Could you elaborate on the current state of development of COTEL's activities nationwide?
COTEL is an organization closely linked to the government, having been the social arm of the state for over 110 years. President Varela is committed to the social development of Panama and we form the logistical backbone. Our nationwide postal coverage, a branch network of 119 offices, provides a service to the most vulnerable and remote communities in Panama. Yet we are keen to expand our wide range of services further. One initiative we aim to introduce is the ability to pay taxes and other duties at post offices. We are currently undergoing a transformation process, as the Panamanian postal network is in need of a technological overhaul. We have plans to systemize the national postal network, which will enable us to improve our services to society. We also have plans to upgrade our fleet and provide increased security for postal products. We will be renewing our brand in line with the transformation process. Our new brand will be dynamic, reliable and modern, and one that inspires public confidence in our services that enhance the life of Panamanians.
Which part of the country is destined for the greatest proportion of investment toward this transformation process?
Our priority is macro, rather than micro capacity building. Having said that, it is obvious that Panama City requires the greatest investment, being the most populous part of Panama. The Chiriqui region receives a large number of tourists, so that will also be an investment priority. Additionally, the Darien, Herrera, Coclé and Colón regions require investment.
What is the company's portfolio within financial services?
Our financial services mainly focus on monetary transfers, including remittances, which can be executed either by phone or fax. We have seen considerable activity in this segment in the Darien region, where a high number of hotel projects are being developed. In Darien, each post office generates around $80,000-$90,000 from financial services.
How does the company engage with international partners to improve the services offered and further integrate itself within a global postal network?
We are currently holding talks with the International Postal Union for inclusion within the agreements system. We hope to sign agreements in countries that have sizable Panamanian expatriate communities, such as Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. We are affiliated to the International Postal Union as well as the Postal Union of the Americas, Spain and Portugal; we follow the international regulatory framework of both unions. The regulatory framework is established through a democratic process, where at an international congress, 190 countries together decide on strategies and implementation. Today's Panamanian postal service operates to high international standards.
What role does e-commerce play in your overall activity?
Panamanian society is no stranger to global trends, and e-commerce is becoming a common purchasing medium. We have developed a special service within this segment, namely Cotelbox. Through it, we receive the produce people buy online and then transport their parcels and orders. We are part of a global network and want to make sure users understand the benefits of selecting COTEL for their online purchases. Panama is an international country and we have to make sure we meet international demand.
What are your main objectives for 2015?
By the end of this year COTEL will be working within a pre-established budget. We have several challenges ahead, as well as objectives. COTEL was established to serve Panama and its people and we work to demonstrate that they are our top priority. Improving the working and living conditions of our employees is also a essential. We intend also to invest in COTEL's integrated logistics center, a physical meeting point for all our postal activities, to ensure operations are fast, efficient and secure.