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Panama Historical and Political Profile

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Panama Index

  • Panama-GEOGRAPHY
  • Panama-RELIGION
  • Panama-Fiscal Policy
  • Panama-Police Forces
  • Panama-PANAMA
  • Panama-Rural Society
  • Panama-Panamanian Air Force and National Navy
  • Panama-Changing Structure of the Economy
  • Panama-Other Aspects of Panamanian-United States Relations
  • Panama-Guaymí
  • Panama-Military Zones
  • Panama-Budget Process
  • Panama-Urban Society
  • Panama-SOCIETY
  • Panama-The Panama Defense Forces
  • Panama-Torrijos Government Undertakes "Democratization"
  • Panama-The Oligarchy under Fire
  • Panama-Expenditures
  • Panama-State Agencies and the Regulation of Public Employees
  • Panama-Manufacturing
  • Panama-PREFACE
  • Panama-Regions of Settlement POPULATION
  • Panama-Indians
  • Panama-Role of the Canal From 1903 to 1977
  • Panama-The National Guard in Ascendance
  • Panama-Balance of Payments
  • Panama-The Judiciary
  • Panama-Monetary Policy
  • Panama-INDUSTRY
  • Panama-A New Accommodation
  • Panama-Chapter 4 - Government and Politics
  • Panama-The Penal System
  • Panama-GEOGRAPHY
  • Panama-United States Intervention and Strained Relations
  • Panama-Migration
  • Panama-ECONOMY
  • Panama-Land Tenure and Agrarian Reform
  • Panama-Family and Kin SOCIAL ORGANIZATION
  • Panama-Crops
  • Panama-Current Use and Future of the Canal
  • Panama-Foreign Military Assistance
  • Panama-Multilateral Relations
  • Panama-SERVICES
  • Panama-Bilateral Relations with Other Nations
  • Panama-Political Parties
  • Panama-Oil Pipeline
  • Panama-Income Distribution
  • Panama-Wage Policy and Labor Code
  • Panama-Tourism
  • Panama-National Guard
  • Panama-The General Staff
  • Panama-External Debt
  • Panama-Relations with Central America
  • Panama-Transportation and Communication
  • Panama-The Government of Torrijos and the National Guard
  • Panama-Antillean Blacks
  • Panama-The War Years THE BISECTED REPUBLIC
  • Panama-Chapter 3 - The Economy
  • Panama-EDUCATION
  • Panama-Chapter 1 - Historical Setting
  • Panama-Business, Professional, and Labor Organizations
  • Panama-Land Use
  • Panama-Introduction
  • Panama-Foreign Policy Decision Making
  • Panama
  • Panama-The Elite
  • Panama-Relations with the United States: The Panama Canal
  • Panama-Ground Forces
  • Panama-Training
  • Panama-The Executive THE GOVERNMENTAL SYSTEM
  • Panama-The Roman Catholic Church
  • Panama
  • Panama
  • Panama-Recent Economic Performance
  • Panama
  • Panama-Colón Free Zone
  • Panama
  • Panama-Students
  • Panama
  • Panama-Mining
  • Panama-Chapter 5 - National Security
  • Panama
  • Panama-Construction
  • Panama-Independence from Spain THE COLOMBIA DEPARTMENT
  • Panama-Size and Growth
  • Panama
  • Panama-The Spillover from Colombia's Civil Strife
  • Panama-Fishing and Forestry
  • Panama-The Communications Media
  • Panama
  • Panama-Chapter 2 - The Society and Its Environment
  • Panama
  • Panama-The Legislature
  • Panama
  • Panama-Finance
  • Panama-Organizing the New Republic
  • Panama-The Treaty Negotiations
  • Panama-Livestock
  • Panama-The 1903 Treaty and Qualified Independence
  • Panama-Employment
  • Panama-The Politics of Frustrated Nationalism
  • Panama-Torrijos's Sudden Death THE POST-TORRIJOS ERA
  • Panama-Noriega Takes Control
  • Panama-The 1977 Treaties and Associated Agreements
  • Panama
  • Panama-Foreword
  • Panama-The California Gold Rush and the Railroad
  • Panama-The Lower Class
  • Panama-Energy
  • Panama-Provincial and Municipal Government
  • BackgroundExplored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela - named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When the latter dissolved in 1830, Panama remained part of Colombia. With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by the end of the century. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the subsequent decades. With US help, dictator Manuel NORIEGA was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were transferred to Panama by the end of 1999. In October 2006, Panamanians approved an ambitious plan to expand the Canal. The project, which began in 2007 and could double the Canal's capacity, is expected to be completed in 2014-15.
    LocationCentral America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica
    Area(sq km)total: 75,420 sq km
    land: 74,340 sq km
    water: 1,080 sq km
    Geographic coordinates9 00 N, 80 00 W
    Land boundaries(km)total: 555 km
    border countries: Colombia 225 km, Costa Rica 330 km

