Introduction    Panama Top of Page
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 were transferred to Panama by the end of 1999. In October 2006, Panamanians approved an ambitious plan (estimated to cost $5.3 billion) to expand the Canal. The project, which began in 2007 and could double the Canal's capacity, is expected to be completed in 2014-15.
   Geography    Panama Top of Page
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: 75,420 sq km
land: 74,340 sq km
water: 1,080 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 or edge of continental margin
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 Baru 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)
Total renewable water resources:
148 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.82 cu km/yr (67%/5%/28%)
per capita: 254 cu m/yr (2000)
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, Environmental Modification, 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 Top of Page
3,410,676 (July 2010 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 29.3% (male 501,950/female 481,750)
15-64 years: 63.9% (male 1,085,435/female 1,061,530)
65 years and over: 6.8% (male 106,934/female 122,875) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 27.2 years
male: 26.9 years
female: 27.6 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.463% (2010 est.)
Birth rate:
19.71 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
Death rate:
4.62 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
Net migration rate:
-0.46 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
urban population: 73% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 2.7% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.045 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 11.97 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 12.75 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 11.15 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.61 years
male: 74.85 years
female: 80.5 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.48 children born/woman (2010 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
1% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
20,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 1,000 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria (2009)
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: 91.9%
male: 92.5%
female: 91.2% (2000 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 14 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2007)
Education expenditures:
3.8% of GDP (2008)
   Government    Panama Top of Page
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 City
geographic coordinates: 8 58 N, 79 32 W
time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
11 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 1 territory* (comarca); Bocas del Toro, Comarca Kuna Yala, Comarca Ngobe-Bugle, 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; revised in 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 Ricardo MARTINELLI Berrocal (since 1 July 2009); Vice President Juan Carlos VARELA (since 1 July 2009); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Ricardo MARTINELLI Berrocal (since 1 July 2009); Vice President Juan Carlos VARELA (since 1 July 2009)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
(For more information visit the World Leaders website )
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for five-year terms (not eligible for immediate reelection; president and vice president must sit out two additional terms (10 years) before becoming eligible for reelection); election last held on 3 May 2009 (next to be held in 2014)
election results: Ricardo MARTINELLI Berrocal elected president; percent of vote - Ricardo MARTINELLI Berrocal 60%, Balbina HERRERA 38%, Guillermo ENDARA Galimany 2%
note: government coalition - CD (Democratic Change), Panamenista, MOLIRENA (Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement), and UP (Patriotic Union Party)
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (71 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held on 3 May 2009 (next to be held in May 2014)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PRD 26, Panamenista 22, CD 14, UP 4, Independent 2, MOLIRENA 2, PP 1
note: legislators from outlying rural districts 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 [Francisco SANCHEZ Cardenas]; Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement or MOLIRENA [Sergio GONZALEZ-Ruiz]; Panamenista Party [Juan Carlos VARELA Rodriguez] (formerly the Arnulfista Party); Patriotic Union Party or UP (combination of the Liberal National Party or PLN and the Solidarity Party or PS)[Guillermo "Billy" FORD and Anibal GALINDO]; Popular Party or PP [Rene ORILLAC] (formerly Christian Democratic Party or PDC)
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 Jaime Eduardo ALEMAN Healy
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 Diego, San Francisco, Tampa
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Barbara J. STEPHENSON
embassy: Edificio 783, Avenida Demetrio Basilio Lakas Panama, Apartado Postal 0816-02561, Zona 5, Panama City
mailing address: American Embassy Panama, Unit 0945, APO AA 34002
telephone: [507] 207-7000
FAX: [507] 317-5568
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; the blue and red colors are those of the main political parties (Conservatives and Liberals respectively) and the white denotes peace between them; the blue star stands for the civic virtues of purity and honesty, the red star signifies authority and law
   Economy    Panama Top of Page
Economy - overview:
Panama's dollarized economy rests primarily on a well-developed services sector that accounts for three-quarters 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 is scheduled to be completed by 2014 at a cost of $5.3 billion - about 25% 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 United States and China are the top users of the Canal, and while a lower volume of cargo is expected to transit the Canal with the global economic slowdown, higher transit fees will result in a net increase in revenues. Strong economic performance has not translated into broadly shared prosperity as Panama has the second worst income distribution in Latin America. About 30% of the population lives in poverty, however, during TORRIJOS's term poverty was reduced from 40% to 30% and unemployment dropped from 12% to 6%. In 2009, the world recession reduced the amount of revenues Panama earned through global shipping that transits the Canal. 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.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$40.81 billion (2009 est.)
$39.86 billion (2008 est.)
$36.01 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$24.71 billion (2009 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.4% (2009 est.)
10.7% (2008 est.)
12.1% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$12,100 (2009 est.)
$12,000 (2008 est.)
$11,100 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5.9%
industry: 17.2%
services: 76.8% (2009 est.)
Labor force:
1.448 million
note: shortage of skilled labor, but an oversupply of unskilled labor (2009 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 15%
industry: 18%
services: 67% (2006 est.)
Unemployment rate:
7% (2009 est.) 5.8% (2008 est.)
Population below poverty line:
28.6% (2006 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 0.8%
highest 10%: 41.4% (2006)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
56.1 (2003) 48.5 (1997)
Investment (gross fixed):
24.1% of GDP (2009 est.)
revenues: $6.125 billion
expenditures: $6.378 billion (2009 est.)
