Richard Sealy, Minister of Tourism. (FP)

"Timely, important and critical" That is how Tourism Minister, Richard Sealy, has described the diplomatic and commercial mission he is currently heading in Panama.

According to Mr. Sealy, the island could not afford to operate as if it was business as usual , and he suggested that "the time is right" for Barbados, to go after opportunities in Latin America "in an organised and intensive manner".

"Based on what the world has been going through for the past few of years, with respect to the economic challenges, we have got to start to look further afield for business opportunities, and the most sensible thing to do would be to look to your closest neighbours; so embracing Latin America generally and Central America more specifically, as far as this mission is concerned, is not something that is desirable, it is a necessity," he underscored.

The Minister continued: "Panamanians are looking for new products; exciting products that we can export here and they are interested in services that we have to offer. So, I think … there is tremendous potential with respect to Panama."

He noted that major players were looking to trade with Latin American countries, and reiterated that Barbados should also increase its business with them. "Manufacturers need new markets, there are service providers who are looking to expand their client base and certainly there are tourism services that we offer as a nation; so, we need to start to get some more of that business…

"…The same manufacturers are not only looking for markets, but they are looking at the possibility of sourcing base materials and supplies at more reasonable prices; and there is a lot of that to be had in this part of the world," the Tourism Minister stated.

Mr. Sealy said Panama "is considered the Singapore of Central America", and pointed out that many multi-national companies were setting up their hemispheric operations there.

He also referred to the strong cultural and historic bond between Barbados and Panama, which dates back to nearly 100 years ago, when some Barbadians left their homeland to work on the Panama Canal. "It is not talked about nearly as frequently as it should," the Minister said, adding that link with the diaspora would present tremendous potential and opportunities to deepen the ties at the economic and cultural levels.


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