    Coastline(km)2,490 km

    Climatetropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)

    Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
    highest point: Volcan Baru 3,475 m
    Natural resourcescopper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower
    Land use(%)arable land: 7.26%
    permanent crops: 1.95%
    other: 90.79% (2005)

    Irrigated land(sq km)430 sq km (2003)
    Total renewable water resources(cu km)148 cu km (2000)
    Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 0.82 cu km/yr (67%/5%/28%)
    per capita: 254 cu m/yr (2000)
    Natural hazardsoccasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien area
    Environment - current issueswater pollution from agricultural runoff threatens fishery resources; deforestation of tropical rain forest; land degradation and soil erosion threatens siltation of Panama Canal; air pollution in urban areas; mining threatens natural resources
    Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
    signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
    Geography - notestrategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean
    Population3,360,474 (July 2009 est.)
    Age structure(%)0-14 years: 29.3% (male 501,950/female 481,750)
    15-64 years: 63.9% (male 1,085,435/female 1,061,530)
    65 years and over: 6.8% (male 106,934/female 122,875) (2009 est.)
    Median age(years)total: 27 years
    male: 26.6 years
    female: 27.3 years (2009 est.)
    Population growth rate(%)1.503% (2009 est.)
    Birth rate(births/1,000 population)20.18 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
    Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)4.66 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

    Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-0.49 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
    Urbanization(%)urban population: 73% of total population (2008)
    rate of urbanization: 2.7% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
    Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
    under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
    15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
    65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
    total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
    Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 12.67 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 13.53 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 11.77 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

    Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 77.25 years
    male: 74.47 years
    female: 80.16 years (2009 est.)

    Total fertility rate(children born/woman)2.53 children born/woman (2009 est.)
    Nationalitynoun: Panamanian(s)
    adjective: Panamanian
    Ethnic groups(%)mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%

    Religions(%)Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%
    Languages(%)Spanish (official), English 14%; note - many Panamanians bilingual

    Country nameconventional long form: Republic of Panama
    conventional short form: Panama
    local long form: Republica de Panama
    local short form: Panama
    Government typeconstitutional democracy
    Capitalname: Panama City
    geographic coordinates: 8 58 N, 79 32 W
    time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    Administrative divisions11 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 1 territory* (comarca); Bocas del Toro, Comarca Kuna Yala, Comarca Ngobe-Bugle, Chiriqui, Cocle, Colon, Darien, Herrera, Los Santos, Panama, San Blas* (Kuna Yala), and Veraguas
    Constitution11 October 1972; revised in 1978, 1983, 1994, and 2004

    Legal systembased on civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court of Justice; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations

    Suffrage18 years of age; universal and compulsory
    Executive branchchief of state: President Ricardo MARTINELLI Berrocal (since 1 July 2009); Vice President Juan Carlos VARELA (since 1 July 2009); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
    head of government: President Ricardo MARTINELLI Berrocal (since 1 July 2009); Vice President Juan Carlos VARELA (since 1 July 2009)
    cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
    elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for five-year terms (not eligible for immediate reelection; president and vice president must sit out two additional terms (10 years) before becoming eligible for reelection); election last held 3 May 2009 (next to be held in 2014)
    election results: Ricardo MARTINELLI Berrocal elected president; percent of vote - Ricardo MARTINELLI Berrocal 60%, Balbina HERRERA 38%, Guillermo ENDARA Galimany 2%
    note: government coalition - PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party), PP (Popular Party)
    Legislative branchunicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (71 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
    elections: last held 3 May 2009 (next to be held May 2014)
    election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PRD 26, Panamenista 22, CD 14, PU 4, Independent 2, MOLIRENA 2, PP 1
    note: legislators from outlying rural districts are chosen on a plurality basis while districts located in more populous towns and cities elect multiple legislators by means of a proportion-based formula

