Panama is now the Latin American country with the most competitive infrastructure, according to the 2017-2018 World Economic Forum Competitiveness Index. To achieve this, the nation is rolling out a $17.5 billion investment program for construction and improvement of its ports, airports, and road and rail systems. In 2018 alone, it is investing $7 billion.
"Public infrastructure plays a very important role in Panama; it has been a motor of growth in the last few years by executing projects that improve the quality of life for the entire population," Panama's president, Juan Carlos Varela, said last April at the Third Business Summit of the Americas, organized by the Inter-American Development Bank.
In recent years, Panama has invested an average 7% of its gross domestic product in public infrastructure. Part of that budget comes from the $1.7 billion per year it receives from the Canal since ownership passed into Panamanian hands in 2000.
Major works include the expansion of the canal, whose third set of locks began operating in June 2016; construction of two metro lines in Panama City; the expansion of the Tocumen Airport; 1,240 miles of highways; the fourth bridge over the canal; and a port for cruise ships on the Pacific coast.
The Panama Canal ended its 2017-2018 fiscal year on September 30 having handled 440 million tons of cargo, exceeding the 413 million tons projected for the period, according to canal administrator Jorge Luis Quijano. For 2018-2019, he forecasts revenue of $3,239 billion, of which $1,736 billion will go to the National Treasury.
The expansion of Tocumen Airport is key to consolidating Panama as the hub of the Americas. The first phase will be completed early next year, while the number of passengers is expected to increase from 15 million to 25 million per year over the coming decade. An average of 43,000 travelers per day pass through the 34 boarding gates and four remote positions the airport has today. Tocumen's 400 daily flights connect 84 destinations in 37 countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. With the completion of Terminal 2, there will be 20 more boarding gates and eight additional remote positions.
Metro Line 2 will be opened in January 2019, with a fleet of 21 trains that will serve more than half a million people moving to and from the eastern part of Panama City. The line, in which the government has invested $1.8 billion, will have 16 stations over its 13 miles of tracks.