Panama: Building a deficit

Mar 1, 2013

Construction is driving Panama's economy, and the infrastructure boom goes far beyond the canal expansion, with mining set to increase. But budget worries still lurk in the background

By Lucien Chauvin

If the Panamanian government was looking for an appropriate way to portray its current economic bonanza, its search could end with the country's coat of arms.

Commissioned nearly 110 years ago, it is the only one of its kind in Latin America that includes a shovel and a pick. They were meant as symbols of work and are as appropriate today as they were more than a century ago.

Panama is flush with jobs and finished 2012 with an unemployment rate at 4%, the lowest in its history and well below the regional average of 6.4%. Unemployment in Panama a decade ago was 12%, which was above the regional average, according to the World Bank. The commerce ministry reported that 28,986 new businesses were created in 2012, not only representing nearly $1 billion in investment but creating close to 100,000 new jobs.

Low employment...

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