Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has welcomed plans by Panama to send students and teachers to Barbados from January next year to study at the Cave Hill Campus, University of the West Indies.

President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez, revealed during a courtesy call on July 4 at Ilaro Court, that the move was designed to strengthen historical ties between the two countries, to help the students to understand more about their Barbadian heritage, and to develop their knowledge of the English Language.

Prime Minister Stuart said he supported any effort to bring the English-speaking Caribbean closer to its Central and South American neighbours.

He stated that on a recent visit to Panama, he noted the heightened awareness of Panamanians of their Barbadian ancestry and their keen interest in what was happening in Barbados.??President Varela also disclosed plans for the revitalisation of Col??n City as a duty-free centre and said that Panama would be working to attract the people of the Caribbean to shop there as an alternative to Miami.

Prime Minister Stuart announced that he had met with officials of COPA airline who had assured him that Barbados ???was back on COPA???s radar???. Therefore, he said, efforts would continue to get an air services agreement signed in the near future. This would lead to improved air links between Barbados and Panama.

The two heads also discussed establishing closer ties in areas such as tourism, financial services, culture and heritage, trade and agriculture.??The courtesy call between Prime Minister Stuart and President Varela was followed by a meeting between members of the Panamanian delegation and members of the Cabinet of Barbados.

The Panamanian delegation comprised Minister of Education, Marcela Paredes de V??squez; Minister of Public Security, Rodolfo Aguilera; Minister of Commerce and Industry, Meliton Arrocha; Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Luis Miguel Hincapi??; the President???s Advisor, Jonattan Del Rosario; Francisco Torres and. Nicole Wong.

Members of the Barbados Cabinet who attended were Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Maxine McClean; Minister of Tourism, Mr. Richard Sealy; Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick; Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley; and Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Dr. Esther Byer.

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