    Judicial branchSupreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (nine judges appointed for 10-year terms); five superior courts; three courts of appeal

    Political pressure groups and leadersChamber of Commerce; National Civic Crusade; National Council of Organized Workers or CONATO; National Council of Private Enterprise or CONEP; National Union of Construction and Similar Workers (SUNTRACS); Panamanian Association of Business Executives or APEDE; Panamanian Industrialists Society or SIP; Workers Confederation of the Republic of Panama or CTRP
    International organization participationBCIE, CACM, CAN (observer), CSN (observer), FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, SICA, UN, UNASUR (observer), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
    Flag descriptiondivided into four, equal rectangles; the top quadrants are white (hoist side) with a blue five-pointed star in the center and plain red; the bottom quadrants are plain blue (hoist side) and white with a red five-pointed star in the center

    Economy - overviewPanama's dollarized economy rests primarily on a well-developed services sector that accounts for 80% of GDP. Services include operating the Panama Canal, banking, the Colon Free Zone, insurance, container ports, flagship registry, and tourism. Economic growth will be bolstered by the Panama Canal expansion project that began in 2007 and is scheduled to be completed by 2014 at a cost of $5.3 billion - about 25% of current GDP. The expansion project will more than double the Canal's capacity, enabling it to accommodate ships that are now too large to transverse the transoceanic crossway, and should help to reduce the high unemployment rate. Strong economic performance has reduced the national poverty level to 29% in 2008; however, Panama has the second most unequal income distribution in Latin America. The government has implemented tax reforms, as well as social security reforms, and backs regional trade agreements and development of tourism. Not a CAFTA signatory, Panama in December 2006 independently negotiated a free trade agreement with the US, which, when implemented, will help promote the country's economic growth.
    GDP (purchasing power parity)$38.92 billion (2008 est.)
    $35.64 billion (2007 est.)
    $31.96 billion (2006 est.)
    note: data are in 2008 US dollars
    GDP (official exchange rate)$23.09 billion (2008 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate(%)9.2% (2008 est.)
    11.5% (2007 est.)
    8.5% (2006 est.)
    GDP - per capita (PPP)$11,800 (2008 est.)
    $10,900 (2007 est.)
    $10,000 (2006 est.)
    note: data are in 2008 US dollars
    GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 6.4%
    industry: 17.2%
    services: 76.4% (2008 est.)
    Labor force1.392 million
    note: shortage of skilled labor, but an oversupply of unskilled labor (2008 est.)

    Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 15%
    industry: 18%
    services: 67% (2006)
    Unemployment rate(%)5.6% (2008 est.)
    6.4% (2007 est.)
    Population below poverty line(%)28.6% (2006 est.)
    Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 0.8%
    highest 10%: 41.4% (2006)
    Distribution of family income - Gini index56.1 (2003)
    48.5 (1997)
    Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)25.7% of GDP (2008 est.)
    Budgetrevenues: $6.02 billion
    expenditures: $5.923 billion (2008 est.)
    Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)8.8% (2008 est.)
    4.2% (2007 est.)

    Stock of money$3.764 billion (31 December 2008)
    $3.054 billion (31 December 2007)
    Stock of quasi money$15.84 billion (31 December 2008)
    $14.26 billion (31 December 2007)
    Stock of domestic credit$19.8 billion (31 December 2008)
    $17.4 billion (31 December 2007)
    Market value of publicly traded shares$6.568 billion (31 December 2008)
    $6.219 billion (31 December 2007)
    $5.716 billion (31 December 2006)
    Economic aid - recipient$19.54 million (2005)

    Public debt(% of GDP)45% of GDP (2008 est.)
    69.2% of GDP (2004 est.)
    Agriculture - productsbananas, rice, corn, coffee, sugarcane, vegetables; livestock; shrimp
    Industriesconstruction, brewing, cement and other construction materials, sugar milling

    Industrial production growth rate(%)14.2% (2008 est.)

