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Flag of Panama
Map of Panama
Introduction Panama
Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador - 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 transfered to Panama by the end of 1999. In October 2006, Panamanians approved an ambitious plan to expand the Canal. The project, which is to begin in 2007 and could double the Canal's capacity, is expected to be completed in 2014-15.
Geography Panama
Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica
Geographic coordinates:
9 00 N, 80 00 W
Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 78,200 sq km
land: 75,990 sq km
water: 2,210 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than South Carolina
Land boundaries:
total: 555 km
border countries: Colombia 225 km, Costa Rica 330 km
2,490 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)
interior mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected, upland plains; coastal areas largely plains and rolling hills
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Volcan de Chiriqui 3,475 m
Natural resources:
copper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 7.26%
permanent crops: 1.95%
other: 90.79% (2005)
Irrigated land:
430 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards:
occasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien area
Environment - current issues:
water 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 agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, 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 - note:
strategic 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
People Panama
3,191,319 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 30.3% (male 492,403/female 472,996)
15-64 years: 63.4% (male 1,025,898/female 998,926)
65 years and over: 6.3% (male 94,122/female 106,974) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 26.1 years
male: 25.8 years
female: 26.5 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.6% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
21.74 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
5.36 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
-0.4 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.88 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 16.37 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 17.75 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 14.92 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 75.22 years
male: 72.68 years
female: 77.87 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.68 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.9% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
16,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 500 (2003 est.)
noun: Panamanian(s)
adjective: Panamanian
Ethnic groups:
mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%
Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%
Spanish (official), English 14%; note - many Panamanians bilingual
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 92.6%
male: 93.2%
female: 91.9% (2003 est.)
Government Panama
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Panama
conventional short form: Panama
local long form: Republica de Panama
local short form: Panama
Government type:
constitutional democracy
name: Panama
geographic coordinates: 8 58 N, 79 32 W
time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
9 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 1 territory* (comarca); Bocas del Toro, Chiriqui, Cocle, Colon, Darien, Herrera, Los Santos, Panama, San Blas*(Kuna Yala), and Veraguas
3 November 1903 (from Colombia; became independent from Spain 28 November 1821)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 3 November (1903)
11 October 1972; major reforms adopted 1978, 1983, 1994, and 2004
Legal system:
based on civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court of Justice; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
18 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Martin TORRIJOS Espino (since 1 September 2004); First Vice President Samuel LEWIS Navarro (since 1 September 2004); Second Vice President Ruben AROSEMENA Valdes (since 1 September 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Martin TORRIJOS Espino (since 1 September 2004); First Vice President Samuel LEWIS Navarro (since 1 September 2004); Second Vice President Ruben AROSEMENA Valdes (since 1 September 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president and vice presidents elected on the same ticket by popular vote for five-year terms (eligible for two more terms); election last held 2 May 2004 (next to be held 3 May 2009); note - beginning in 2009, Panama will have only one vice president.
election results: Martin TORRIJOS Espino elected president; percent of vote - Martin TORRIJOS Espino 47.5%, Guillermo ENDARA Galimany 30.6%, Jose Miguel ALEMAN 17%, Ricardo MARTINELLI 4.9%
note: government coalition - PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party), PP (Popular Party)
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly (formerly called Legislative Assembly) or Asamblea Nacional (78 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms); note - in 2009, the number of seats will change to 71
elections: last held 2 May 2004 (next to be held 3 May 2009)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PRD 41, PA 17, PS 9, MOLIRENA 4, CD 3, PLN 3, PP 1
note: as of January 2006, the composition of the legislature is as follows: seats by party - PRD 42, PA 16, PS 9, MOLIRENA 4, CD 3, PLN 3, 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 branch:
Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (nine judges appointed for 10-year terms); five superior courts; three courts of appeal
Political parties and leaders:
Democratic Change or CD [Ricardo MARTINELLI]; Democratic Revolutionary Party or PRD [Hugo GUIRAUD]; Liberal Party or PL [Joaquin F. Franco VASQUEZ]; Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement or MOLIRENA [Gisela CHUNG]; Panamenista Party or PA (formerly the Arnulfista Party) [Juan Carlos VARELA]; Patriotic Union Party or PUP [Jose Raul MULINO and Anibal GALINDO]; Popular Party or PP (formerly Christian Democratic Party or PDC) [Rene ORILLAC]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Chamber 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 participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Federico HUMBERT Arias
chancery: 2862 McGill Terrace NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 483-1407
FAX: [1] (202) 483-8416
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Tampa
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador William A. EATON
embassy: Avenida Balboa and Calle 37, Apartado Postal 0816-02561, Zona 5, Panama City 5
mailing address: American Embassy Panama, Unit 0945, APO AA 34002
telephone: [507] 207-7000
FAX: [507] 227-1964
Flag description:
divided 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 Panama
Economy - overview:
Panama's dollarised economy rests primarily on a well-developed services sector that accounts for three-fourths of GDP. Services include operating the Panama Canal, banking, the Colon Free Zone, insurance, container ports, flagship registry, and tourism. A slump in the Colon Free Zone and agricultural exports, the global slowdown, and the withdrawal of US military forces held back economic growth in 2000-03; growth picked up in 2004-06 led by export-oriented services and a construction boom stimulated by tax incentives. The government has implemented tax reforms, as well as social security reforms, and backs regional trade agreements and development of tourism. Unemployment remains high. In October 2006, voters passed a referendum to expand the Panama Canal to accommodate ships that are now too large to cross the transoceanic crossway. Not a CAFTA signatory, Panama in December 2006 independently negotiated a free trade agreement with the United States, which, when implemented, will help promote the country's economic growth.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$25.29 billion (2006 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$16.2 billion (2006 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
6.3% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$7,900 (2006 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 7.2%
industry: 16.4%
services: 76.4% (2006 est.)
