Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss.
BUSINESS MONDAY - Potential in Panama
Mon, 09/19/2016 - 12:00am
Concerted efforts will be made going forward to facilitate trade between Barbados and Panama and to encourage more cooperation in general between the two countries.
Word of this has come from Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, who feels strongly that while Barbados has earned a place of pride in Panama, as the majority of workers who constructed the Panama Canal came from Barbados, this country has not done enough to leverage that position.
“Panama is an economy of four million people projected to grow this year by 5.3 per cent, and certainly the opening up of the expanded Panama Canal has created other opportunities. So there is great scope for Barbados to explore untapped opportunities and find a couple of niche areas that we can get into and grow,” he said in a recent interview with Business Monday.
Moreover, Minister Inniss said it is equally important to recognise that that Panama could be a potential market to source raw materials required for the local manufacturing sector, and that there is the potential for Barbados to take the lead as the focal point for trade between Panama and the Eastern Caribbean region. He made the point while noting that the Barbadian Diaspora living in Panama is not only a ready market for Barbadian products, but those persons are also good ambassadors for the country who can open doors for Barbadian products and services. As such, he feels steps should be taken to better engage them.
Inniss made the comments as he reflected on the recent political/commercial mission which he led to Panama. That five-day trip which took place earlier this month, he said, was a success and showed there is interest in that market for a variety of Barbadian made products.
“There is definitely interest, but it is one of those things we have to keep at, so we have a lot more work to do now to keep the momentum up. We also have to look at registering products to get into the market and addressing the language issues, but at least there is a feel for what Panama has to offer,” he stated.
He explained that through the trip, stakeholders in the manufacturing sector as well as service companies were able to have meetings with their Panamanian counterparts, and his Ministry was
also able to engage officials in the Panamanian Ministries of Trade and Small Business to discuss potential opportunities for both countries.
“We are both actively rolling out a small business development centre model; Barbados is a little bit ahead of Panama and we have agreed to share our experiences with them. We both recognise the importance of the small business sector and the immense contribution the sector has made to our economies and we are prepared to find areas of cooperation. The hospitality industry is one that they want to get involved in and we have in many respects gone miles ahead of them, and therefore there is that commitment that Barbados will lend of its expertise in that area,” he indicated.
The Industry and Commerce Minister said there is also potential for Barbados to tap into the Panama market for tourists and to attract visitors from Central and South America, as there is a great deal of air traffic going in and out of that hub on a daily basis.
He noted that a number of Panamanians are already taking advantage of the Avianca flight out of Bogota to Barbados, but he believes a direct flight could be a boost for the local tourism industry and by extension the sectors which fall under his ministry. He said Government has been engaging in talks over time with an airline in this regard, and he is hopeful that those talks will reap success soon. (JRT)