Why Panama & Costa Rica

The Panamanian economy has been among the fastest growing and best managed in Latin America, and Panama is expected to retain this high performance through the coming years. Panama’s economy is mainly based on a well-developed service sector heavily weighted towards banking, insurance, commerce and tourism and its maritime sector. Panama City is a hub for international banking and commerce and houses around eighty banks. The city is responsible for almost 55% of the country’s GDP. Panama welcomes foreign investment and boasts a favorable investment climate.

Costa Rica is renowned for its efforts in ecotourism and traditional agricultural exports like bananas, coffee, sugar and beef. Recently, a variety of high-tech industrial and specialized agricultural products are contributing substantially to the economic wealth of the country. High levels of education among its residents make the country an attractive investing location. Costa Rica’s capital city, San José, is the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub.

In short, both Costa Rica and Panama are promising markets with a lot of interesting, financial research opportunities.

Why participate?

The International Financial Program has selected 21 adequate students who have made substantial progress in their studies. These motivated students form the basis of the research project. More information about the background of the selected students can be found under 'organisation'. Two academic professors will guide the students throughout the entire process to ensure academic standards and function as cornerstone to assure high quality research. The program provides the company a unique opportunity to work together with selected students, have many contact moments with them and to obtain a high quality research that broadens the horizon of the organization. All these beneficial aspects of the research will be obtained only at cost.
The added value for participating students is clearly evident: an unforgettable trip to amazing countries, the opportunity to apply academic skills in practice, the privilege to interact with real businesses and all of that together with a group of highly motivated peers. Students will associate your company with an amazing experience. Since the International Financial Program is one of the biggest activities organized by the financial study association Risk, by participating as a company you will receive a lot of exposure to all 900 members of Risk.

In short, the benefits for you as a participating company are:
• contact with 21 highly motivated and financially interested students
• high quality academic research supervised by academic professors
• exposure to all the other 900 Risk Members and financially interested students

Interesting Sectors


Why should your company be interested in Panama? First of all it is good to make clear that Panama is a rapidly growing market that, even with the bad macro-economics, realized a GDP growth of 7.5% in 2010. The forecast for GDP growth for the coming years is of this same percentage. There are two Panamanian sectors that are of special interest; the maritime sector and the infrastructural and construction sector.

Maritime sector
One sector that is of great importance for the growth of the Panamanian economy is the maritime sector. This has of course everything to do with the presence of the Panamanian Canal. The government decided in 2006 to start a huge expansion program for the canal to be able to increase the volume of cargo transported through the canal. The demand for transporting cargo through the canal has risen in the last decades and with increasing globalization this demand will rise only further in the future. The costs for the total project will approximately be between 15 and 25 billion US dollars and the project should be finished at the end of 2014.

Why should your company be interested in this sector? To begin, there are huge opportunities for (Dutch) companies who are specialized in dredging and shipping activities. At the moment Dredging International (Belgium) has a great part in this project and with the big expertise and experience with dredging and water management in the Netherlands this is an interesting market for Dutch companies. Secondly, there are more opportunities for companies than only for dredging and maritime oriented companies. These huge projects depend on investments and are in need of advisory and management. Here lies the opportunity for financial/advisory companies which are willing to invest, advise and manage in this sector. A great example is of course DHV, a Dutch advisory/engineering’s agency. DHV has a great part in the project management for the expansion program of the canal and your company could, just as DHV, profit from this opportunity.

Infrastructural and construction sector
Another sector in Panama that has developed very well over the last decade is the infrastructural and construction sector. The expansion program for the canal also raises the need for new bridges, tunnels, ports, locks and expertise on infrastructural projects. Companies from Western Europe can play a major role in this process, since they are very experienced in this field, much more than Middle-American companies. European companies also have a great deal of expertise to manage such projects. Another important fact to mention is that infrastructure is one of the major factors for an economy to grow. With the forecast of high GDP growth, as we have mentioned earlier, the infrastructure in Panama will have to grow and develop even more. This provides opportunities for you as a (Dutch) company. These expansions and growth need investments, management, advisory and knowledge of more developed and experienced Western European companies.

Costa Rica

Why should your company be interested in Costa Rica? After the Costa Rican economy shrank in 2009 (-2,5%) due to the global economic crisis, the economy experienced a rebound in 2010 with a GDP growth of 4,2%. This is mainly due to Costa Rica’s major economic resources; its fertile land combined with frequent rainfall, its well-educated population, and its location in Central America which all provide Costa Rica the opportunity to realize GDP growth. There are two main sectors in the Costa Rican economy that are of great importance to the country’s growth; the agricultural sector and the renewable energy sector.

Agricultural sector
Costa Rica used to be known as a producer of bananas and coffee, but while the traditional agricultural exports of bananas, coffee, sugar, and beef are still the backbone of commodity export trade, a variety of industrial and specialized agricultural products have broadened export trade in recent years. The traditional agricultural sector started to decline in importance around 1950, due to the fact that Costa Rican people began to care less and less about the environment. But since 1990 people began to care more about the environment again and production started to grow with steady prices. The agriculture changed from the old method to more durable exploitation. Also the production and export became more durable. Because of the high educational level of the Costa Rican population, compared to other countries in Central America, the agriculture became more knowledge intensive. To assure this shift to durable exploitation will take place smoothly, technical expertise en experience is necessary. Despite Costa Rica’s high educational level, there are great opportunities for Dutch companies with this knowledge. Dutch companies have a lot of experience and expertise in the agricultural sector.

Renewable energy sector
The other very important sector is renewable energy. Costa Rica ranks among the greenest countries in the world. Costa Rica gets about 99% of all its electrical energy from clean sources, and it is aiming to become the first carbon neutral country by 2021. The country’s mountainous terrain and abundant rainfall have permitted the construction of a dozen hydroelectric power plants. The installed capacity as of 2001 was 1.611.000 KW, making Costa Rica largely self-sufficient in electricity. But it is, however, reliant on imports for liquid fuels. Costa Rica has the potential to become a major electricity exporter if plans for new generating plants and a regional distribution grid are realized. Mario Montero, an environmental planner from the government, says government projections show a huge increase in power consumption over the next couple of decades. "It's going to continue to grow at about 5 to 6 percent yearly, which means we have to double our installed capacity every 13 years," he says.
These developments might be an opportunity for your company; investments in durable energy will be profitable in the future.

Research Possibilities

The students participating in the program are students that have affinity in the field of finance and accounting. Areas for research are numerous and largely depend on the needs and wishes expressed by the company. In the initial phase participants will come up with suggestions for research or work out ideas proposed by the company. Examples of subjects examined in previous years are: microcredit, market research, risk analysis, investment analysis and the conducting of audits.

To meet the diversifying demand a wide range of research topics are possible. Some examples of research questions from previous IFP editions are:
• How is Corporate Social Responsibility a factor during the client acceptation process within company X?
• The effectiveness of the company X’s global standards for suppliers.
• The quality of sustainability reports in Brazil: Does company X in Malaysia need a sustainability department?
• The effects of the worldwide financial crisis on the Brazilian macro economy and the forecasts in the medium run; Brazilian Offshore Oil & Gas Market and Related Maritime Infrastructure.
• Researching the magnitude of the microfinance sector in Mexico and the role company X can possibly perform there in supporting existing microfinance institutions or establish an own microfinance institution.
• Investigating the Corporate Social Responsibility of multinational suppliers in Mexico.