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flag Panama Panama: Economic and Political Outline

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline


Economic Indicators

Before the international financial crisis, the Panamanian economy had the highest growth rate in Latin America (this was due to the enlargement of the canal, as well as the development of the Colon Free-Trade Zone, the banking and real estate sectors). The country resisted well the international financial crisis, the sensible slowdown of the activity interrupted the trend that was overheating its economy. Since then the country has experienced a solid growth, push by domestic demand:  in 2013 the rate was 7.5% after 7.5% in 2012. The revival of international trade and the increase in public investments have also strongly stimulated the country dynamism.

In a parallel direction as the large infrastructure and development projects (skyscraper, highway, enlargement of the canal and the construction of a third set of canal locks, construction of a new port in the Pacific, of an underground rail line and the restoration of Panama's bay), the president Martinelli has launched a five-year strategic plan 2010-2014 aiming at increasing the state's resources and reducing the public debt (40.8% in 2013). The tax regime, in a medium term, anticipates a tax law reform and the reinforcement of the fiscal administration. The president also wishes to clean Panama's reputation as a "fiscal paradise" and the country has already made progress in that ground: Panama has obtained the degree of a country for investment from different rating agencies; and the OECD has re-classified the country in the "gray list" instead of the "black list" of the non-cooperative fiscal paradise (tax-haven) countries.

In 2013, revenues from the Panama Canal represented around 8% of GDP, and 15% of State revenues.

Despite the remarkable progress that Panama has made, poverty still affects around 30% of the population and the inequalities are among the highest in Latin America. The unemployment rate (4.5% in 2013) is declining, but informal employment still involves more than 40% of the active population. In 2013, inflation was in decline and reached 4.2%.

Main Indicators 20112012201320142015 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 31.3235.94e40.4744.6949.14
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 10.910.
GDP per Capita (USD) 8,723e9,8331011,800e12,744
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) 0.40.2-1.3e-1.9e0.2
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 43.842.641.6e42.842.5
Inflation Rate (%)
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labor Force)
Current Account (billions USD) -4.99-3.82-4.81-4.82-5.21
Current Account (in % of GDP) -15.9-10.6-11.9e-10.8-10.6

Source: IMF - World Economic Outlook Database , Last Available Data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Agriculture has represented 3.7% of the GDP in 2013, employing 18% of the active population. The main productions of Panama are bananas and all other fruits, vegetables, corn, sugar, rice, coffee, construction wood, livestock and shrimp. Panama has limited natural resources: construction wood, copper and gold.

The industrial sector is moderate and contributes only 17.9% to the GDP. The main industrial activities are based on industrial food preparation, dairy products, sugar refinery, clothes manufacturing, petroleum products, chemical products, paper and its by-products, printing, furniture manufacturing and construction.

The tertiary sector, which contributes to more than 78.4% of the GDP and employs nearly two thirds of the active population (63% in 2013), is the real driver of the country's economy. It involves: finances, insurance, health and medical, transports, telecommunications, maritime services, tourism, the trade-free zone of the two points, public administration and trade. The Free-Zone of Colon, established in 1953, is a center of foreign investments in the manufacturing industry.

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 16.7 18.2 65.2
Value Added (in % of GDP) 3.5 22.1 74.4
Value Added (Annual % Change) 3.5 19.2 13.1

Source: World Bank - Last Available Data.

Monetary Indicators 20092010201120122013
Panamean Balboa (PAB) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD

Source: CIA - The world factbook - Last Available Data.


Learn more about Market Analyses about Panama on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

Indicator of Economic Freedom


The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Moderately Free
World Rank:
Regional Rank:

Distribution of Economic freedom in the world
Source: 2014 Index of Economic freedom, Heritage Foundation


Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.


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Foreign Trade in Figures

Panama is a country mainly directed towards export.  The Colon Free-Trade Zone, which is the 2nd largest free-trade zone in the world after Hong-Kong, displays the country's openness to foreign trade.  In 2013, the foreign trade's share was more than 25% of the GDP.  Panama mainly exports fishing and sea products, bananas, petroleum products, sugar and coffee. Panama's main clients are the EU, the United States, Canada and Costa Rica.

Panama essentially imports electrical equipment & electronics, crude oil, foodstuffs, chemicals, vehicles and pharmaceutical products. Panama's main suppliers are the United States, the EU, China, Costa Rica and Mexico.

