< META NAME="GENERATOR" CONTENT="Microsoft FrontPage 6.0" > Economic Development of Panama - Matt Landau, University of Richmond 2005

< font size="2">All photos and text copyright 2007 by Matt Landau.No use without prior permission.


The Republic of Panama has long been considered the crossroads of the New World.

< font size="5">From its years hosting the Camino Real, a corridor for the gold trade from Peru to Spain, to the current foreign-funded real estate and tourism boom, the isthmus has always been heavily dependant upon outsiders for economic prosperity, but for perhaps the first time in history, Panama's current economic fate lies in its own hands.

 With its strategic locality, Panama has seen much of the world's riches pass before its eyes and across its borders. And beyond its significance as a trade hub, Panama is a country endowed with tremendous natural resources, many of which remain untapped to date. Its secluded white sand beaches, pristine rainforests, and picturesque islands are slowly establishing themselves in the eco-tourism industry, and a strong country-wide infrastructure—a result of longtime U.S. occupation—makes getting to these destinations easy and trouble-free.

 Leading up to the U.S. occupation in 1989, Panama's economy was severely damaged by strict U.S. economic sanctions and disruptions brought on by the Noriega administration. Subsequently during the American backed Endera administration, the United States pumped 2 billions dollars into the economy. In 1994, president Perez Balladares improved economic conditions further by establishing fiscal reform and job creation. He also attracted significant foreign investment but alas, his years, and throughout much of the 1990's, were plagued by serious debt.

 On December 31, 1999 the U.S. turned over the rights of the Panama Canal to the Panamanian government which opened the country to further foreign investment.

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What has resulted is an infrastructure that's proven itself the perfect place to do business; its international banking district and finely tuned offshore laws commonly referred to as the Switzerland of the Americas. With a downtown city skyline no less impressive than that of Miami, an international restaurant scene that's constantly reinventing itself, and a historic district recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it's no wonder travelers and investors the world over are honing in on all Panama has to offer.

 But while some experts might tap Panama's explosive economy to be the hottest in the continent, others cite various factors such as its staggering income gap, high level of corruption, and poor immigration laws as hard-to-ignore downfalls. And on these bases, travelers and investors alike must remember that indeed, Panama is still a developing nation.


So what's next? In an effort to distinguish itself from other traditional travel destinations, Panama is admirably in the process of developing an authentic or "sustainable" tourism sector, one founded heavily on the principals of social responsibility. In addition to encouraging eco-friendly establishments, the government and various agencies of Panama have made a conscious effort to stifle the at-one-point reckless growth. Such efforts include:

   & nbsp;  -     & nbsp;  establishing construction laws and limitations, specifically in coastal regions

-    & nbsp;    paying close attention to bank loans and interest rates

-    & nbsp;    erecting educational tourism offices throughout the country

-          working closely with still-thriving indigenous groups

From the newly-begun Canal expansion, to its recently-appointed seat on the UN Security Council, to several large oil refineries in construction, Panama appears to many, to be poised for greatness.

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 For further information, contact Matt Landau, Richmond '05.& nbsp; Matt is an entrepreneur based out of Central America. He is the Founder of The Panama Report (www.thepanamareport.com), Panama's first travel and investment portal.  He is also the Owner of Los Cuatro Tulipanes, Boutique Hotel ( www.loscuatrotulipanes.com) located in Panama City's historic district of Casco Antiguo. His research in the tourism and investment sectors has been featured in numerous publications, and he believes that as an entrepreneur, imagination and creativity are far more powerful than knowledge.