Jun. 20, 2016

Rubén Bustamante


Rubén Bustamante

President, BDO Panamá


Rubén Bustamante is an authorized public accountant and holds a master’s degree in taxation. He is a member of the Association of Certified Public Accountants of Panama and a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture of Panama. He is a representative of the Jesús Luz de Oportunidad Foundation. He has 40 years of professional experience, with over 20 years delivering seminars at accounting and taxation congresses and writing taxation articles. He is the author of books about sales and income taxes and founded Bustamante & Associates 29 years ago, known today as BDO, with 200 members and four offices.

Can you give us an overview of your clients?

What makes us stand out is that we have clients from a wide range of sectors. We have offices in Chiriquí, Colón, and two in Panama City. We provide our services locally and can meet clients all over the country to serve and assess a whole range of sectors such as international commerce, hotels, tourism, education, retail, industry, automotive, financial services, and attorneys in law, real estate, and development. We serve our customers by providing seminars, book publishing, and technical material on fulfilling the laws and regulations of each of the sectors. We are also in the agricultural and agro-industrial sectors and have clients dedicated to handling and producing bottled water. Our clients are family businesses as well as international corporations that operate in different countries around the world.

How have your clients performed over the past year?

It has definitely been a period of adjustments and stabilization, not only in Panama but on a global level. I have clients in the retail market that have seen sales go down by as much as 30%. In international commerce, the duty free zone of Colón was greatly affected due to the economic and political problems in South American countries. I tell my clients to be creative and not rely on just one business source. They cannot rest on their laurels and must research, innovate, and develop new products. It is a good time to invest, but this means purchasing wisely. It is a good time to invest in the science and technology sectors. We have focused on services and commerce, but I recently met an engineer who was able to produce vegetables using a new system, capable of harvesting vegetables up to 10 times per year instead of just once or twice as under normal production. We need more of this type of innovation to help promote and share scientific knowledge in Panama. A scientist is very valuable to society in such times of climate change and challenges in water, health, and food.

What are your expectations for 2016?

It looks like 2016 will be a year of new adjustment. It will not be the best year economically. However, we are arguably growing in a more stable way. We are adjusting to an orderly growth. My message to investors who visit us is that Panama is a country with a lot of advantages, being economically stable, democratic, and relatively safe with a modern legal framework. We need to support the maritime, logistics, and canal-related sectors. We aspire to constantly update legislation, as the private sector on its own cannot function without the right legislation in place. The same is true of the transport sector. In 2016 Panama will consolidate its position as a growth leader in Latin America, and we are ready to work on building these sectors to the same levels as three years ago. We need to strengthen the maritime and logistics sectors, which need better and more specific legislation. We also need to work to modernize the education sector and tackle the lack of high-level specialists, which is an issue highlighted in national surveys. We have a number of international schools that have seen this opportunity to develop private education as good business in Panama. The private sector takes the initiative but the public sector now needs to align itself and prepare people not just for work, but also to invent and innovate. I am a great believer in robotics and science as knowledge will propel Panama toward its new future. Even though we are more focused on some sectors such as sports, we need to export talent in other professional specializations as well.