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Those Amazing Panamanians: Article by a Costa Rican Journalist

Those Amazing Panamanians

November, La Republica, Costa Rica

(Panamainfo Note: Costa Rica is usually very proud of being # 1 in the region, so this article is especially gratifying. This our translation- the article is originally in Spanish  )

Do you remember that advertisement for some brand of cars or electronics that said: “those amazing Japanese”?

The advertisement stressed the idea that the Japanese were capable of doing anything no matter how difficult it seamed.

What the Japanese were years ago—capable of surprising everyone with their abilities in the technological field—is what the Panamanians are today. They are leaving others perplexed by their business acumen and efficiency in carrying out large infrastructural projects in a heartbeat.

It is not necessary to review the miracle of the canal—the shock given to an incredulous world by the ability of a small Latin American country to efficiently and skillfully administer something as important as the Panama Canal.

Nor is it necessary to look at their daring move to expand the canal to accommodate the latest super-tankers, a project that is already well underway and is set to be completed on schedule.

Everyone already knows how they were able to build land on the ocean in order to expand its highways to make the magnificent coastal beltway that brought together the city and air terminals, and facilitated urban transits to newly developed areas. It is also well known how they renovated the Tocumen International Airport and turned it into the best air terminal in the region and the most important and connected transportation hub in Latin American in just one year. We also now about the dizzying speed of the development of Colon as the premier free trade zone of the subcontinent, about the majestic renovation of Casco Viejo and the construction of the Metro in the City of Panama.

Nor are their advances in international tourism unknown, which threaten to displace us as a destination for adventure, beaches, city life, business incentives, etc., nor the number of hotel rooms that thousands of foreigners occupy every year in the City of Panama and in the interior of the republic as second homes, which fuel the contruction industry creating thousands of jobs and millions in revenue for the Canal Treasury.

We are all aware of the magnificent campaign of incentives for conventions that this country now offers which has caused hundreds of international organizations, NGOs and private companies to choose Panama for their meetings and fairs.

What I would like to comment on is that last surprise, the type that wait for me every time I got o panama, that I discovered at my arrival to Tocumen while I went through immigration. The women who was happily attending me extended her hand to give me a pamphlet which read: “If you are a tourist and have a medical emergency, Panama will give you free health insurance for 30 days”.  Panamanians don’t know what else they could do to attract more foreigners so that tourists feel safe, at ease and happy when they visit.

Panama is know only becoming a much safer destination than any other country in the region, but how they’ll insure you too, for free!

This new program of the Panamanians includes free assistance in the case of hospitalization caused by an accident or sickness, medical treatments, hotel expenses while you recover, dentist or pharmaceutical expenses, legal assistance, repatriation in the case of death, plain tickets for fellow travelers and even a reimbursement of expenses in the case of delayed or cancelled flights.

All the while we the Ticos, once the Switzerland of Central America,  are occupied by silly and fruitless discussions about cell phone towers, the platina bridge, if our free trade zones should be paying taxes…

What are these amazing Panamanians going to come up with next?


Love this quote:On a humid stretch of Pacific coast in one of the poorest parts of the Americas, somebody seems to have misplaced a chunk of Manhattan.


On a humid stretch of Pacific coast in one of the poorest parts of the Americas, somebody seems to have misplaced a chunk of Manhattan. The 50-storey skyscrapers of Panama City jut out of the jungle like nowhere else in low-rise Central America. Panama’s smart banks, open economy and long queues of boats at its ports have caused many to compare it to Singapore, another steamy success story. Panama’s president, Ricardo Martinelli, made his country’s first state visit there in 2010 and later said, “We copy a lot from Singapore and we need to copy more.”

Panama is not even one-fifth as rich as its Asian model on a per-person basis. But Singapore would envy its growth: from 2005 to 2010 its economy expanded by more than 8% a year, the fastest rate in the Americas. The IMF expects it to grow by over 6% a year during the next five years. Panama will soon overtake Costa Rica and Venezuela in GDP per head. Accounting for purchasing power, it is one of the five richest countries in mainland Latin America.

The Economist July 2011

 The Central American nation replaced Uruguay as having the highest technology level in the region, fueled by a surge of Internet users and computer sales, according to the sixth annual Latin Technology Index from Latin Business Chronicle

 Internet penetration in Panama was up 43 percent and personal computer sales jumped 21 percent, the data show. The index uses 2010 technology data from the International Telecommunications Union, Computer Industry Almanac and the Santiago Chamber of Commerce and population data from the International Monetary Fund and the Population Reference Bureau.

Eduardo Jaen, who heads Panama’s National Authority for Government Innovation, attributes the rise to government support for Internet access and success at luring new businesses into the modern capital. More than 60 corporations, including tech giants Dell and 3M, shifted regional headquarters to Panama since a tax exemption law was passed in 2007.

