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Laurentino Cortizo Cohen

PANAMA - Diplomacy

Laurentino Cortizo Cohen

President, Panama

Bio

“Our national investment strategy tries to focus on sustainable investments with a strong social impact, ensuring equal opportunities for everyone and promoting gender equality.”

“Our national investment strategy tries to focus on sustainable investments with a strong social impact, ensuring equal opportunities for everyone and promoting gender equality.”
The Cortizo Cohen administration has been prioritizing economic growth, health, and social programs, achieving international recognition for its innovative responses despite all the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Panama is considered to be the jewel of the Americas. What are some of the contributing factors that have led to this, and what are some of the advantages allowing Panama to stand out in the region?

Panama is a small but geographically privileged country in the center of the Americas, which offers a unique value position for being the main multimodal logistics center in Latin America and The Caribbean, providing easy air, land and sea connectivity. Having relevant ports on the coasts of both oceans, a transcontinental railway and a newly expanded international airport, only confirms the fact that Panama has become a connectivity hub not only for the region but also for the rest of the world. The creation of SEM and EMMA special regimes to attract and encourage multinational companies to establish their operations in Panama, ensure tax, labor, and migratory benefits. As a result, more than 180 multinationals have established their regional headquarters in our country strengthening our position as a competitive and reliable destination for foreign investment. Panama also happens to be one of the three countries in the world—together with Bhutan and Suriname—classified as carbon negative was recently one of the first Latin American countries to comply with the 30×30 initiative of the UN to protect at least 30% of the planet’s lands and waters by 2030.

What strategies has your administration followed to foster the national interests and to strengthen Panama’s potential?

We are currently facing a post-pandemic scenario like the rest of the world, coping with ways to accelerate our main economic sectors, and focusing on a more sustainable approach on the road to economic reactivation. Panama has always been successful in taking advantage of its privileged geographical and strategic position in the global economy. It has also transitioned from being a mid -income country, to becoming a high-income country in a very short period of time. There is definitely more room for improvement, as this pandemic has made us adapt and reevaluate our strategies to keep moving forward together as a country and develop action plans that will ensure a more sustainable future with the correct use of our resources. The transition to a green economy is imminent and necessary and has been one of the main goals of this office’s management. Investment in key sectors such as health, infrastructure, and tourism will grant social economic and political growth. In Panama, as of July 1, 2019, both the government and civil society have carried out the Action Plan Uniting FORCES (Uniendo Fuerzas) with specific and concrete actions through an efficient and dynamic strategy, aligned with the previous National Plan Panama 20-30 for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a long-term vision that incorporates the results of a national query that began on October 1, 2018, where more than 50 sectorial issues were brought to debate on multiple consultation tables, including more than 1,500 professionals from different sectors, specialists, technicians, government agencies, community leaders, and citizens. We believe that the benefits of economic growth have to be potentiated in order to create opportunities for every citizen, and we are ready and committed to face the multiple challenges that we need to face in order to achieve this. That is why our national investment strategy tries to focus on sustainable investments with a strong social impact, ensuring equal opportunities for everyone and promoting gender equality, which is extremely important for the continuous growth of the nation. We are working on strengthening the cooperation between the public and private sectors, in order to generate improvements and to create new and effective policies that will benefit the main investment, trade, and financial operations maximizing the human capital. The economic muscle of the private sector represents a major asset on the road to economic growth, so the mutual understanding and cooperation between these two sectors is by all means necessary.

Considering your administration started right before the pandemic emerged, how did you reshape the initiatives you planned to implement before that challenging time?

The pandemic certainly changed the world forever, and our government had barely started just eight months before we had to order a general lockdown to preserve human lives, and make sure our hospitals ICUs capacity did not collapse. Many of the programs and plans on our pipeline had to be put on hold, but many new initiatives replaced them. We faced this pandemic with economic strategies that we considered would help us endure together as a country, focusing on two main purposes: preserving the lives of Panamanian citizens and helping them to go through this unexpected economic impact through the incorporation of a social program called Panama Solidario. We implemented the monetization of the personal identification card, which allowed us to bring support to those who needed it most. This digital tool has been recognized internationally, awarding Panama for this important innovation. We were determined to address the health crisis created by COVID-19, by generating a strategy that would place human lives as a priority, through the timely purchase of vaccines, and investing in our own health system on infrastructure, medicine, and qualified personnel. We implemented a national strategy focused on the growth of the economy and formal employment. As a result of these actions, international organizations such as the IDB, the World Bank, and IMF placed Panama among the countries with the fastest economic recovery, with double-digit GDP growth predictions well above the region of Latin America and many other economies (15.3% in 2021). Formal employment grew by 2.2%.

What short-term goals does your government have by 2024?

Our main objective is to implement actions in order to improve the quality of life of the Panamanian family. A useful, efficient, capable, and service-oriented management to reach all citizens, especially those that are in most need. With that being said, we are moving forward with our government plan, implementing the actions that lead to good governance, rule of law, a competitive economy that generates employment, and fighting poverty and inequality through a dynamic government executing priority actions and tasks in order to complete our goals. All of this while maintaining a special focus on quality education and values. That is why the main goals of our Government Plan are focused on meeting the needs of the population, taking advantage of the economic growth of our country, and keep on improving our service culture by the exponentiation our Panama Canal.

What footprint would you like to leave in the country after the conclusion of your administration?

As President of the Republic of Panama, my mission has been to lead the country in an exceptional time, facing the great challenges of a pandemic and the consequences of the Ukraine war. Rest assured that I will do whatever is necessary to continue moving forward with the help and support of all Panamanians. I am well aware that due to the circumstances we have faced, we had to take difficult and drastic measures. However, we will turn this into opportunities for our country. I am proud to say that this crisis has brought out the best in Panamanians. I am sure that by working together, there is nothing that the Panamanian people can’t achieve. That is why I feel confident, that Panama will emerge from this in a stronger and better position to face the upcoming challenges. I would like to see a more prosperous, inclusive, digital, and sustainable country, and that is why we are working very hard to achieve this. That is our commitment. We are well aware of Panama’s huge potential, and I feel honored and grateful to be able to contribute every day, in order to advance towards those objectives.

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