Panamainfo’s Blog

Hard Rock Hotel Megapolis, Panama City Set to Open December 2011

The Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis is set to open in December 2011 in Panama City.

The 66-story hotel will have 1,449 rooms, including a whopping 796 suites, some of which will be the brand’s signature Rock Star Suites. Located on Panama Bay, rooms will feature spectacular views of Panama Bay and Panama City. One special feature of the rooms is that guests will be able to create a music playlist all their own through the hotel’s “Sound of Your Stay” music collection.

The hotel will host eight restaurants and bars, a club on the 62nd floor, a Rock Spa and a Rock Shop where you can buy Hard Rock-branded gear.

Designed with meetings and conventions in mind, the hotel has 7200 square feet of flexible space for both small and large meetings.

The hotel decor will feature authentic memorabilia from the age of rock and more contemporary music. A special service “The Sounds of Your Stay” will enable guests to download a wide choice of music free.

At a May press conference announcing the December opening  Michael Shinder, Hard Rock VP said:

“We are proud to launch the first Hard Rock Hotel in a region with a prodigious music culture”.

Hard Rock is partnering with  Megapolis and Decameron Hotels & Resorts, a major hotelier in the region which owns Panama’s most popular beach resort- the Royal Decameron on the Pacific Coast just outside Panama City. Jacop Torres representing Megapolis said “The mixture of luxury and Hard Rock life style will give clients one of Latin America’s most unique hotel experiences.”





Panama is Making Great Progress on Many Fronts. Excerpts from President Martinelli’s US Interesting Speech April 29th

Thanks to the Tico Times for this information.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli says his nation has made enormous strides in the fight against corruption, crime and drug trafficking in the two years since he took office.

Speaking to a packed crowed the day after meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, Martinelli said his no-nonsense “law and order” approach has yielded impressive results.

“This is the first time Panama has ever been run by a businessman,” said the 59-year-old Martinelli, a self-made millionaire and chairman of Panama’s Super 99 grocery chain. “Usually in Latin America, the politicians become businessmen after they leave office, but this was the other way around.”

Martinelli was visiting the United States in order to urge the White House and Congress to push for a free-trade agreement between the two countries, which – if passed – would dramatically increase U.S.-Panamanian trade and attract foreign investment, he said.

“We don’t expect any difficulty at all getting it approved. I believe it will go through in the next 60 to 90 days. It’s a no-brainer. I don’t see how little Panama can hurt the U.S. job market. On the contrary, it will create more jobs for the U.S. economy.”

The president boasted that his government has cracked down on price-fixing, illegal kickbacks, tax fraud and corruption within Panama’s police force – a problem that seems to have grown with the arrival of thousands of foreign workers taking advantage of Panama’s rapidly expanding economy, which grew 9 percent last year.

“We regularized a lot of illegal immigrants that were here,” he said. “They were using our schools, our hospitals and our roads but were paying no taxes. That was also a big source of corruption. Every time they were stopped in the streets and asked for IDs, they bribed the officers.”

Now, he said, visitors are permitted to stay in Panama for up to 180 days before having to renew their visas.

“We can proudly say that when we got into power, there was a lot of insecurity, homicide rates were going up and the police were badly motivated because they were not paid well enough. The first thing we did was increase police salaries by 25 percent.”

He added that “Panama is going to be the showcase of programs like facial recognition at the airport, whereby any person who goes there will be connected to databases like FBI and Interpol, and we’ll be able to tell if he’s a drug dealer or a killer.”

According to Martinelli, Great Britain seized 12 tons of cocaine last year, and the United States 28 tons. By comparison, he said, “In one year, Panama catches well over 75 tons. And every ounce of cocaine we seize means less drugs and less crime in the streets of the United States.”

The fact that Panama shares a jungle border with Colombia – the world’s largest source of cocaine – makes it Central America’s first line of defense against drug traffickers.

“We don’t need money. We have all the resources to combat trafficking,” Martinelli told his largely sympathetic audience. “We recently bought six patrol boats from Italy worth more than $200 million. We’re also buying radars and helicopters in order to engage the narco-traffickers. Close to 7 percent of our people have dual U.S.-Panamanian citizenship, so whatever we do in security helps reduce crime and drug trafficking in the U.S.”

Martinelli, whose five-year term of office expires in mid-2014, said Panama now ranks as the second-most competitive economy in Latin America after Chile, and is one of the few countries in the region with investment-grade bond ratings. As such, expanding Panama’s service-based economy is a top priority for his administration – and the planned $5.3 billion expansion of the Panama Canal will pump tens of billions of dollars into the country in coming decades.

