Straightening Out the Future

Feb 1, 2002

With a history as an international finanacial services center, Panama is on the cusp of redefining its global role. Despite a stubborn economy and contentious politics, the country has the tools to proceed.

Any real estate salesman knows the key to success: location, location, and location. Perhaps no country has demonstrated the truth behind the maxim, or defined itself quite so completely in terms of its geographical position, as Panama.

The nation of 2.8 million people, which next year celebrates 100 years of independence, has built its economy on being the meeting point - and melting pot - of the Americas since colonial times. Railway engineers, canal builders, and today's layers of fiberoptic cables have all found that the best way to connect the globe is across this 50-mile-wide isthmus that bridges Central and South America.

Helped by the solid foundation provided by the US dollar, which Panama adopted at independence, the country has always found a niche in facilitating international services such as banking and trade. A long-standing presence of US troops and...

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