Future looks bright for Panama
PANAMA. There is no mistaking where we are, soaring above the Central American isthmus and over the Bridge of the Americas – an ironwor...
PANAMA. There is no mistaking where we are, soaring above the Central American isthmus and over the Bridge of the Americas – an ironwork structure that from the air looks as if it is a giant's clasp fastening North and South America together either side of the Panama Canal, writes Richard McColl in Britain’s prestigious Daily Telegraph, widely read by the well to do.
Our plane banks up and over an endless line of waiting tankers before catching a glimpse of Panama City's exponential upward – or even skyward – growth.
For the centre city now resembles a mirrored glass complex of clustered stalagmites, although you'll hear estate agents and residents claiming that the city has a "Manhattan" skyline.
Panama is booming, in fact it has been booming for some time now. Those who missed the boat in Miami and found Costa Rica inadequate and too costly, set their sights on this sliver of a country that since the strongman Manuel Noriega was deposed in 1989 has been a model of stability.
Many expat retired people have also been enticed into investing in property here because of Panama's easy access to both oceans, abundance of flora and fauna, by a favorable climate – which conveniently lies south of the hurricane belt – and most importantly the infrastructure.
"Panama is in a privileged location, multinational firms are moving their Americas headquarters here, Panama City has all the benefits of a first world city and Tocumen International airport has daily flights to 42 countries," says Jaime Figueroa, of estate agents Panama All in One.
Sitting in the shade of a jacaranda tree in a handsome plaza in the colonial Casco Viejo quarter of the city, my reflections on Panama's history as key to Spanish imperialism in South and central America are interrupted by a raucously loud Blackberry device.
Carefully I cast a glance over my shoulder to see a fifty something North American woman, sipping tonic water sitting before a pile of immaculate office files.
There's no doubt about it, she's an estate agent. And by the sound of things business is good.
Could this be the agent who brokered the deal for Sean Connery or for Mel Gibson in Panama's current hot spot, the Azuero Peninsula, an axe-head shaped parcel of land in Panama's southwest jutting out into the Pacific?
Brian Requarth, managing director of VivaReal, an English language online property site, says: "We saw Panama as a key market as there are a growing number of investors drawn to the area.
“The country has provided some excellent incentives to attract foreign investors to the region and the strategic location really makes Panama a bridge into South America."
These incentives include a conservative banking industry and a stable economy, the balboa is pegged to the US dollar.
In addition to this, the Panamanian authorities have waived property taxes on people investing in Panama for a period of 20 years as well as not taxing earnings made elsewhere.
In short, Panama has a slice of everything and something for everyone.
With a new government elected in May that is ambitious and overtly friendly and open to foreign investors, the future looks brighter and brighter for Panama.