“The canal represents 8 percent of our GDP, and this year, the Colón Free Zone will do $27 billion in business,” he explained. “And regarding the canal’s expansion, more money is being spent in the United States than in Panama, because all U.S. ports will have to increase their draught in order to accommodate the world’s largest ships. In Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, a bridge worth over $1 billion has to be built to accommodate post-Panamax ships. The East Coast of the U.S. will greatly appreciate the expansion because it’s very difficult to get merchandise from China, put it on a truck. It costs money and pollutes the environment instead of going through the canal.”

In short, said Martinelli, “if I pay, you pay. If I don’t pay, then you don’t pay. We got our house in order by tying the knots, closing the loopholes and telling people the hanky-panky was over, and by telling the drug traffickers there’s no more tolerance for them. We are catching them and sending them back to Colombia. Everybody’s paying taxes now. Our tax base has increased substantially.”

At the same time, a dramatic increase in tourism – two million foreign visitors are expected to visit Panama this year – has generated revenues to pay for badly needed improvements, including an expansion of Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport.

“Before, if I wanted to go to Aruba or Buenos Aires, I’d have to fly through Miami. But our local airline Copa has bought 39 planes, and Panama is now one of Latin America’s largest hubs. By 2014, well over 14 million passengers will go through that airport,” he said. “Panamanians coming into the U.S. will soon be able to put their passports through a machine in Panama and won’t have to go through Customs once they arrive into the United States.”

On top of that, he said, “you can now find any brand of hotel in Panama from A to Z. Even a Waldorf-Astoria is being built. It’s a new country and everything is being done through a vision of change – but the change has to start from within.”

Asked about potential terrorist attacks against the Panama Canal, Martinelli does not appear to be losing much sleep over that issue.

“The Panama Canal is a neutral place. This waterway serves humanity, but to tell you the truth, it’s almost impossible to say that the canal is fully protected. Look what happened on 9/11,” the president said in response to a reporter’s question. “I don’t believe the canal is on the agenda of any terrorist group. We work in close coordination with the shipping companies, but if someone puts a bomb on a ship and detonates that bomb within the locks in a kamikaze attack, nobody can do anything about it.”

“Paperless Panama”: Martinelli Government Aims to Make Panama One of the First Paperless Governments

Paperless Panama/ Panamá sin papel

The government of Panama is working with Microsoft to make Panama one of the first countries to digitalize all government transactions.

This project was presented at Panama’s recent Competivity Forum Oct. 19th at the Playa Bonita Intercontinental Hotel.

The National Innovaction Authority aims to accomplish this by 2012. 50 million dollars have been designated for this project.

Even though Panama is a so-called underdeveloped country, this digitalization will increase efficiency and reduce corruption, enabling Panama to jump ahead in development.

Panama’s education system is also working with Microsoft to create online training for teachers, provide teachers and students with laptops and improve education in general- a critical intiative since Panama’s public education system is one of the weakest in Latin America.

The digitization of transactions will save the country an estimated 25 million a year.

Also, in 2011, the  private sector will soon be able to make tax payments online-  saving money by elimination  countless hours of private sector time. Until now tax payments had to be made with certified checks.

The Martinelli government deserves congratulations for using innovation to develop Panama more quickly, more cost effectively and more effectively.

Remarks at Amcham’s 10th Annual Tourism Forum- Why Panama Will be the Capital of the Americas

Remarks by Nancy Hanna, Chair, American Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee.Sept. 9, 2010

Buenas Tardes. I am especially pleased once again to have Mr. Shamah here- our highly active and highly effective tourism minister. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t hear about some new thing you  have done to make  tourism happen.

I’m really excited about today’s program – Let me especially mention  Panama’s handicrafts queen Agnes Santomeno of Reprosa- who has raised our souvenirs to a world class level,   and Andrew Coate’s debut today of La Ruta Verde- the most exciting eco-project I have ever seen..

Today before our very eyes Panama is transforming itself to meet its historic destiny- to be the capital of the Americas. Panama’s destiny was first recognized by Simon Bolívar who called the first hemispheric conference- the Congress of Panama in 1826.

Fast forwarding to 911- 911 speeded up Panama’s destiny.  Until 911, Miami was the de-facto capital of the Americas-both Latin America and the Caribbean- you know- the place you all liked  to go for meetings,  to shop, to have fun and take that side trip to Orlando.

 911 ended Miami as the capital of the Americas. Why? Because companies in Latin America could not get visas to the USA for their people to attend meetings with consistency. If they needed to send 10 people to a training- they maybe 6 got visas. ( Just one example- Our own president of Amcham Don Elder was in Miami, with Caterpillar when could not get visas for trainings in the US- He recommended that Caterpillar set up a region HQ and training center in Panama- that training center which will need 12,000 hotel nights a year, just broke ground  last month)

 Panama has is now fulfilling its destiny to be the business capital of the Americas with its strategically central location, the most modern and safe capital city in the region, direct flights to more than 60 destinations and a long history as a business center and crossroads.

