World of Work Summit

President of Panama: Growth and welfare should go hand in hand

In his address to the ILO Conference, President Juan Carlos Varela said that Panama wanted to be a protagonist in shaping a green economy of the future which should also be an inclusive economy.

News | 11 June 2015
President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, at the ILO annual conference
GENEVA (ILO News) - The President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, told the annual conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) that the key challenge was to ensure that economic growth was accompanied by an improvement of people’s living conditions, together with a move towards a green economy generating significant change in the world of work.

Varela addressed the ILO’s 104th International Labour Conference in Geneva bringing together more than 4,000 delegates representing governments, employers and workers of the ILO’s 185 member States. The President said he wanted to turn Panama "into a model of sustainable development in the Americas where economic growth and social welfare go hand in hand."

He explained to ILO delegates, that Panama’s economy had been one of the fastest growing in Latin America in the last ten years, and that it was expected to grow an average of 6 per cent over the coming five years. He warned, however, that “economic growth in Panama still has to be transformed into human and equitable development for all its people."

Panama’s President spoke at a special plenary session of the Conference which also featured addresses by the President of France, François Hollande, and the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Kailash Satyarthi.

In his speech, he said that Panama was experiencing a reality similar to most countries in Latin America, "a region of contrasts which, despite being a continent of peace and economic growth, faced major challenges, inequality and lack of opportunities which are causing poverty and insecurity."

"We have to continue our fight against inequality, create jobs and ensure the access of the most vulnerable to essential public services, decent housing, health care and quality education," he said.

The President emphasized the need to address the challenges posed by climate change. "We need to stimulate innovation and revolutionize traditional ways of production and consumption."

"The economy of the future should not only be greener, but also more inclusive. Development is more than accumulating wealth," Varela said. "The transition to a new green economy should therefore be a just transition," he warned.

He also recalled that the transition to a green economy affected employment. "New jobs flourish, while others disappear," he said, adding that "the development of human talent required a drive towards a low carbon economy."

"The lack and shortage of skilled workers is beginning to be recognized as an important bottleneck in a number of sectors," he said. "The people and government of Panama want to be major players in a future low carbon economy."

"Humanity needs to seek innovative solutions if it successfully wants to face two main challenges: climate change and poverty. Decent work is one of the most powerful means to make progress on both fronts," Valera said.

In his welcome message to the President of Panama, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said that "his presence at this conference is another example of the great responsibility he had taken to contribute to the generation of enough quality jobs, thus contributing to the sustainability of our planet."

“When I came to your country, I was impressed by its very special form of economic dynamism and its strong commitment to social dialogue, and the respect of international labour standards, all of which were reflected in concrete initiatives to build a more equitable, inclusive and just society.”

Varela reaffirmed his determination to ensure that Panama was the first country in Latin America to eliminate child labour, adding that during his visit his country had begun the process of ratification of the 2014 Protocol to the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention.

During his visit to the 104th International Labour Conference, he also handed in the instruments of ratification for two of the ILO’s international labour standards, Convention No. 144 on Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) and Convention No. 189 on Domestic Workers.