Thursday, 14 May 2009

Terry Leahy for PM?

As an advocate for laissez-faire it is somewhat upsetting to see people in these troubled economic times looking towards more regulation in finance. However there is one country that seems to have bucked the trend and in an unlikely corner of the world too.

South America is famed for it's tendency towards the left-wing and this stereotype has only been confirmed in recent years after Latin America's left has enjoyed success at the polls. However, in a recent election, Ricardo Martinelli (<-Enjoy the tune btw) became the new 'el presidente' of Panama with 60% of the popular vote, beating Balbina Herrera of the governing centre-left party.

What makes Martinelli an unusual candidate is that he is the owner of Super 99 the country's largest supermarket chain. In fact, including all his interests, Martinelli's wealth covers 2% of the Panamanian GDP. It is therefore unsurprising to hear that he wants to cut corporate tax. Such a conflict of interest would be ripped apart in British politics but clearly the Panamanian people want Martinelli to run the country as efficiently as his supermarket.

The election comes at a crucial time in Panamanian development. After rapid economic development of around 8% per year for the past 5 years, Panama has hit a slowdown and with a property bust and rising food prices (sound familiar?) it will be interesting to see how a businessman handles the situation.