Public debt:
44.7% of GDP (2009 est.) 44.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.4% (2009 est.) 8.8% (2008 est.)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
8.25% (31 December 2009 ) 8.16% (31 December 2008 )
Stock of narrow money:
$3.764 billion (31 December 2008) $3.054 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of broad money:
$15.84 billion (31 December 2008) $14.05 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit:
$19.8 billion (31 December 2008 est.) $17.39 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$8.048 billion (31 December 2009) $6.568 billion (31 December 2008) $6.219 billion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture - products:
bananas, rice, corn, coffee, sugarcane, vegetables; livestock; shrimp
construction, brewing, cement and other construction materials, sugar milling
Industrial production growth rate:
3.1% (2009 est.)
Electricity - production:
6.322 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
5.17 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports:
124.9 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports:
8.74 million kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production:
1.61 bbl/day (2009 est.)
Oil - consumption:
93,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
Oil - exports:
4,803 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports:
87,100 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2010 est.)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2010 est.)
Current account balance:
-$2.33 billion (2009 est.) -$2.677 billion (2008 est.)
$10.9 billion (2009 est.) $10.32 billion (2008 est.)
note: includes the Colon Free Zone
Exports - commodities:
bananas, shrimp, sugar, coffee, clothing
Exports - partners:
Greece 21.03%, US 17.63%, Japan 9.87%, Germany 4.28%, Italy 4.27% (2009)
$12.93 billion (2009 est.) $14.87 billion (2008 est.)
note: includes the Colon Free Zone
Imports - commodities:
capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods, chemicals
Imports - partners:
Japan 36.21%, Singapore 16.86%, US 12.3%, China 7.84% (2009)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$3.125 billion (31 December 2009 est.) $2.515 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt - external:
$12.04 billion (31 December 2009 est.) $11.26 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
Exchange rates:
balboas (PAB) per US dollar - 1 (2009), 1 (2008), 1 (2007), 1 (2006), 1 (2005)
note: the US dollar is the legal currency
   Communications    Panama Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
524,000 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
3.915 million (2008)
Telephone system:
general assessment: domestic and international facilities well developed
domestic: mobile-cellular telephone subscribership has increased rapidly with combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity reaching 135 per 100 persons in 2008
international: country code - 507; landing point for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1), the MAYA-1, and PAN-AM submarine cable systems that together provide links to the US and parts of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to the Central American Microwave System (2008)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 101, FM 134, shortwave 0 (1998)
Television broadcast stations:
38 (including repeaters) (1998)
Broadcast media:
multiple privately-owned television networks and a government-owned educational TV station; multi-channel cable and satellite TV subscription services are available; more than 100 commercial radio stations (2007)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
9,585 (2010)
Internet users:
959,800 (2009)
   Transportation    Panama Top of Page
118 (2010)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 54
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 17
under 914 m: 30 (2010)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 64
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 52 (2010)
3 (2010)
total: 76 km
standard gauge: 76 km 1.435-m gauge (2008)
total: 11,978 km
paved: 4,300 km
unpaved: 7,678 km (2002)
800 km (includes the 82-km Panama Canal that is being widened) (2010)
Merchant marine:
total: 6,379
by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 2,383, cargo 1,129, carrier 18, chemical tanker 626, combination ore/oil 3, container 751, liquefied gas 192, passenger 42, passenger/cargo 61, petroleum tanker 576, refrigerated cargo 212, roll on/roll off 100, specialized tanker 3, vehicle carrier 282
foreign-owned: 5,244 (Albania 3, Argentina 7, Australia 5, Azerbaijan 1, Bahamas 7, Bangladesh 3, Belgium 2, Bermuda 15, Brazil 3, Bulgaria 6, Burma 3, Canada 5, Chile 17, China 574, Colombia 2, Croatia 2, Cuba 4, Cyprus 8, Denmark 46, Ecuador 6, Egypt 11, Finland 2, France 13, Gabon 1, Germany 27, Gibraltar 1, Greece 402, Hong Kong 125, India 17, Indonesia 14, Iran 5, Ireland 1, Isle of Man 11, Israel 1, Italy 23, Japan 2347, Jordan 13, Kuwait 12, Latvia 4, Lebanon 2, Lithuania 4, Luxembourg 1, Malaysia 12, Maldives 3, Malta 2, Mexico 6, Monaco 14, Morocco 1, Netherlands 8, Nigeria 7, Norway 89, Oman 8, Pakistan 5, Peru 12, Philippines 6, Poland 3, Portugal 9, Qatar 1, Romania 2, Russia 39, Saudi Arabia 8, Singapore 79, South Korea 366, Spain 40, Sweden 1, Switzerland 22, Syria 42, Taiwan 337, Tanzania 2, Thailand 6, Tunisia 1, Turkey 79, UAE 83, UK 33, Ukraine 11, US 102, Venezuela 8, Vietnam 37, Yemen 4)
registered in other countries: 1 (Honduras 1) (2010)
Ports and terminals:
Balboa, Colon, Cristobal
   Military    Panama Top of Page
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.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 731,254
females age 16-49: 728,329 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 32,142
female: 30,879 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
1% of GDP (2006)
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 Top of Page
organized illegal narcotics operations in Colombia operate within the remote 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 14 May 2009


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