what has happened to the oil industry, what is happening to the manufacturing sector, why people buy more from China or India, or Latin America. This is where it all starts and this is where you meet the people who run the show.”

Tarun George

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