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Panama: Good Outlook

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Panama's economy continues to grow, helped by the Canal expansion, construction, tourism and telecommunications.

BY JOACHIM BAMRUD

While concern about the impact of the U.S. crisis is spreading throughout Latin America, at least one country is still dominated by general optimism: Panama. While stock markets were crashing in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Europe and Asia, the Panamanian agency that runs the Panama Canal last week managed to raise $2.3 billion in financing for the expansion of the waterway.

"Despite the meltdown in the rest of the world...the effects have not reached here yet," says David Hunt, the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Panama.

Robert McMillan, the former chairman of the Panama Canal Commission and author of Global Passage: Transformation of Panama and the Panama Canal, is also upbeat. "
The Canal expansion, coupled with tourism and second homes for Americans, signals only positives for economic and business development in Panama," he says.

ECONOMIC BOOM


Panama is expected to become Latin Americas fastest-growing economy next year, the International Monetary Fund predicts in its latest outlook released this month. This year, it will likely end up just behind Peru as the fastest-growing economy, it estimates.

While there is sure to be a slowdown in the long-booming real estate sector, in part due to over-supply before the U.S. crisis, demand is still strong thanks to many Latin Americans - especially Venezuelans - buying up new or second homes. Many Latin Americans are also helping to fill up the hotels, avoiding previous destinations such as Miami.

"One factor I see in Panama’s favor is the number of people who now come to Panama City and avoid traveling to Miami because it has become extremely uncomfortable with the issues facing travel these days," says Thomas Brymer, CEO of Panama Advisory Group and a long term commercial real estate advisor in Miami. "If you look at Panama City and...




Keywords: ACP, Construction, Diamonds, Energy, Mining, Tourism, US-Panama Free Trade Agreement

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