Labor force:
1.441 million
note: shortage of skilled labor, but an oversupply of unskilled labor (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 20.8%
industry: 18%
services: 61.2% (1995 est.)
Unemployment rate:
8.8% (2006 est.)
Population below poverty line:
37% (1999 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.2%
highest 10%: 35.7% (1997)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
56.4 (2000)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.6% (2006 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
17.5% of GDP (2006 est.)
revenues: $4.157 billion
expenditures: $4.489 billion; including capital expenditures of $471 million (2006 est.)
Public debt:
61.3% of GDP (2006 est.)
Agriculture - products:
bananas, rice, corn, coffee, sugarcane, vegetables; livestock; shrimp
construction, brewing, cement and other construction materials, sugar milling
Industrial production growth rate:
3% (2006 est.)
Electricity - production:
7.545 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 37%
hydro: 61.3%
nuclear: 0%
other: 1.7% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
6.888 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - exports:
207 million kWh (2004)
Electricity - imports:
78 million kWh (2004)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - consumption:
79,000 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - exports:
NA bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
NA bbl/day; note - imports oil (2001)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Current account balance:
$-467 million (2006 est.)
$8.087 billion f.o.b.; note - includes the Colon Free Zone (2006 est.)
Exports - commodities:
bananas, shrimp, sugar, coffee, clothing
Exports - partners:
US 44.9%, Spain 8.9%, Sweden 5.6%, Netherlands 4.9%, Costa Rica 4% (2005)
$9.365 billion f.o.b. (includes the Colon Free Zone) (2006 est.)
Imports - commodities:
capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods, chemicals
Imports - partners:
US 27.5%, Netherlands Antilles 11.4%, Costa Rica 4.7%, Japan 4.5% (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$1.236 billion (2006 est.)
Debt - external:
$9.993 billion (2006 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$197.1 million (1995)
Currency (code):
balboa (PAB); US dollar (USD)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
balboas per US dollar - 1 (2006), 1 (2005), 1 (2004), 1 (2003), 1 (2002)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Panama
Telephones - main lines in use:
440,100 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
1.352 million (2005)
Telephone system:
general assessment: domestic and international facilities well developed
domestic: NA
international: country code - 507; 1 coaxial submarine cable; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to the Central American Microwave System
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 101, FM 134, shortwave 0 (1998)
815,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
38 (including repeaters) (1998)
510,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
7,149 (2006)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
6 (2000)
Internet users:
300,000 (2005)
Transportation Panama
117 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 53
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 18
under 914 m: 28 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 64
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 10
under 914 m: 53 (2006)
total: 355 km
standard gauge: 77 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 278 km 0.914-m gauge (2005)
total: 11,643 km
paved: 4,028 km
unpaved: 7,615 km (2000)
800 km (includes 82 km Panama Canal) (2005)
Merchant marine:
total: 5,473 ships (1000 GRT or over) 146,511,342 GRT/219,940,567 DWT
by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 1,776, cargo 992, chemical tanker 476, combination ore/oil 2, container 663, liquefied gas 193, livestock carrier 7, passenger 49, passenger/cargo 77, petroleum tanker 518, refrigerated cargo 299, roll on/roll off 123, specialized tanker 23, vehicle carrier 274
foreign-owned: 4,922 (Anguilla 1, Argentina 9, Australia 3, Bahamas, The 2, Belgium 11, Bermuda 1, Bulgaria 1, Canada 4, Chile 9, China 420, Colombia 5, Croatia 5, Cuba 11, Cyprus 14, Denmark 34, Egypt 16, Estonia 3, France 15, Gabon 1, Germany 35, Greece 524, Hong Kong 169, India 19, Indonesia 50, Iran 4, Ireland 2, Israel 6, Italy 15, Japan 2007, Jordan 13, South Korea ( ( (291, Kuwait 2, Latvia 3, Lebanon 2, Lithuania 5, Malaysia 13, Maldives 1, Malta 3, Mexico 5, Monaco 9, Morocco 1, Netherlands 21, Nigeria 7, Norway 66, Pakistan 3, Peru 15, Philippines 13, Poland 15, Portugal 10, Qatar 1, Romania 9, Russia 7, Saudi Arabia 8, Singapore 67, South Africa 3, Spain 53, Sri Lanka 5, Sudan 1, Sweden 5, Switzerland 226, Syria 18, Taiwan 308, Thailand 9, Trinidad and Tobago 1, Turkey 42, UAE 105, UK 37, Ukraine 8, US 94, Venezuela 14, Vietnam 4, Yemen 3)
registered in other countries: 1 (Venezuela 1) (2006)
Ports and terminals:
Balboa, Colon, Cristobal
Military Panama
Military branches:
an amendment to the Constitution abolished the armed forces, but there are security forces (Panamanian Public Forces or PPF includes the Panamanian National Police, National Maritime Service, and National Air Service)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 18-49: 751,065 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 18-49: 591,604 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually:
males age 18-49: 29,724
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$150 million (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1% (2005 est.)
Military - note:
on 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"
Transnational Issues Panama
Disputes - international:
organized illegal narcotics operations in Colombia operate within the border region with Panama
Illicit drugs:
major cocaine transshipment point and primary money-laundering center for narcotics revenue; money-laundering activity is especially heavy in the Colon Free Zone; offshore financial center; negligible signs of coca cultivation; monitoring of financial transactions is improving; official corruption remains a major problem

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007