The second pillar of growth through 2014 is the financial sector because it has a sustainable competitive advantage. The Banking Center consists of 19 Panamanian and 60 foreign institutions, whose approximately 20,000 employees manage US$70 billion in assets and nearly US$29 billion in domestic deposits.
"The banking sector is very solid and it has had an enormous impact on Panama's image, and financing our growth, and it is an essential component of our development strategy," according to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Roberto Henriquez.
It is the source of fast-track financing for the private sector and support for the US$13.6 billion investment plan for the next five years, of which US$9.6 billion will be allocated to the infrastructure, nearly twice the cost of the Canal expansion.
The International Banking Center may also expand, because it is of crucial importance to the region. As the Minister explains, it serves Latin America as the heart of the Latin Dollar movement. The relevance of this fact was demonstrated during the 2009 financial crisis. That year, the assets of banks in Panama increased. "Our banking center is stable. Our country is seen as a refuge of stability. That is an important asset," he says.
The highest growth in the financial sector occurred during the seventies when Panama decided to establish an international banking sector. Nowadays growth may be slower, but it accounts for 8% of GDP, according to the Comptroller General's Office, while in the rest of Latin America it is barely half that, at 4.4%.
With the ratification of the 12 agreements to prevent double taxation Panama has already signed, and a tax information exchange treaty with the United States, full certification of the Banking Center by the OECD is on the horizon.
MIGRATIONS: PEOPLE POWER
On any given Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. it is difficult to get a table at any of Panama City's ten best restaurants. Such tables are always the scene of animated discussions and ever more sophisticated dishes. It also quickly becomes apparent that the language most often used is accented Spanish. There are English and European accents, and also Mexican, Venezuelan, and Colombian.
Like Canada, Panama is being built with waves of immigration, which are better handled each time. The first wave was rather spontaneous; Colombian immigrants in the seventies who in some cases brought investments, but mostly supplied cheap labor for some of the...