The trade balance of the country is structurally in deficit, a trend that has increased in recent years with a trade deficit representing over 20% of GDP in 2013.

Based on services and an openness to foreign trade, the country's economy remains in 2014 very dependent on the international situation and on global demand.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20092010201120122013
Imports of Goods (million USD) 7,80116,73721,80223,39021,700
Exports of Goods (million USD) 94810,98714,55516,22015,500
Imports of Services (million USD) 2,1182,6513,3043,7824,240
Exports of Services (million USD) 5,4636,1577,1758,8209,331
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 75.570.679.379.8-
Trade Balance (million USD) -2,145-4,527-7,151-6,424-6,966
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 1,159-903-3,345-1,719-1,918
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 138.7139.7158.3154.8-

Source: WTO - World Trade Organization ; World Bank , Last Available Data


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
United States 18.8%
Canada 7.8%
China 6.1%
Costa Rica 5.9%
Germany 5.8%
See More Countries 55.5%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
United States 24.3%
China 7.9%
Mexico 4.1%
Costa Rica 4.0%
See More Countries 42.0%

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data


Main Products

- bn USD of products exported in 2013
Bananas, incl. plantains, fresh or driedBananas, incl. plantains, fresh or dried 11.3%
Crustaceans, fit for human consumption, whether in...Crustaceans, fit for human consumption, whether in shell or not, live, fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted or in brine, incl. crustaceans in shell cooked beforehand by steaming or by boiling in water; flours, meals and pellets of crustaceans, fit for human consumption 8.9%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 7.9%
Fish, fresh or chilled (excl. fish fillets and...Fish, fresh or chilled (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304) 5.6%
Ferrous waste and scrap; remelting scrap ingots of...Ferrous waste and scrap; remelting scrap ingots of iron or steel (excl. slag, scale and other waste from the production of iron or steel; radioactive waste and scrap; fragments of pigs, blocks or other primary forms of pig iron or spiegeleisen) 5.4%
See More Products 60.8%
- bn USD of products imported in 2013
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 19.4%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 6.1%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.6%
Automatic data processing machines and units...Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 1.6%
Bars and rods, of iron or non-alloy steel, not...Bars and rods, of iron or non-alloy steel, not further worked than forged, hot-rolled, hot-drawn or hot-extruded, but incl. those twisted after rolling (excl. in irregularly wound coils) 1.5%
See More Products 68.8%

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data

See More Products
More imports (Intracen Data)
More exports (Intracen Data)

Main Services

- bn USD of services exported in 2012
- bn USD of services imported in 2012

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Spanish only)
Ministry of Economy and Finance (Spanish only)
Ministry of Commerce and Industry (Spanish only)
Ministry of Public Works (Spanish only)
Statistical Office
Statistics Office (Spanish only)
Central Bank
Ministry of Economy and Finance (Spanish only)
National Bank of Panama (Spanish only)
Stock Exchange
Panama Stock Exchange
Search Engines
Economic Portals
Panama Canal Authority
Panama Financial Information Standards

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Political Outline

Executive Power
The President is both the chief of state and head of the government. The President is elected by popular vote to serve a five-year term, and has executive powers which include implementation of the law within the country and running the day-to-day affairs. He also appoints the Cabinet.
Legislative Power
The legislature in Panama is unicameral. The parliament, called the National Assembly, has 78 seats and its members are elected by popular vote for five-year terms. The legislature is a branch of the power which is equal to and independent of the executive. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly.
Main Political Parties
Panama's political system is based on a multi-party system with parties having to get along in order to form coalition governments. The country's major political parties are:
- PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) – a centre-left political party,
- PA (Panamenista Party) – party is a homage to Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid who was president of Panama three times,
- PS (Socialist Party) – a nationalist party,
- Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement – a liberal party,
- PP (People's Party) – Christian democrats,
- PLN (National Liberal Party) – liberals.
Current Political Leaders
Chief of state: President Juan Carlos VARELA (since 1 July 2014) - Panamist Party
Next Election Dates
Presidential: 2019
National Assembly: 2019

Indicator of Freedom of the Press


The world rankings, published annually, measures the violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire sent to partner organizations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and activists of human rights, including the main criteria - 44 in total - to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
24 places up compared to 2013

Source: Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2014, Reporters Without Borders


Indicator of Political Freedom


The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Political Freedom:

Map of freedom 2014
Source: Freedom House


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Last Updates: October 2014