Panama President Ricardo Martinelli has offered Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) the opportunity to fly directly to Panama. “Panama is a free and open place to do business. Panama is a hub of mobility. We spoke to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar about the Airline Authorities of Panama. We would like to give the fifth freedom of liberty to Caribbean Airlines so that they can also fly directly to Panama,” he said. Martinelli was the guest speaker at yesterday’s official opening of the Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF) at the Trinidad Hilton, St Ann’s.
In response, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar thanked Martinelli for the invitation. “When we go to Brazil, we go through Panama. When we go to other Central American countries, we use Copa. Now we thank you for your offer of Caribbean Airlines to fly directly to Panama, so we can go to Central America and South America without having to go North to come back down south,” she said. Martinelli said Panama was busy expanding its airports. “As you all know, Panama is the centre of activities in the Americas and it is an important place for anything that happens in the Americas. By 2014, we will have the largest airport in Latin America after Mexico and even bigger than some airports in the United States. We have over 500 hectares of land developed for airport and airport services,” he said.
Calling the Port of Panama the largest in Latin America, Martinelli said when the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in 2014, it will double its capacity. “Last year we handled seven million 20-foot equivalent units (TEU). Hopefully, by 2014, we will reach over 11 million TEUs. By 2020, we hope to reach 24 million TEUs,” he said. Martinelli called on investors to do business in Panama. “Panama is a free and open place to do business. Through our free zones, we supply many goods and services to T&T. We have a low value added tax. The crime rate is very low. Last year we received foreign direct investment of US$3 billion, which is a high for a country of 3.4 million people,” he said. Persad-Bissessar said she hopes to see more T&T nationals working in Panama.