February 20, 2018

Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado, Vice President and Prime Minster of Panama

Vice President and Prime Minster of Panama Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado was hosted by the International Development and Latin American Studies programs for a discussion on the history of her country and its way forward in promoting economic development.

Panama is a country of 4 million citizens and has developed rapidly since the end its dictatorial leadership in the 1990s. Saint Malo credited Panama's rapid development to policies centered on its people. To make a successful transition to democracy, Panamanian people had to heal political wounds and defend a national agenda that allowed political parties and civil society to work together. The government worked with the United Nations in the 1990s to define a national strategy for development and started creating the legal framework that would allow Panama to take control over the Panama Canal.

On the topic of governance, Saint Malo stressed the importance of looking at democracy as more than just regular elections, but as a way for governments to be held accountable to their people. She then spoke about Panama’s fight against corruption, which is notable for how it compares to anti-corruption efforts elsewhere in Latin America. The Panamanian measures are designed to avoid interfering with the development of infrastructure and public works projects. Saint Malo stressed that while the Panamanian judiciary was careful to fine large corporations for violations, the state would continue to do business with these companies in order to ensure that their people are not deprived of essential infrastructure such as roads and hospitals.

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