UNINHIBITED

Panama 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Alberto A. Alemán A., Director of PROINVEX, on the transformation from services to innovation, meeting the needs of an evolving global economy, and honing what makes Panama tick as a unique part of the global commercial food chain.

Alberto A. Alemán A.
BIOGRAPHY
Alberto A. Alemán A. is the Director of PROINVEX. He was previously business development manager for London & Regional Panama and master developer of the Panama Pacifico Special Economic Area. He also served as political councilor for the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Panama to the United Nations in charge of Economic and Financial Affairs in the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly. He has a master’s degree in telecommunication and media studies from Texas A&M University, College Station.

What were your biggest achievements in 2016?

For Panama, 2016 was an excellent year in terms of the country's continued regional leadership as the principal investment destination in the region, resulting in an increase of 15-18% FDI and once again receiving close to half of all FDI in Central America. We managed seven effective missions abroad, resulting in over 800 new potential business contacts and more than 100 real investment prospects, which was well above our target.

What actions should Panama take to improve its transparency among the international community of investors?

At PROINVEX, we facilitate investments coming into Panama and help integrate new business operations that are productive, have a positive impact on our future development goals, and further enhance the competitive advantages the country offers. Panama has been successful as a competitive destination for FDI and transparency in our laws that align with international standards and the evolution of the global economy. Panama has advantageous special economic regimes, and it is in our country's best interest and in the best interest of the foreign investor that laws be clear, that there be confidence in the rule of law, and that investments have a sound environment, not just to land, but to grow and diversify. Transparency, in fiscal and other matters, is of paramount importance to guarantee an attractive and sustainable business climate, which is one of the main factors that companies consider when investing abroad.

What sectors of the national economy are considered particularly appealing to international investors?

Our national strategic plan highlights four main growth sectors—logistics, regional services, tourism, and energy, as well as opportunities in other pillars of the economy, like infrastructure development, maritime services, agroindustry, and real estate. We have seen exponential growth in headquarters and shared-service delivery centers. The Multinational Headquarters Regime now has 130 multinationals that has generated close to 9,000 jobs. We hope is to see growth both in new investments in that particular sub-sector of the economy as well as re-investments and growth from existing operations

How would you evaluate the performance of the existing free trade area and economic zones as platforms for attracting foreign investment?

Panama has a unique advantage in that the investment regimes it offers are designed, developed, and tailored as solutions to particular economic activities. In the Panama Pacifico Special Economic Area, we hope to see further investments in advanced manufacturing and third-party logistics operations, as well as value-added multi-modal logistics activities. Investments in headquarters, shared service activities, and high value-added services are a growth area in Panama Pacifico that are bringing the most sophisticated business processes to our country, and a multicultural community that fosters creativity, growth, and value. The Colon Free Trade Zone, the second-largest free trade zone in the world and a pillar of our national economy, is a competitive distribution center for serving Central America, the Caribbean, and the Andean pact region with well over 3,000 companies.

What are your main goals and ambitions for 2017?

The main ambition is to continue the rhythm of growth in investment attraction. There was nearly 17% growth between 2015 and 2016, a milestone that was replicated from last year to this. We are also integrating our promotion and attraction efforts with other key government agencies, academia, and private sector stakeholders to foster the growth our country needs to meet our strategic development plans. If Panama sustains this rhythm of year-on-year FDI growth until 2025, we will experience a transcendental transformation, as our economy shifts from one based on services to one that is based on innovation. I firmly believe this is one of many paths that will contribute to securing a bright future for all Panamanians.