By: Christopher Polis
Panama – a relatively young country, yet still with a lot to offer to the rest of the world. It’s a country as rich in historical relevance as much as it’s diverse in cultural influence. Like every country, there is a story to be told – Panama’s story is arguably still being written in terms of future growth potential. Let’s meet the diplomat dedicated to sharing Panama’s story of success with the world.
The Archway had the opportunity to speak with Ricardo Moscoso, Counselor & Delegate for the Permanent Mission of Panama to the United Nations. Panama has been a Founding Member State of the United Nations since November of 1945. To put it into perspective, Ricardo graduated from Bryant University in 2014, as well as completing his MBA in 2016. Nevertheless, Ricardo may be young, and Panama may be young – but the future is what lies ahead. Let’s hear his story.
Chris: What was life like growing up in Panama and how could you compare it to now living in the United States? What inspired you to pursue an education in the U.S. and at Bryant University specifically?
Ricardo: Panama is a country full of contrasts and I’ve been lucky to live and see it grow into what it is today, a vibrant economy with a growing middle class and great opportunities for our future generations. I had the privilege of attending a private school and I don’t take that for granted as that opportunity opened doors for me to study abroad and use my fluent English and basic French into building my competencies.
When I visited Bryant I wasn’t sure of where I wanted to be in my life or what I wanted to do, I was 18 years old at the time. I met John Eriksen in Panama and he made a good case about academics, the small but demanding environment on campus, and followed up by inviting me and my family to visit Bryant in November of 2009. I liked the campus, loved the people and appreciated that the school was not solely business centric but also demanded us to pick minors or other majors non-related to business. My family grows and exports coffee, it is called Princesa Janca, and it was highly important for me to be exposed to a business setting in order to help my mother take it to the next level.
Being at Bryant introduced me to admirable people; including Jerry Cohen who introduced me to Susan Mills, owner of Mills Coffee Roasting Co. and allowed me to sell my first ever batch of Panamanian green coffee in the US.
I want to take advantage of this space to thank every faculty member or administrative staff I crossed paths with during my time as a young college student in Bryant from 2010-2014 and during the completion of my MBA in 2016. Their teachings made me a better human and the lessons I learned from them in pleasant and hard times alike will always be in my thoughts and actions.
Chris: Your family in particular has a history of political significance and economic contribution within Panama. Would you say you were somewhat destined for a career as a diplomat representing the interests of the country you call home? What happened along your career path that interested you in the UN?
Ricardo: My mom was the first female president of Panama and I carry her accomplishment with great pride and responsibility. She ran for office the first time when I was only three years old so I was exposed to a life of public since I could put two thoughts together. The first time I heard the word sustainability I was only 10 years old and it was referring to my mom’s project of creating sustainable farms all around the country for rural families that needed to live off agriculture to create better opportunities for themselves and their families, among other countless projects helping local producers improve their lives, as she herself grew up in a family of farmers and comes from humble beginnings.
Seeing the positive and human side of politics from my mother’s example motivated me to be interested in world affairs from a very young age. As I am an only child and she was a single mother we developed the strongest of bonds which made me admire her, love her and respect her for the lesson in humility, grit, and persistence that I got from her. I never saw myself as a politician but was always very interested in UN affairs and just political science in general. I don’t know if I was destined to have this job but I surely thought about serving in the United Nations many times, just never imagined I would be offered this incredible opportunity to serve my country from this incredible organization.
Chris: Describe your role as Counselor and Delegate for the Permanent Mission of Panama to the UN. What is the overarching goal of Panama’s agenda for managing diplomatic relationships?
Ricardo: As a young country, we have been building on our own identity for the past decades and as time passes by, I feel like being Panamanian is cementing into a great concept that encompasses a rich culture led by joyful people where hard work and optimism is key. We are an open culture, accepting of immigrants and made up by immigrants, much like the United States is and we thrive in our ethnic and religious diversity. Our goal is to follow and implement everything that is necessary to close the gap between the rich and the poor, foster gender equality, pursue the highest standards of human rights, and develop our economic capacity in the most responsible and transparent way possible for the well-being of our citizens.
We are constantly conveying important information to Panama City and assisting our highest level public servants when they participate in forums within the United Nations. I’m in charge of monitoring and following the Fifth Committee of the United Nations which is the Administrative and Budgetary Committee, where delegates negotiate around the clock to agree on key issues for the functioning of the organization worldwide. 193 member states agree by consensus on the UN Regular Budget which deals with every operational aspect of the organization and on the UN Peacekeeping budget which covers peace building operations on several missions carried out majorly in developing countries in conflict or in real need of assistance.
Panama is a hub of UN regional offices and more than 14 agencies are based regionally in Panama City, so we have a special responsibility as Panamanian diplomats to the UN to guard those and be sure that they get the funding they need and that any initiative to enhance their effectiveness and efficiency is approved by consensus.
Chris: According to World Bank, trade is 87% of Panama’s GDP. Along with being a major recipient of FDI into Central America, what could be said about Panama’s economic development on a global scale? Looking ahead, which sectors may have the most growth opportunity and why?
Ricardo: We are a service driven economy and have been a trade route since even before the Panama Canal existed. After the Canal was transferred to Panamanian management it has grown exponentially, has been kept out of politics and presidents have respected its autonomy. The Panama Canal expansion has caused the Canal to almost double the revenue that allows the country to always count on steady liquid assets. Following the expansion and the significant growth of the waterway, Panama has grown in tourism, exporting of coffee, bananas, and other goods, invested in clean energy development, and countless other sectors that have been strengthened because of the availability of cash flow in the country.
Besides from the Panama Canal, the country has increasingly become a hub of logistics in all the surrounding activities that make the Canal be as efficient as it is. Panama has built airports, the first humanitarian assistance hub in Latin America, etc. The interconnectivity of Panama’s airline, Copa, has also been a major asset in transforming the country into the main connectivity capital of the region.
Chris: Panama has a diverse variety of expatriates, along with being considered one of the best locations to retire. What is driving this sort of travel into Panama? What are some cultural and social activities that foreign travelers can and should experience in Panama?
Ricardo: There are some regions like Boquete and Pedasi that have been listed in several travel guides and even the New York Times as ideal places for retirement. Panama is very safe in comparison to the unfortunate security crisis that takes place in the Central American region, these towns are equipped with all the necessary infrastructure so that expats don’t have to travel to Panama City as much.
I have encountered very young professionals like Americans, Australians, Israelis, Spaniards, and South Americans that work in the multinational regional offices of companies like Procter and Gamble, Adidas, etc., or that have moved to open their own businesses. Panama’s governments have generally been open in accepting FDI as a means of growing in every aspect as a country, as I mentioned before we are no strangers to immigrants or visitors because of our unique geographical/cultural position.
Foreign travelers will be in awe of the natural beauty surrounding the city, the Panama Canal has taken great care of the forests surrounding the waterway because of the importance that rain has in its usage. The countryside is full of tradition and both the Atlantic and Pacific ocean offering beaches like San Blas and Bocas del Toro and Playa Venao and Contadora respectively. Boquete offers mountainous vibes coupled with very pleasant weather. I don’t see any reason why people wouldn’t enjoy my country.
Agreed, Ricardo – after hearing your thoughts, I don’t see any reason why people wouldn’t enjoy your country either. It’s inspiring to us all how patriotic and proud to be Panamanian you are. Ricardo took that passion one step further by representing his country in the United Nations. ¡Muchas gracias Ricardo!