The Panama Canal was once christened “one of the world’s greatest labour mobilisations.” Almost a hundred years after its inauguration, that monumental public work is still boosting the country’s economy.
The narrow nation will grow three times Latin America’s average of 3.1 per cent this year. According to the latest report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, or ECLAC, Panama’s economy is expected to expand by 10.5 per cent in 2012. Last year, the country grew 10.8 per cent.
With the $5.2bn expansion of the Panama Canal, a new metro and airports under construction, along with a raft of luxury hotels, Panama’s 3.5m population can hardly satisfy demands on the nation’s workforce.
And now it’s official. Panama is the number one hotspot for jobs in the Americas. The most recent survey by Manpower shows that Panama has a 26 per cent net trend towards job creation – the percentage of companies that aim to hire people in the fourth quarter subtracted by those who aim to lay off personnel.
Growth in Brazil, India and China might be losing steam, Europe might be mired in its sovereign debt crisis and the US might continue to limp along. But at least there’s Panama.
In this year’s first quarter, Panama’s economy was in double-digit growth mode at 10.4 per cent year on year, according to Frank De Lima, the finance minister.
Forget the wide-brimmed white hats that Panama is synonymous with. The country’s latest export? Remittances.
While remittances from their emigrants have long been a part of the lifeblood of the economies of Mexico and Central America – Panama has emerged as an exception in the region. The country last year became a net exporter, rather than recipient, of remittances. It reported outward remittances of just over $1bn in 2011. This was money sent by foreigners who live and work in Panama to their home countries, mainly the United States and Colombia.
Somebody forgot to tell Panama about the eurozone crisis. While the rest of the world is slowing, its economy is set to expand by 10 per cent this year and 7.5 per cent next. And those are real figures, as Finance Minister Frank de Lima told beyondbrics. In the nominal terms most people use, those numbers hit the teens. Few countries, perhaps none, can match that.