Economy & Work Force

Economy: Panama experienced a robust 10% growth rate in 2008 until the global economic crisis hit. Panama’s real estate sector experienced a buying frenzy in 2005 and 2006, which cooled in the fall of 2008. However, Panama is one of the few countries in Latin America that grew in 2009 even if at a 3.2% growth rate.

The growth rate improved in 2010 to approximately 7.5% depending upon the source of information (Whether the US State Dept. or a governmental agency of Panama or The Economist or World Bank numbers, etc. ) This year, 2011, a 7% growth factor is indicated. 2010 Gross Domestic Product GDP estimated at $21 billion Annual growth rate summary: 7.5% 2011 3.2 in 2009; 10% in 2008 and 12% in 2007. Average of 5.8% growth from 1988–1998;

Economic Brief: Panama has experienced a renaissance of interest in the past decade. The economy is fully dollarized so there is no foreign exchange rate risk. Panama’s debt stood at 11.62 billion US dollars at the close of 2010, (44% of the GDP, down from 70% in 2004. That’s the right direction for debt reduction and management. Panama has had a resilience during the international financial downturn indicated by strong growth and prospective investment projects in infrastructure.

Highway construction and lane expansion is evident all throughout Panama as well as work or plans for new or expanded hydro-electric stations, waste management, bridges, airports, parks and the metro system.   

The Canal expansion is expected to boost growth until 2014. Panama’s economy will continue to benefit from its position as an international logistical hub.

Work force: Commerce of wholesale and retail makes up about 18% of the work force; 15% in agriculture; 10.6% in construction; manufacturing–9% ; transportation, postal–6.5% domestic services–4.6% public administration–6.2%; hotels and restaurants–5%; teaching 6%; social and health services–3.7%; financial services 2%. Unemployment –5.6% as of March 2011 per US Department of State.

Natural Resources: Timber, copper, gold

Agriculture: Coffee, shrimp, rice, sugarcane, bananas, pineapples, corn, vegetables, shrimp, livestock.

Services Industry: (75% of GDP) Finance, Insurance, health and medical, transportation, telecommunications, Canal and maritime services, tourism, Colon Free Zone, public administration and general commerce.

Trade/Exports: $725 million dollars in exports with salmon and tuna as the largest dollar amount, followed by beef, watermelon, shrimp and pineapples. The US imports about 30% of these products and Canada about 11%.

Quality of Life: According to the Human Development Index (a UN program using a scale of 0 to 100) this combines income levels (GDP per head) of a country with two other factors– education levels/literacy plus life expectancy. Panama’s score of 84 is considered to be high human development.

Growth Indicator: Panama’s 4 & 5 star hotels are growing with these accommodations enjoying an occupancy rate of 85% –filled by tourists, businessmen, and/or property investors.

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