In line with Panama’s destiny, President Martinelli has the goal to make Panama the best place in Latin America to do business. Plans include a large convention center on Panama Bay between Casco Viejo and Amador.  Due to the incentives of  Law 41. More than 100 companies including such giants as Proctor and Gamble and Samsung set up their headquarters in Panama

So naturally, today most of our tourists are businessmen and that’s good.

But there is another Panama- one that is blessed with extraordinary natural attractions- “so beautiful you could cry”  rainforests, islands, oceans  and mountains with a flor and fauna that is one of the richest in the world and we have the Smithsonian to prove it! 

In tourism, our greatest challenge is to balance the business growth, with actions to preserve the priceless treasure of Panama’s nature- not only for tourists to enjoy, but for the long term health and happiness of future generations. Amcham is committed both business development and the preservation of nature.  

Enjoy today- let’s learn and let’s work together for both successful and sustainable tourism.


Reuters Article: Panama- A model of success for today’s frontier markets.

Panama as a business capital continues to get positive press

(Reuters) – A generation after Panama shed a tradition of military rule, canny fiscal management and good stewardship of its emblematic canal have made the tiny country a model of success for today’s frontier markets.

An investor darling that has grown rapidly over the last decade and even managed to dodge recession during the recent global downturn, Panama’s government debt has received a coveted investment grade rating by Fitch and S&P.

Panama will not realize its ambition of joining the world’s most developed nations until it cleans up its murky banking system and narrows a wealth gap that leaves a third of its people in poverty, but economists say it is well-positioned for steady growth.

“What’s striking is that this is such a broad-based economy,” said Boris Segura, an economist with the Royal Bank of Scotland. “Yes, they have the canal but there is also tourism, construction and a growing financial services sector.”

With a population of just 3.4 million, Panama will never be a China or a Japan but local leaders say it can aspire to become like Singapore, an affluent and diverse crossroads for international finance and trade.

“Nobody is going to come to Panama to sell to the domestic market. We tell investors ‘Come to Panama and sell to the world'”, Trade Minister Roberto Henriquez told Reuters. He sees the small isthmus nation’s future as a boutique exporter of high-margin goods and services.

See the whole article here:

Panama Will Be the Top Performing Country in Latin America thru 2015- IMF

The International Monetary Fund has just released an analysis of the economic progress of each country in the region over the next 5 years. Panama comes out on top with a projected growth rate of 5% for 2010 and between 6.1% and 6.5 % until 2015.  This good news comes along with the recent good news that Panama now is now investment grade.

This analysis reflects confidence in Panama and its 5 billion dollar Panama Canal widening project and in the Martinelli government which is undertaking numerous important infrastructure projects-including two new international airports, a Panama City Metro, and a convention center. At the same time, the government is  seriously reducing corruption- the major reason that Panama and other Latin American countries have been held back in their development.  Transparency International estimates that corruption costs 30% of the GNP in Latin America.

Visas: How to Stay, Live and Do Business in Panama

Panama is such a great place that a lot of people would love to live and do business here.

To prevent too many foreigners from living here and to promote investment, the Panama government does not make it easy to live here.


  1. Tourist visa: The tourist visa you get when you come into Panama gives you 90 days in the country. This visa is for Americans, Canadians and citizens of the European Community and some other counties.  After 90 days, you must leave Panama and go to another country for three days and then you can come back and get another 90 days. There is no cost to this visa.


2 Retiree Visa or “Pensionado Visa” This is called a retiree visa but you don’t actually have to be retired to get it-you just have to be over 18. All you need to do is to prove you have a lifetime pension of at least $1000 per month.  If you buy 100,000 worth of property in Panama, then the minimum is just $750.

The pensionado visa comes with many benefits and discounts including 25% discount on all flights both international and domestic and major discounts at restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, certain medical services, prescription drugs and utility bills.

  1. Economic Solvency Visa: To qualify for this visa you need to deposit $300.000 in a bank account in a three year time deposit or purchase real estate for the same amount.
  2. Panama Bank CD Pension Visa: For this visa, you just need to create CD in  one of the national banks that earns a monthly minimum income of $850.00
  3. Reforestation Visa I: The least inexpensive visa, you need to invest $60.000 in a government certified reforestation project.
  4. Reforestation Visa II: You invest $80,000 in a government certified reforestation project and after a few years you have the right to permanent residence and citizenship.
  5. Business Investor Visa: Requires investing at least $160,000 in a Panamanian business that employs at least 5 Panamanians. Permanent residency is included.
  6. Agricultural Investor: Just make a $60,000 investment in agriculture or aquaculture but you only get a six year visa
  7. Tax Free Processing Zone Visa: You need to rent land, an office or building in one of the Free Trade Zones.


