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PANAMA - Economy

Marcela Galindo de Obarrio

President, Chamber of Commerce, Industries, and Agriculture of Panama (CCIAP)

Bio

Prior to becoming President of CCIAP, Marcela Galindo de Obarrio was its vice president and director of group No.10, health and chemicals, of the Chamber. She has represented this business association at the Dialogue of the Bicentennial Pact and in the Commission for the Improvement of Health of the Ministry of Health, among others. She is also part of the founding group of #TodoPanama and was secretary of its board of directors from 2020-2021. Galindo de Obarrio graduated from Texas A & M University in the US and University of Twente in the Netherlands. She has more than 20 years of professional experience in operations and commercial management of various economic activities.

"We prefer to position ourselves as the most representative group or professional association possible."
To further boost the Panamanian economy, CCIAP is also looking at the further education of its members as well as adequate representation at the national and regional level.
What sectors are part of the chamber, and what advantages do you offer those companies?

We prefer to position ourselves as the most representative group or professional association possible. We currently have over 1,500 members and recently added 52 new ones; however, there are two things important to us. The first is having all types of companies including small, medium, and large companies, which is what the entrepreneur and business sector in Panama looks like in real life. There are Panamanian companies as well as multinational ones. There are special laws and incentives to attract multinational companies to establish their regional offices in Panama. Having these massive and consolidated companies in addition to smaller ones allows us to truly understand and represent the actual market. Second, when it comes to diversity in terms of the sectors of our members, our structure is divided into 15 groups that represent 15 different sectors of the economy.

Can you elaborate on the different groups within the chamber of commerce?

The first group is agriculture and livestock, while the second group is food, which covers everything to do with the commercial chain, including raw food items or processed products. The next groups are industries, energy, and water, followed by construction and real estate, automotive and heavy machinery, IT, as well as transport and logistics, an extremely important group. The eighth group is personal items, and then home and office as well as health and chemicals, which is commonly known as the medicine group. The last few sectors include advertising and communications; banking and finance; tourism and entertainment; professional services, which include lawyers, consultants, and so on; and lastly human development. We have almost everything under the sun, and all of those together make up just over 1,500 companies.

What initiatives does the chamber implement to attract new members?

We have a marketing and communications group that constantly goes through different databases to identify companies that are not members of the chamber. The marketing group then reaches out to these different companies and works to attract them. We have several in-house services; for example, having so many members allow us to have a strong administrative team. The chamber has 70 full-time staff working in different sectors and areas. The marketing and communications team, in addition to attracting new companies, are also constantly in touch with members to ensure they are doing well and can connect to the relevant team if required. We have a center for economic studies with one of the most renowned economists in Panama heading the division. It provides business intelligence and keeps an eye on all the different factors of the microeconomy. It also shares its intelligence with our members, helping with their decision-making processes. We also have a legal affairs and lobbying team, a group of lawyers that spends practically 100% of its time in National Assembly identifying different bills or laws that are in the process of becoming law. They go through all the processes, including sub-commission, first to third debate, and so on, and try to identify early on any projects or laws that might impact or affect any of the companies in our 15 different sectors in any way. This allows us to be extremely proactive.

What is the role of education within the Panamanian economy, and how does the chamber foster it?

In 2021, we founded a center for professional formation and entrepreneurial development that works on both continued education as well as professional development. The first part is focused on closing the gap between the private sector and academia, and we have signed several MoUs with different academic institutions to determine the needs of the private sector when it comes to professionals and skills. We have been placing great effort and focus on education, which we have identified as needing a great deal of strengthening in Panama, and a specialized labor force.

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