PUSHING OUT THE ENVELOPE

Panama 2014 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Rubén Gómez A., Director of the Directorate General of Posts and Telegraphs Panamá (COTEL) on leading a historic institution.

Rubén Gómez A.

What have been your key objectives since your appointment?

I assumed my position on June 1, 2014, by appointment of President Varela. My first impression was that there was a series of obstacles to advancing the operations of the institution. We have therefore been engaged in a process of restructuring, and I have already requested that the Ministry allocate the necessary resources to complete this task. We are an institution with a long history in the country following our incorporation in 1904, and this year we celebrate our 110th anniversary. One of my challenges is to bring back the faith and love of Panamanians for our institution. We need to work together and unite our efforts with those of the public administration in order to achieve these goals.

What measures are you implementing to address the economic and human resources problems the institution currently faces?

In terms of financing we are looking to the Ministry of Governance, which has approved our plans, for increased investment in the institution. We currently have 123 post offices, but need to invest in infrastructure so as to provide better and more reliable services to Panamanian citizens. With regard to human resources, we recognize that our staff has been underpaid for many years, and have expressed our concerns about this topic to the President. We have already agreed to revise all contracts for equitable wage adjustments. These two elements are crucial for improving our institutional efficiency.

What is the potential for the privatization of Cotel?

The current government of Panama is not contemplating such a scenario for the present. It was an initiative entertained by former President Martinelli, who privatized several other public bodies. Given its strategic importance, our goal instead is to modernize the institution within its current domain.

What are the institution's key investment plans?

The previous administration had an annual budget of $9 million, but the previous management team had already spent around 80% of that budget by May, leaving the new management team with the remainder. We have been notified that the budget will be considerably increased for 2015, so we can push forward our strategies to increase promotion campaigns and invest in infrastructure. In terms of the latter, integration efforts to make sure all of our post offices work within an integrated system are vital. We must also take advantage of the fact that we cover the entire Panamanian territory. We have around 1,000 staff and, as I said before, we also plan to review their contracts and salaries to make sure they feel as valued as they deserve.