RISING LIKE A PHOENIX

Panama 2018 | DIPLOMACY | INSIDE PERSPECTIVE

Juan Carlos Varela, President of Panama, on tackling system-wide corruption, Panama-China ties, and the role of education and infrastructure in economic growth.

Juan Carlos Varela

On a day like today four years ago I took office as President of the Republic at the Rommel Fernández Stadium, a place that unites Panamanians. Defining these four years of management in a word is extremely easy: peace. We have had peace to carry out the necessary tasks and to lead this country through paths of progress and honesty. Without social peace, there is no investment, prosperity, economic growth, or new jobs. With my head held high, I can tell the country that we have fulfilled our commitment to change the policy of a business to a public service. Today, it is evident that nobody is above the law. No cases of corruption have been hidden and those that have been reported are being investigated. Together we are building a functional democracy where the separation of powers is respected.

In this fight against corruption, we recovered more than PAB500 million, PAB390 million by judicial means to date, and savings of more than PAB250 million due to transparency in public procurement. The recovery of these funds has allowed us to meet a debt of 40 years with workers through the CEPADEM, benefiting more than 600,000 people who are returning to them a figure that exceeds PAB350 million. We have accomplished changing the lives of millions of Panamanians.

At present, 355km of new roads have been built throughout the country and over 2,000km of roads are set to be built by the end of our administration, an investment that exceeds PAB2 billion. We have allocated over PAB144 million to support agricultural producers. I committed myself to seek equity in education, so that all Panamanian children have the opportunity to receive bilingual education in schools with modern infrastructure. We are moving forward with a firm step to a bilingual public education system. The construction of the first higher technical institute has an advance of more than 48%; the professors train in gastronomy, hospitality, and tourism in France; in the automotive area in Germany; and in business, construction, and logistics in Canada. We are investing more than PAB1 billion in new educational centers and improvement of facilities throughout the national territory. To fulfill our promise of potable water we are expanding the water treatment plants of Chilibre and Sabanitas; building new Gamboa and Howard water treatment plants. In terms of health, we are building the sewerage systems of Santiago, David, Changuinola, Boquete, and Isla Colón and expanding the wastewater treatment plant of Juan Díaz. We built the first plant of this type for the west sector, in Burunga, Arraiján. These projects represent an investment of PAB1.5 billion.

By December 2018, we will complete the renovation of the National Theater and begin the 2019 theater season; we will deliver the works of the Metropolitan Cathedral and the governance of Colón, where we will witness the parade on November 5. We will continue improving the public transport system, increasing the frequency and quantity of buses, offering a more efficient and integrated service; today, we transport some 600,000 people in the Metrobus, 150,000 more than last year.

Despite the complicated situations that we have lived, fighting against corruption and the attack on our legal and financial services, we have been able to maintain an average growth of 5.2%, unemployment of 5.9%, and inflation below 1%. In these four years, 150,818 Panamanians have come out of poverty. The establishment of diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China has allowed the arrival of a direct flight from Air China and we have begun the feasibility studies of the Panama-David train. The launching of the Falcon Policy towards the Middle East and Asia Pacific and the re-launching of the relations with other powers will bring us a new era in commercial, cultural and cooperation exchange.

My government has not been perfect, but I have worked with honesty and good intentions. May God bless Panama and accompany us in this election year to continue working always united for the future of this beautiful nation.