Development in Panama - Ricardo Martinelli, President of the Republic of Panama

by Wijaya Sumono, MBA Class of 2013


President of the Republic of Panama and the owner of 'Super 99', one of the largest supermarket chains in Panama, Ricardo Martinelli spoke about the 'Development in Panama'. This was a part of the Spring 2013 Colloquium Series.

Development in Panama - Ricardo Martinelli, President of the Republic of Panama
Key Highlights

  • President Ricardo is a strong proponent of hard work and determination. His motto is, “Always fight one more round.” He related a story when he was once beaten so badly in a boxing ring that he was certain that he wanted to quit. His coach encouraged him with the aforementioned motto. That moment marked a turning point in his life, and was the reason of all his success today.
  • Although President Ricardo believes not to micro-manage in an organization, he stated that in government, one needs to micro-manage to ensure a smooth execution.
  • President Ricardo mentioned that the role of a leader is not simply to delegate a task to someone else, but to delegate it to people who can perform.
  • The President also encourages all the bright minds in the auditorium to consider getting into politics one day, because he believes that societal changes are made from the inside. He explained that in the past, his government did not care for what the news media reported or what businesses claimed. The government in Panama only listened to agencies that protected the environment. This prompted him to get into politics, so he would have the opportunity to introduce changes in his country.
  • The President is a big proponent of quality education. He applauded all the Cornellians in the room for having worked hard to be where they were. He was also proud to mention that today, the average college tuition cost for a Panamanian is less than US $30 per semester. 
  • The President was very grateful of the study that McKinsey & Company had done for the country. He mentioned that McKinsey reports helped him focus his attention on areas that could spur economic activity in the nation. These include a low crime rate, good education system and sufficient tax collection, all of which are factors affecting FDI. He further elaborated his pride when he talked to President Obama, that he legalized all illegal immigrants in Panama, simply because he wanted all of them to pay taxes.
  • The President believes that in life, everything is about connecting dots, an emphasis on the power of social connections.  He strongly recommended the audience read Steve Jobs’ commencement speech to Stanford University in 2005, which introduced the “connecting the dots” theme.
  • He also suggested that everyone in life should always get second opinions.
  • He concluded by reiterating to never give up, regardless of the circumstances. Life is all about fighting. Set the objective high, and never give up while pursuing it.
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