Spain's Crown Prince Felipe de Borbon on Thursday visited major construction projects in economically-booming Panama on a trip to highlight Spanish investment in the region, AFP reports.
The heir to the Spanish crown and his wife Letizia, Princess of Asturias, visited work on the Panama Canal and viewed construction of the subway system in the Panamanian capital, the first underground in Central America.
Panama "is currently the star destination for Spanish investment," Spanish ambassador Jesus Silva told AFP.
Spanish businesses have some $3 billion invested in Panama and employ some 15,000 people, according to government sources.
In the last years, "many young professionals and business leaders" from Spain have moved to Panama "attracted by the opportunities offered by an economy in expansion," the prince said at an event with Spanish immigrants.
Panama "needs skilled personnel to sustain in the long term the path towards economic and social prosperity," Felipe said.
In Spain, unemployment hovers around 24 percent, and the economy is expected to contract by 1.5 percent in 2012.
Barcelona-based Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas construction company is involved in the Panamanian subway project, scheduled to open in 2014, while the Madrid-based Sacyr Vallehermoso is part of a consortium designing and building sluice gates for the new canal locks.
The locks are a key part of the $5.6 billion canal expansion, designed to accommodate ships with a capacity of 12,000 containers, up from vessels with 5,000 containers that can currently navigate the canal. About five percent of international commerce passes through the 80-kilometer (50-mile) waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
During the two-day visit, the prince also met President Ricardo Martinelli and participated in preparations for the IberoAmerican summit, the annual meeting of leaders of Spanish and Portuguese speaking nations of Europe and the Americas, to be held in Panama in 2013.
Felipe and his wife then traveled to Ecuador, where he will seek to promote Spanish investments in the Andean nation.