Latin Business Chronicle 2011


Panama, for the second consecutive year, depicts the strongest competitive position in Central America and is the only country in the isthmus that manages to improve its performance, entering the top 50 at 49th position. The country has remained relatively stable in most competitiveness drivers. Overall, it benefits from important strengths in its efficient financial market (16th), solid transport infrastructures (39th) [first place in latin America], and very good technological adoption (12th), especially through FDI, where it is ranked 4th. In dynamic terms, it is important to highlight the progress the country has made in the quality of its port and air transport infrastructure (5th and 15th, respectively) and its fostering of stronger domestic competition (43rd).

World Economic Forum, Competitiveness Report 2011-2012


José Domingo Arias, vice minister of foreign trade, points instead to the government’s canal expansion – perhaps the largest remodeling job in history – and additional investments in new airports, seaports, railways, and roadways. What the government is doing today, he says, is simply modernizing its traditional industry niche to make Panama a more complete global player as a value-added logistics hub for the Americas. And the push to expand in new directions, he adds, is not erratic behavior, but rather a sign that Panama is grown up and ready to diversify.

 “During the colonial era,” says Mr. Arias, “Panama [then part of the Spanish Empire] was a transshipment route to move gold safely from Peru to Spain. And that implied a business of logistics – moving merchandise from the ships to pack mules, then organizing the security of its transport across land, then repacking another ship that would leave for Spain. That was the beginning of our logistics and shipping industry.”

But those 500 years of history suggest that Panama is best suited to be a financial, trade, and logistics center, and risk analyst Ms. Berkman agrees. If the president can stay focused on that, without getting too distracted by other development models along the way, it might yet be enough to turn Panama into Latin America’s only first-world nation.

Christian Science Monitor March 2011


 Panama’s government bond rating was upgraded to Baa3 from Ba1 to reflect significant improvement in the country’s fiscal and debt positions and favorable prospects for further consolidation in the government accounts over the medium term….

The country’s economic resilience is strongly supported by a dynamic service-based economy. In recent years, Panama’s role as a transshipment and logistics hub between continents and within the Americas has strengthened. Large scale investments, including the widening of the Panama Canal, should ensure strong rates of growth in the medium term. Despite a short track record of fiscal responsibility, Panama’s institutional strength benefits from general policy consensus among the major political forces.

Moody’s Credit Opinion June 2010


On July 21, 2011, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services affirmed its ‘BBB-/A-3’ long- and shortterm sovereign credit ratings on the Republic of Panama and revised the outlook to positive from stable. Our transfer and convertibility assessment on the country remains unchanged at ‘AAA’.


·       Panama’s GDP growth continues to perform better than expected and we think it will likely remain strong over the medium term.


·       Although the government faces challenges in implementing large infrastructure projects, the country’s debt burden has continued to decline.


·       As a result, we have revised the outlook on our long-term foreign- and local currency sovereign credit ratings on Panama to positive from stable.


·       The positive outlook is based on our view that stronger growth and increased infrastructure spending could result in faster-than-expected improvement in the sovereign’s financial profile.


Standard and Poor’s July 2011

 The Rating Outlook is revised to Stable from Positive.

 The upgrade reflects Panama’s solid economic growth prospects and favorable government debt dynamics. Panama’s highly favorable investment cycle is underpinned by the Canal expansion, an ambitious public investment program and strong foreign direct investment flows. Favorable economic growth combined with continued fiscal discipline has allowed for a sustained decline in government indebtedness, with debt to GDP of 43% nearly converging with the ‘BBB’ median. 


Panama’s ratings are also supported by the country’s stable banking system, political stability and the consensus among political parties on the main thrust of macroeconomic policies. The country’s demonstrated resilience to external shocks is also noteworthy.

Fitch Ratings June 2011


 Visit  for more information on Panama for investors.

Panama # 2 in the Region in Competivity: World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012 ranked Panama number two in the region based on infrastructure quality, increased macroeconomic stability and technological readiness.

A few of the highlights of Panama’s global and regional rankings for freedom and economic competitiveness:

1 – For Freedom           
Freedom House’s 2011 Freedom in the World score of Panama’s political rights system.

#1 – For Financial Freedom In Latin America
According to the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom, Panama’s financial freedom score of 70.0 is tied with two other countries for the best in Latin America and is more than 20 points higher than the world average.

#1 – For Port Facilities in the Western Hemisphere
Panama ranked first in the Western Hemisphere and 5th in the World for the quality of port facilities, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012.

#1 – In Latin America for Availability of Venture Capital
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012 ranked Panama number one in the region, and third in the Western Hemisphere behind Canada and the U.S., for availability of venture capital.

#1 – For Air Transport Facilities in Latin America
Panama ranked 1st in Latin America and 15th in the world for the quality of its air transport facilities, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012.

#2 – Among Most Competitive Economies in Latin America
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012 ranked Panama number two in the region based on infrastructure quality, increased macroeconomic stability and technological readiness.

#3 – For Business Freedom in Latin America
Panama ranks behind only 2 other countries in mainland Latin America for business freedom according to the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom. Panama’s business freedom score of 75.1 is more than 10 points higher than the world average.

#3 – In the World for Affordability of Financial Services
Panama ranked third in the world and first in the Western Hemisphere for the affordability of financial services, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012.

Panama is # 49 in the world and # 2 in the region behind Chile as #31.