The Republic of Panama is a country of dichotomies. From the lush tropical jungle to the urban sprawl of the capital city, Panama's contrasting nature presents itself repeatedly. In the city, tall skyscrapers and flashy billboards populate the skyline while many of the city’s poorest live nearby, in crumbling houses. The Panama Canal symbolizes the economic might of this small Central American nation, with its impressive 9 percent annual GDP growth. However, Panama's extremely unequal wealth distribution can be seen from its Gini coefficient of 52. The countryside houses the majority of Panama’s poor populations, who are often beyond the coverage of basic health, water, and educational services. The abundance of natural resources clashes with the harsh economic poverty of many rural communities.
Despite these challenges, Panama retains great strength in its diverse population and undeniable natural beauty. The international importance of the Canal attracts people from across the globe. The diverse international community, combined with Panama's Hispanic roots and indigenous populations, form a melting pot of cultures. In one afternoon, it is possible to buy a candy bar from a Chinese-owned corner store, eat lunch at a Lebanese restaurant, and buy indigenous artisan crafts on a street corner. In spite of and due to these circumstances, a feeling of optimism arises from Panamanians, who create the sense that anything and everything is possible.
Around 30% of the Panamanian population lives in poverty; the majority of these citizens live in rural communities, beyond basic health, water and educational services found in cities. Economic isolationism remains common in communities with poor transportation infrastructure. This isolation, coupled with the perception that Panama City boasts adbundant employment opportunity, fosters urban migration, a trend with many social repercussions.
• One of Panama City’s most expensive pieces of real estate, Costa del Este, is constructed upon the city’s old landfill.
• The Pan-American Highway begins in Circle, Alaska and continues all the way to Ushuaia, Argentina. The road's only discontinuity occurs at the "Darien Gap," a 99 mile impassable break in Panama/Colombia which begins at the town of Yaviza, Darien Province, Panama.
• Richard Halliburton (an American adventurer) paid the Panama Canal's lowest documented toll, 36 cents, when he swam the length of the Canal in 1928.
Capital city: Panama City (pop. 1.34 million)
Ethnicities: Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, White 10%, Amerindian 6%
Languages: Spanish (official), English 14%, Indigenous Languages 6%
Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%
Government: Constitutional Democracy
GDP: US$58.02 billion
GDP Per Capita: US$15,900
Real growth rate: 10.7%
Currency: the US Dollar but referred to as ‘Balboas’ in Panama.
Major industries: Construction, brewing, cement and other construction materials, sugar milling
Major trading partners: U.S., Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Japan, Mexico, Colombia
National Flag: Square flag divided into 4 quadrants of equal rectangles with stars and red, white and blue coloring. The red quadrant represents the Liberal Party, and the blue quadrant represents the Conservative Party. The white stands for peace and purity. The blue star stands for the honesty and purity of the life of the country, and the red star represents the authority and law in the country. Together the stars stand for a new republic.
Health risks: dengue fever, bacterial diarrhea and low prevalence of malaria and HIV/AIDS
Time: CST (Same as Chicago, USA). Panama does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
Climate: tropical environment; hot, humid and cloudy; varying rainy seasons from May to January, with a sporadic dry season from January to May.