On an Upward Track

Jan 1, 2005

Panama City gained prominence as Latin America's premier offshore banking center, but it's not the only game in town anymore.

Oversight has improved in the banking sector.
Panamanian bankers claim they are not worried as other offshore banking centers, primarily in the Caribbean, make a grab for more business. The competitors, they say, are merely plaques on an office door.

"The big difference between Panama and other markets is that banks have a physical presence here," says Raúl Alemán, president of the Panamanian Banking Association and CEO of Banco General. "In the Cayman Islands, there are 200 or 300 banks, but they're just nameplates." Alemán contends many of the world's top offshore banking centers do not require banks to maintain a presence beyond a bank license, attracting a more transient crowd. Bankers say Panama City's International Banking Center (IBC), by comparison, is anchored in the country, employing 12,400 workers and contributing 8% to the country's GDP.

Bankers may sound as if they...

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