For years our neighbors in Costa Rica have felt superior to Panama for many good reasons. But Panama is moving forward these days in many extraordinary ways. According to this column in Costa Rica’s largest newspaper, many Ticos think that they have something to learn from Panama now.
(This author got two things wrong.One is about the education system- Panama does spend more per capita but the quality of education here is very low -Panamanian students test scores are some of the lowest in Latin America. Secondly, new businesses coming here are having a hard time finding a skilled, English speaking work force. Panama is working on this.)
A Tica in Panama
La Nacion, Costa Rica
Translated from Spanish by the Panamainfo Team
I traveled to Panama on business Panama and was there for two months. During my visit I was left impressed by how this country is taking huge steps while in Costa Rica it looks like we’ve been asleep. I had no idea about the natural beauties that this country had. I don’t think that the majority of my compatriots have any idea. We Ticos usually see Panama as a place to go shopping in. Once here, it surprised me to find that 30% of their territory is protected territory full of national parks, spectacular beaches with kilometers and kilometers of white sands on both coasts and different mountainous regions with a cool fresher climate, an agreeable contrast with the heat of the capital city and other urban areas.
This whole paradise is being advertised to the foreigner and there are hordes of tourists coming non-stop from every corner of the earth. They have gotten smart about things and modernized the Panamanian Institute of Tourism. If they continue at this rate, they will soon overtake us in attracting tourists, and that’s just after Panama started an advertising plan a few years ago.
A modern country. The city of Panama is super-developed and modern, full of skyscrapers and nice places to take a walk or just spend the afternoon. They have nothing to envy a metropolis like New York or Miami, something that we inhabitants of San Jose don’t have—we ended up with a gloomy and ugly San Jose .
The legislative assembly, the government and the private sector have come to an agreement to make the country a logistical platform for the world and through this to fully develop the nation. One can’t help feeling envious (by what I have said) to see how we Ticos have been asleep while our neighbor to the south has surpassed us without us noticing.
This country already has more doctors than Costa Rica for every 1,000 inhabitants, the public hospitals are something to envy, they have reinforced education and are now spending more than us on it: 12% of their GDP. In Panama it looks like every sector is in agreement and is working for a common goal of developing the country. It did not surprise me to discover that Panamanians have the highest income per capita in Central America.
Development. If you go to the interior of the country you can see and grasp the development that this nation is undergoing. The Tocumen airport has become the best airport terminal in Latin America, there are dozens of touristic projects in every province, the construction of mega-highways, the construction of two refineries, one in the Caribbean and the other in the Pacific. The ports are the best in the continent. The infrastructure is that of a first world country which is the reason why dozens of international companies are coming here, finding a skilled workforce and facilities for their operations, in addition to a number of international organizations like the UN and world-class recognized universities.
Panamanians are not scared of the widening the canal- it has already started. In the capital they’re building what they call the ‘coastal beltway’, filling more than 26 hectares in the Panamanian bay, where they’re building a mega-recreational park for the public, bicycle lanes and highways. We in Tico land , since the 70’s have been fighting to build our “Costanera”. We should learn from the example of the Panamanians who are giving other Latin American Countries a lesson. The social problems in Costa Rica and Panama are quite similar.
It will be expensive for Costa Rica to do the same as Panama in many aspects, but the time is now to start the necessary work. I once overheard an economist say that awakening of Costa Rica is happening because the Jaguar of the South (Panama) has awakened. Good timing on the Panamanians part. I am sure that we can do it too.
As the Chair of the Tourism Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce, if you have an interest in tourism in Panama, I recommend you come to this excellent, informative forum.
American Chamber of Commerce 8th Annual Tourism Forum
Wednesday Sept 10th
Shertaton Hotel and Convention Center
Price: Amcham members: $25
Reservations: Call Amcham 301.3881
Ruben Blades, Minister of Tourism : IPAT’s Recent Accomplishments and Future Plans
Dr. Ed Sanders, President, Ecotourism International
Why Ecotourism is the Most Profitable Tourism for Panama and How To Do Make It Happen
Lic. Melissa Vallarino, Director INDESA
Chiriqui Shows the Way: Boquete’s Tourism Master Plan
Vittoria Ghini: Best Practices: Cala Mia Boutique Hotel, Boca Chica
John Miller, Founder, Boquete Outdoor Adventures, The Case for Developing Panama’s National Parks: Profit and Preservation
Fidel Reyes, General Manager, Playa Bonita Intercontinental Resort: Todays Tourism Industry in Facts and Figures
Reading these days about the misery and worry of the havoc caused by Hurricane Fay in Florida…- I can’t help being grateful that Panama has no hurricanes. In fact Panama is the only country in Central American and the Caribbean that has neither hurricanes nor major earthquakes. Pretty nice.
Panama’s weather is not perfect- the tropical heat and humidity of Panama City and most of the rest of the country is hard to bear- air conditioning is a must. With air conditioning I hardly notice the heat and humidity and heat..going from my air conditioned home to an air conditioned office, or store or mall… But Panama City evenings and early mornings are near to perfect- fresh, cool and the same 80 degrees or so the whole year….perfect for walking and jogging outside.
The climate in the highlands and mountains of Panama in places like El Valle and Boquete- spring-like weather all year around.
Another Panama weather convenience is that throughout the country temperatures hardly vary year round- which means you can wear the same kind of clothes year round- this means less clothes cost and clothes hassle.
I just spent a morning with some visiting relatives strolling around Casco Viejo. It was my first time in CV in about a year and I was very surprised to see all the development in less than a year. There were quite a few new excellent souvenir shops and restaurants and most surprising of all were the number of buildings being restored. Shortly after, I read in an article in La Prensa about the hopeful new pace of restoration in CV with a quote from Ariel Espino who said that there are 800 buildings in CV and that they need 16-20 new buildings to start being restored each year for CV and that that pace has finally been hit. Indeed CV is clearly developing into what will be one of the most beautiful restored Spanish colonial sectors anywhere. As Arthur Frommer of the Frommers guides wrote recently, CV looks set to be more beautiful that San Juan Puerto Rico and will rival Cartagena.
CV has stunning bay and ocean views throughout the neighborhood as well as a delightful variety of architectural types from Spanish colonial to 1920’s Art Deco styles. And the Panamamanian and foreign investors are doing both beautiful and authentic restorations.
If you go, make sure and have some yummy ice cream in the French ice cream store, Granclement and for souvenirs check out both the beautiful Reprosa jewelry store and the Galeria de Arte Indigena, perhaps the best souvenir shop in all Panama.