Panama has transformed to become one of the fastest expanding economies worldwide, growing from a GDP of US$1 billion to US$55 billion in 50 years, enjoying an annual average economic growth rate of over 8 per cent since 2003, more than double the regional norm.
This is likely to remain high, with high levels of public investment in new infrastructure, notably the US$8 billion canal expansion project opened in 2016, and backed by large private sector investments, including Cobre Panama, a 350 000-tonne per year, US$6.3 billion copper project undertaken by the Zambia-based miner First Quantum. While Panama’s geography is crucial to its success story, the opportunities from the canal has been built on through the businesses established around its two ports.
These have been facilitated by excellent connectivity, simplified bureaucratic procedures, liberal visa requirements, preferential tax rates and, following the departure of Manuel Noriega from the political scene, much better policy choices.
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