Panama – The Country

The Republic of Panama is located in the Central American Isthmus and has an area of approximately 77,000 square kilometers or 30,000 square miles. It has a population of approximately 3.5 million of which a little more than fifty percent live in Panama City or its suburbs. The official language is Spanish, but nevertheless English is widely spoken, especially in the cities of Panama and Colon, which are the terminal cities in both extremes of the Panama Canal. Panama is a democratic and representative government, represented by a constitutional President, with a Legislative Assembly and an independent Supreme Court and judicial system. The President and a Vice-President, as well as the legislators, are elected by majority of votes cast in a direct election, for a period of five years.

Certainly the most valuable and known asset of the country is the Panama Canal, built in 1914 and considered by many the eighth wonder of the world. The Panama Canal, which has undergone a continuous process of modernization, serves the international community by allowing a daily transit of approximately forty ships.

Blessed by a strategic geographical location and the use of the American Dollar as legal tender, Panama has become the most important international financial center in Latin America. Since the enactment of the first banking law in 1970, the banking system has grown remarkably, making it possible for close to eighty banks from different parts of the world to establish their operations in the country. Many of the major financial institutions of Asia, United States of America, South America and Europe have a strong presence in Panama.

The Colon Free Zone, situated in the city of Colon, alongside the entrance to the Panama Canal from the Atlantic Ocean, is the largest in the Western hemisphere. More that 500 firms from various parts of the world are located in the free zone, engaged in storage, wholesale trade, assembly and re-distribution of their products all over the world. As a token example of its importance to the country and the international community, the average of Colon's Free Zone operations are close to Ten Billion United States Dollars a year.

Definitively the existence of the Colon Free Zone, along with a very efficient port industry still in its developing stages, currently moving more than 1.8 million TEU’s each year; the Panama Canal and its more than 12,000 vessel crossing it yearly; the open registry with the biggest merchant fleet in the world today; and the facility of having ocean to ocean transshipment services between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean on a railway that runs alongside the Canal, is transforming the Republic of Panama into one of the strongest players in multimodal transshipments of goods and international commerce.

In addition to becoming a maritime power house, the Republic of Panama is developing other areas of interest for international investment. Through the isthmus pass some of the most advance fiber optics cables like the Maya-1, Arcos-1, Cable Pac and Cable SAC, which contains more than 97% of international voice traffic, close to 90% of data links and 100% of the regional internet traffic, making the country an ideal place for the establishments of call centers and the developing of other telecommunications business.

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