Panama

 

Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela – 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 was transferred 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:
Location: 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
People:
Population: 3,510,045 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 28.6% (male 504,726/female 484,291)

15-64 years: 64.2% (male 1,123,777/female 1,098,661)

65 years and over: 7.2% (male 115,425/female 133,582) (2011 est.)

Government:
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
Communications:
Telephones – main lines in use: 553,100 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 6.496 million (2009)
Transportation:
Airports: 118 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 55

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: 30 (2012)

Military:
Military branches: no regular military forces; Panamanian public forces include: Panamanian National Police (PNP), National Air-Naval Service (SENAN), National Border Service (SENAFRONT) (2010)
Manpower available for military service: Males age 16-49: 890,006 (2010 est.)

Economy:

Panama’s dollarized 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. Economic growth will be bolstered by the Panama Canal expansion project that began in 2007 and should be completed by 2014 at a cost of $5.3 billion (about 30% of current GDP).

 

The expansion project will more than double the Canal’s capacity, enabling it to accommodate ships that are now too large to transverse the transoceanic crossway and should help to reduce the high unemployment rate. The government has implemented tax reforms, as well as social security reforms, and backs regional trade agreements and development of tourism. Not a CAFTA signatory, Panama in December 2006 independently negotiated a free trade agreement with the US, which, when implemented, will help promote the country’s economic growth.

Transnational Issues:

Disputes – international: organized illegal narcotics operations in Colombia operate within the remote border region with Panama
Illicit drugs: major cocaine transhipment 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