January 1, 2005
Tolls on ships using the canal exceeded $1 billion in 2004.
Panama's famous canal has been a reliable money-spinner for years, even after it passed from US to Panamanian control in 1999. Toll revenues for the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) last fiscal year passed the $1 billion mark for the first time. Yet the 50-mile waterway completed in 1914 is showing its age, and a new generation of mega-ships cannot fit through its locks. As a result, the Authority is mulling a $10 billion expansion plan.
"If we look back at 1999, people were betting that we couldn't manage the canal and much less expand it," says Alberto Alemá
For 91 years, the Panama Canal has virtually defined the country. Now a debate is underway over a $10 billion plan to widen the waterway so it can take bigger ships.