THE GREATER GOOD

Panama 2017 | DIPLOMACY | INSIDE PERSPECTIVE

HE Juan Carlos Varela, President of Panama, on the country's commitment to fighting graft, working with the international community, and the tangible results of anti-corruption measures.

HE Juan Carlos Varela
BIOGRAPHY
HE Juan Carlos Varela graduated from Georgia Tech University with a degree in industrial engineering. He was elected Vice President of the Republic of Panama in July 2009. On March 17, 2013, Varela became the presidential candidate for the Panameñista Party, and on August 25 of the same year was proclaimed candidate for the Alliance of the People First (Alianza El Pueblo Primero), made up of the Panameñista and Popular Party, with the support of independent sectors of the country. On May 4, 2014, Varela was elected President of the Republic of Panama for the 2014-2019 Constitutional period.

Around 500 years ago, the conqueror Hernan Cortés found the meeting point between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This is how Panama initiated a new world through the construction of a railroad and a water canal, and is the reason why it is today uniting the civil society and the investigative community to fight against corruption in the world. I welcome you to meet the true Panama.

I have been given the opportunity to participate in the 17th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), organized by Transparency International and the National Authority of Transparency and Access to Information (ANTAI), the Minister of External Affairs of Panama, IACC Council, and Transparency International with headquarters in Berlin. This international transparency and anti-corruption conference is the largest and most important of its kind in the world. Here, we find the most devoted organizations to the fight against corruption and their most relevant personalities. This conference will serve as a backdrop to analyze in detail the proposed themes of this edition, such as justice, equity, security, and trust. The conclusions drawn from this conference will enable us to face the challenges posed by global corruption.
I would like to congratulate Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado, Vice President of Panama, and Angélica Maytín, Director General of ANTAI, for putting forth this initiative. Allowing open dialog with representatives of the participating organizations will strengthen international cooperation between the government, civil society, the private sector, and citizens. Panama believes in transparency and has zero tolerance toward corruption. For this reason, we are delighted to host the 17th edition of this conference, and we hope that the conclusions drawn from the debates will contribute to the promotion of a more just and fair world, a world in which people are not only at the core of public policymaking but are also the subject of its results.

By hosting the IACC, Panama places itself as a global leader in the anti-corruption movement, creating a conducive working environment for international experts and leaders that will enrich and strengthen us all. Panamanians have a historic vocation to foster meetings, debates, congresses, and conferences. It is in our nature to choose dialog and negotiation instead of wandering around the uncertain paths of confrontation, aggression, and epithets. Therefore, on November 25, 2015 the government of Panama, represented by ANTAI, signed a MoU to set out the main responsibilities of the organization of this event with IACC Council, Transparency International, and the Transparency International National Chapter in Panama.

Panama is a country with a history of success that has not depended on irregular cash flows in our financial system. Our success is based on the hard work of Panamanians, their generosity, and their love for peace. Despite the small size of Panama, both in dimension and population, it has found an important place in the concert of the nations. We are aware that by having a world-class international services platform we are committed to be responsible world citizens. Panama, as a responsible and serious country, assumes its obligation to act in accordance with international law. We are committed to cooperating as a regional partner or strategic ally both in trade and security matters in the same way in which we committed ourselves to completing the Panama Canal expansion and protecting our platform of logistics services against organized crime. Panama has decided to defend its financial system and to move forward with the exchange of information in matters of taxation.

We will continue our collaboration with the international community in order to avoid the exploitation of our financial system. I encourage everyone to develop proposals that would bring genuine solutions, and, thus, create new ways to better coexist. We have now built a country with a solid and long-lasting base that will ensure more justice, equity, and security to all our citizens. I want to thank all those who have followed up on the tasks that were required to build this solid base; they will be the living proof of our country's efforts. I believe that security is the precondition for any financial system to be trusted around the world. We will continue to be engaged with this cause, investing resources and the necessary time and effort to offer reliable services in our financial system. We will not stop fighting for the security of our people, and it is our duty to defend it. On our part, we know we have the necessary motivation to perform our duties both in this country and the world around us.

I would like to take this moment to share some topics that are of utmost importance in the global fight against corruption. First, I want to defend public prosecutors, all those men and women who are at the forefront of this fight. The salary that a public prosecutor earns in five years is the same amount earned in an hour by a lawyer defending a corrupt person. That figure alone is unacceptable. It is important to defend and support public ministries so that they can continue their fight against corruption. Panama is on the right path against corruption. We have taken precautionary measures that have saved USD120 million in liquid resources and assets only in the past 28 months, and we have also prosecuted people that held senior positions in Panama's political and economic institutions.

However, I feel that we are not always supported by society. The anti-corruption fight has to be a popular cause supported by the people. If we lose support from them, the cause will not be attainable. It is important to end the corruption of a country's political and private systems but, in order to do so, it has to be a popular cause backed by the people. If we affect innocent people, if we destroy political systems and economies, we will not get the support we need.

During our campaign, our winning statement was our promise to deliver 25,000 free houses to the people of Panama. However, that number has now been raised to 100,000 houses. This has been made possible thanks to our anti-corruption measures. After bringing down the corrupt system at Tocumen Airport, we are now generating USD70 million more per year in revenues—USD400 million more during our five years of administration. Likewise, we now save USD30 million yearly by buying rice from state to state, accounting for USD150 million under one administration. Thanks to the transparency policies installed by our government we currently have 60,000 houses in production. Therefore, as a result of the group of men and women that are at the forefront of this fight, there will now be a legacy that will benefit 75,000 more Panamanian families than I initially promised. This way, people can see the benefits of the anti-corruption movement and will thus strongly support our cause.

We must continue fighting the corruption in our political and economic system. We must do it carefully so that no innocent people are affected and make sure there are tangible results to demonstrate to the population what has been done. Panama's transparency case will be a turning point in history. In a few years' time, we will be able to show the Panamanian population and the whole world how this government has continuously committed to the fight against corruption and to the creation of wealth in the most transparent way available. In this country, there are a group of men and women that are committed to transparency, efficiency, and social responsibility for the benefit of the entire population. This government will not only be an example to future generations but also to nations around the world.