    Current account balance-$2.792 billion (2008 est.)
    -$1.422 billion (2007 est.)
    Exports$10.29 billion (2008 est.)
    $9.338 billion (2007 est.)
    note: includes the Colon Free Zone

    Exports - commodities(%)bananas, shrimp, sugar, coffee, clothing
    Exports - partners(%)US 39.2%, Netherlands 10.7%, Costa Rica 5.8%, Sweden 5.4%, UK 5.4%, Spain 5%, China 4.1% (2008)
    Imports$15 billion (2008 est.)
    $12.52 billion (2007 est.)
    note: includes the Colon Free Zone

    Imports - commodities(%)capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods, chemicals
    Imports - partners(%)US 29.6%, Costa Rica 5%, China 5%, Japan 4.2% (2008)

    Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$2.693 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
    $1.935 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
    Debt - external$11.26 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
    $10.45 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

    Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$NA
    Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$NA
    Exchange ratesbalboas (PAB) per US dollar - 1 (2008 est.), 1 (2007), 1 (2006), 1 (2005), 1 (2004)
    note: the US dollar is the legal currency

    Currency (code)balboa (PAB); US dollar (USD)

    Telephones - main lines in use495,800 (2008)
    Telephones - mobile cellular3.805 million (2008)
    Telephone systemgeneral assessment: domestic and international facilities well developed
    domestic: mobile-cellular telephone subscribership has increased rapidly with combined fixed and mobile-cellular teledensity reaching 130 per 100 persons in 2008
    international: country code - 507; landing point for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1), the MAYA-1, and PAN-AM submarine cable systems that together provide links to the US and parts of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to the Central American Microwave System (2008)
    Internet country code.pa
    Internet users934,500 (2008)
    Airports117 (2009)
    Roadways(km)total: 11,978 km
    paved: 4,300 km
    unpaved: 7,678 km (2002)

    Ports and terminalsBalboa, Colon, Cristobal
    Military branchesno regular military forces; Panamanian public forces include: Panamanian National Police (PNP), National Air-Naval Service (SENAN), National Border Service (SENAFRONT) (2009)
    Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 851,044 (2008 est.)
    Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 705,160
    females age 16-49: 710,521 (2009 est.)
    Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 31,089
    female: 29,939 (2009 est.)
    Military expenditures(% of GDP)1% of GDP (2006)
    Military - noteon 10 February 1990, the government of then President ENDARA abolished Panama's military and reformed the security apparatus by creating the Panamanian Public Forces; in October 1994, Panama's Legislative Assembly approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting the creation of a standing military force but allowing the temporary establishment of special police units to counter acts of "external aggression"
    Disputes - internationalorganized illegal narcotics operations in Colombia operate within the remote border region with Panama

    Trafficking in personscurrent situation: Panama is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation; the majority of victims are Panamanian women and children trafficked within the country into the sex trade; rural children in Panama may be trafficked internally to urban areas for labor exploitation
    tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Panama is on the Tier 2 Watch List for failing to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking, particularly with respect to prosecuting, convicting, and sentencing human traffickers for their crimes, and for failing to provide adequate victim assistance (2008)
    Electricity - production(kWh)6.322 billion kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 37%
    hydro: 61.3%
    nuclear: 0%
    other: 1.7% (2001)
    Electricity - consumption(kWh)5.17 billion kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - exports(kWh)124.9 million kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - imports(kWh)8.74 million kWh (2007 est.)
    Oil - production(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
    Oil - consumption(bbl/day)94,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
    Oil - exports(bbl/day)4,803 bbl/day (2007 est.)
    Oil - imports(bbl/day)87,100 bbl/day (2007 est.)
    Oil - proved reserves(bbl)0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
    Natural gas - production(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
    Natural gas - consumption(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
    Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
    Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)1% (2007 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS20,000 (2007 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - deathsfewer than 1,000 (2007 est.)
    Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: intermediate
    food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
    vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria (2009)
    Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
    total population: 91.9%
    male: 92.5%
    female: 91.2% (2000 census)

    School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 13 years
    male: 13 years
    female: 14 years (2006)
    Education expenditures(% of GDP)3.8% of GDP (2004)

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