Others basics  you’ll need for a visa are a police certificate from the town you most recently lived in  your country of origin, a health exam and an AIDS test.


You must hire a lawyer for your visa and at the present time it takes a very long time to go through. It is very important you hire a lawyer from a well known firm or that comes with excellent referrals from people you know well.  See our Law Firm in our Business and Services section page for a good lawyer.

New President Martinelli Welcomes American Retirees and Promises to Make Make Everything Easier

Sam Taliaferro, the owner Valle Escondido, Panama’s original resort community posted an important interview with an American retiree couple who were invited to converse  with  Panama’s new President Ricardo Martinelli when they ran into his group at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Panama City.  President Martinelli told this couple ” he wants to make it very easy for Americans to move here and to invest. He said he was planning on having meetings with ex-pats to see what their concerns are. He told us it was going to be easier to get residency, drivers license and he was going to make it safer.”

See the whole interview here:

We are also are hearing  that Pres. Martinelli is moving quickly on a number of fronts so that foreigners who invest and live in Panama will have less bureaucratic hassles with government in immigration and setting up businesses etc.  He will also improve security which is already excellent  compared to other countries in the region.  The police have been instructed to help foreigners in any way they can and not hassle them as has happened in the past.

In fact, in his inaugural address President Martinelli declared his goal to make “Panama the best place in the world to do business”. This man does not think small.  And he is proving as good as his word on his campaign promises.

Ricardo Martinelli: Panama’s Exciting New President

Just a week before the May 3rd.  elections, presidential candidate Ricardo Martinelli predicted he would win the Panama presidency by a “tsunami “. No one believed him. The polls showed him ahead but after all, the last time he ran for president in 2004 he got only 5% of the vote. But that is exactly what happened- he won by landslide- 60% in a 3 way race- the highest margin of any race in Panama’s recent history

Martinelli won because he convinced the Panamanian people he would  do all the right things for both the populace and the business community- that  he was the person  who could  solve the countries mounting problems including rampant corruption, increasing crime, a public school system that is the most expensive and one of the worst in Latin America and a Panama City transportation chaos that means city dwellers spend 10 years of their life on a bus or car getting to work.

Mr. Martinelli ran a campaign  with a slogan about “Change ” just like President Obama.  In fact according to an interview in The Panama Post, his models are Barack Obama “because he showed change is possible, Winston Churchhill “for his tenacity”, Otto Von Bismark for unifying Germany and next door neighbor Alvaro Uribe, the very successful of President of Columbia.

Change is what Panama needs as it stands at a crossroads- a country with one of the most promising futures in Latin America, but only if Mr. Martinelli can solve its current very pressing and serious problems.

Mr.  Martinelli, age 57  is one of Panama’s most successful businessman having built the country’s largest supermarket chain.  He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Arkansas and an MBA at the prestigious Costa Rica INCAE school of business afilliated with Harvard University. He is a brillant, no-nonsense, take charge type of guy.  His election is hailed  as a turn the right after a string of Latin American governments have turned to the left in recent years.  He is pro-American, will work hard to get the Free Trade Agreement with the US signed this year and he is going to bring modern management and business know-how to solving Panama’s problems.

Panama watchers are heartened by his actions since his  elections including a choice of ministers- some of whom are brilliant like economist and banker Alberto Vallerino as the head of the all important Ministry of the Economy and some of whole are   “out of the box” appointments like Lucy Molinar as Minister of Education- a popular and formidable TV journalist of enormous integrity.

Mr. Martinelli’s election made news in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Time. Indeed, many investors looking for a good place to invest money these, are taking second look  at Panama now because of his election.  Among other things, he plans to  will start building right away a metro to solve the devilish Panama City transportation problems, 5 new airports for the burgeoning tourism industry and a highway network including  coastal route to connect Panama’s attractive Caribbean.

Mr.  Martinelli takes office July 1st. From there on, there’s going to be plenty of interesting news out of Panama.

How Will Panama’s Economy do in 2009? It will Grow (More than Most) According to Experts

International organizations, the Panama government and local and international consulting firms are predicting Panama’s economy will grow between 1.2% and 5% in 2009. This is well below the 9.2% it grew in 2008, but better than most other countries where economies are contracting not growing.

The predictions:

A local website, Panama Economy Insight is predicting growth of only 1.2% for 2009 but a growth of 9% in 2110 and 2111.

Standard and Poor is the most pessimistic for 2009 with a prediction of 3.5%

Local consulting firms Indesa and Deloitte say 4%.

CEPAL ( Latin American Economic Commission, and the analysts at Credit Suisse and Citibank all predict 4.5%- 5%.

According to an article in La Prensa March 25th, Panama’s Finance Minister Hector Alexander says ” Considerando all the is happening worldwide with the recessions in the major world economies and other countries in the region, this is very good and shows Panama’s (economic) strength.

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