Above: Panama President Ricardo Martinelli
By the Caribbean Journal staff
With the expansion of the Panama Canal and an increasing number of foreign investment opportunities, Panama could be a major partner for the Caribbean, according to President Ricardo Martinelli.
The Panamanian leader, who was speaking Monday at the Caribbean Investment Forum in Port of Spain, said Panama’s attendance at the event was a sign of the country’s desire to work with the region.
“We reiterate that the presence of Panama in this event is a sample of the commercial interests of our country in the Caribbean region,” said Martinelli, who was joined by Vice Foreign Trade Minister Jose Pacheco and Panama’s Ambassador to Trinidad, Arline Gonzalez.
As part of the event, Martinelli held talks with Trinidad Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, whom he had received for a visit in Panama City last month.
Panama has already signed an energy agreement with Trinidad focusing on the supply of energy products, including butane gas, gasoline and diesel.
According to Martinelli, his country has paid $98 million a year in subsidies for cooking gas, a number that will go down by cutting out the middle men and buying directly from Trinidad.
Accompanying the Panama delegation was Panama Canal Administrator Alberto Zubieta German, who showed the progress of the canal’s ongoing expansion, which would pave the way for so-called “superships” to enter the Caribbean basin and the Atlantic.
Zubieta will soon be succeeded by Jorge Luis Quijano, who was named the canal’s new administrator in March. (His term begins Sep. 3).
The canal’s expansion is a development for which a number of Caribbean countries, particularly Jamaica, are preparing.