Capital: Panama City (Population (Metro) 1,206,792 .est)
Area: 75 517 km²
Official languages: Spanish
Main religion: Roman Catholicism
Population: 3 220 000 (.est 2008)
Government: Constitutional Democracy
Median age: 27 years (2007)
Life expectancy at birth: 77,5 years (.est 2009)
Religions: Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%
Languages: Spanish (official), English 14%; note – many Panamanian is bilingual
Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is the southernmost country of Central America. It borders Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south.
Politics of Panama takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Panama is both head of state and head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
Panama`s economy is service-based, heavily weighted toward banking, commerce, and tourism, due to its key geographic location. The handover of the canal and military installations by the US has given rise to new construction projects. The Martín Torrijos administration has undertaken controversial structural reforms, such as a fiscal reform and a very difficult Social Security Reform. Furthermore, a Referendum regarding the building of a third set of locks for the Panama Canal was approved overwhelmingly (though with low voter turnout) on October 22nd, 2006. The official estimate of the building of the third set of locks is US$5.25 Billion.
The Panamanian currency is the balboa, fixed at parity with the United States dollar.
Fastest Growing GDP Rate in Latin America
No other country had export and import levels as high as Panama. Its exports of 64 percent of GDP were much higher than the number two in that category, the Dominican Republic (48 percent), while its imports of 61 percent were much higher than Honduras at 51 percent.
The high levels of Panamanian trade are in large part due to the Colon Free Trade Zone, the largest free trade zone in the Western Hemisphere. Last year the zone accounted for 92 percent of Panama`s exports and 65 percent of its imports, according to an analysis of figures from the Colon zone management and estimates of Panama`s trade by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
Panama also did well in tourism receipts and foreign direct investment as a percent of GDP (the fourth-highest in Latin America in both categories) and Internet penetration (eight-highest rate in Latin America).
Panama, long a bastion of low inflation, will get the honor of having the region`s lowest inflation in 2007, according to the IMF. The rate is predicted at 2.3 percent, compared to 2.8 percent estimated for 2006.
Panama City has has seen a race between two rival projects aimed at becoming the tallest building in Latin America. The 104-story residential and hotel building, Ice Tower, is slated to be completed in 2010.
Spain-based Olloqui Group is constructing a 93-floor building, Palacio de la Bahía, located on the Bay of Panama. It is expected to be finished in 2009. The two projects were originally smaller, but subsequently started adding floors to obtain status at the tallest building in the region.
Grupo Mall, another Spanish developer, is building a multitower center of apartments, hotel and commercial mall. The project is scheduled for partial completion in 2009.
The real estate boom isn`t limited to Panama City, as there are also developments in different parts of the country.
Apart from the existing demand, future developments will also be helped by such factors as the planned expansion of the Panama Canal, a possible refinery by U.S. oil giant Oxy and a new container port near the Pacific entrance of the canal.