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Press release from IFC
26 November 2018
Panama City, November 26, 2018-Georgina Baker, IFC Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, today begins a trip to Panama to discuss private investment in priority areas such as housing for lower income families, logistics, improvements in water and sanitation, and access to finance for small and medium entrepreneurs. At $938 million, IFC's committed portfolio in Panama is the largest among Central American countries.
Baker will meet with Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, Vice President of Panama, and Eyda Varela de Chinchilla, Panama's Minister of Economy and Finance, to discuss the country's development needs, including the mobilization of private capital and the implementation of public-private partnerships to deliver quality public services that support inclusive growth.
"Panama has one of the fastest growing economies in the world," Baker said. "It has made significant strides in reducing poverty. Still, disparities remain, especially in rural and remote areas. Sustaining growth will require Panama to mobilize private investments that enhance productivity-and quality of life."
Luc Grillet, IFC Senior Manager for Central America and the Caribbean, and other IFC executives will join Baker.
During her visit, Baker will also meet with representatives of the banking sector to discuss financing for energy and resource efficiency, small and medium entrepreneurs, and affordable housing. One in four Panamanians lives in substandard housing and Panama's mortgage market is underdeveloped. Access to finance is also limited. Less than 20 percent of small businesses have a line of credit or bank loan, compared with 38 percent for Latin America as a region.
Baker, who covers Europe and Central Asia in addition to Latin America and the Caribbean, will meet with clients from the infrastructure and energy sectors. IFC has been especially active in ports and logistics projects and in helping diversify Panama's energy matrix by financing clean energy initiatives, such as the Penonomé wind farm and AES Colon, the first integrated liquified natural gas-to-power project in Central America. IFC is also actively supporting the country's public-private partnership agenda. For instance, the organization has been advising ETESA, the state's electric transmission company, to prepare an international bid for the construction and operation of the country's fourth transmission line.
During this first trip to Central America as Regional Vice President, Baker will also visit Costa Rica and Honduras, highlighting IFC's commitment to the region. In Central America, IFC has a committed investment portfolio of $2.6 billion in high-impact private sector projects. Last year, IFC's clients in Central America supported 11,450 jobs, generated electricity for 850,000 people, and provided $3.8 billion in financing for micro, small and medium entrepreneurs.