Work began yesterday on the much touted Panamanian Metro system, due for completion in 2013. As our readers already know, this will be a 14KM underground and above ground metro traversing the city.
This second week of February also saw a spate of major construction announcements, including a proposed fourth bridge crossing the canal as well as several high profile in-town road projects totaling over $120MM. No doubt, Panama will be a true “work in progress” for the next few years, but it’s fantastic to imagine what this country is going to be like once the construction is completed! It will certainly be a welcome relief to the traffic we’ve all had to deal with at one point or another.
One thing that I’ve noticed in my four years out here is that government projects, specifically in the case of road projects, are almost always completed before their published deadline. The Cinta Costera and Panama-Colon highways are the perfect examples. These are definite exceptions to the “mañana mindset” expats so often complain about.
In other news, the residential construction sector in November 2010 experienced a 20.4% growth compared to the same month in 2009. The sector saw the strongest growth in the following areas: La Chorrera, Aguadulce, Arraiján , Chitré, Panamá and San Miguelito. In non-residential construction news, work is expected to begin on the new 6,000 square meter cold chain storage facility in David in the 2nd quarter of 2011.
Real Estate Update
January marked one of the best months we’ve had here at Panama Equity, and this in spite of a city-wide water shortage and epic snowstorms in North America. Rental activity in the city has been high according to most of my fellow real estate agents. Prices have remained flat in the first quarter of this year, and I don’t expect any upward price trending until closer to the end of the year.
This will be a very interesting year for real estate in Panama, especially considering the fact that several high profile construction projects will be delivered including the Trump Ocean Club, Megapolis Tower, as well as a number of medium sized hotels from operators like the Hilton and Starwood groups.
Carnival coming up in March 4th – 8th
This year will mark the first time that Carnival will be held on the Cinta Costera in Panama City. For those readers who have never been to Panama before, Carnival marks four days where 95% of business comes to a virtual standstill and the entire country parties like it’s 1999. Most residents in the city usually end up taking a vacation either outside of Panama or in the interior to places like Las Tablas, but this year may be different as it will be the first time the government of Panama has allowed celebrations to be on the City’s coastal trip.
Carnival in the city this year should be a beautiful site, with fireworks, floats and music set to the backdrop of Casco Antiguo and the Panama skyline. Note: Carnival is a great time to come visit, but may not be the best first trip to Panama as most places will be either closed or on limited Carnival-hours.
El Cangrejo-Neighborhood spotlight
Yes, maybe I’m biased because El Cangrejo is the neighborhood that I call “home”, however I can name very few other neighborhoods in Panama that have the fantastic variety of restaurants that we enjoy literally just around the corner. We have at our doorstep a new French restaurant, 1000 feet from there a Spanish restaurant, and continuing along the same (quiet) street, we’ve got a Mexican, Peruvian, and Panamanian seafood restaurant. For those locals in our readership, I’m referring to the new La Raffine, Abacanto, Le Mar, El Patio Mexicano, and Siete Mares. And that is just on MY street!
Head down to Via Argentina and any night of the week you can enjoy a Cuban, Colombian, Venezuelan, Italian, or Chinese dinner. Like bagels? Check out the spot that introduced Panama to the coffee house concept: New York Bagel Café. Just next door is a new Colombian-owned pub (arguably the hottest pub in Panama City) and across from them, a great Asian grocer where I choose from a large assortment of tropical fruits and vegetables.
El Cangrejo has a great park that hosts yoga and aerobics classes in the mornings as well as live music events on the weekends. Got friends in town? Put them up at any one of El Cangrejo’s hotels including the Veneto, La Toscana, or Riande hotels all offering nightly stays well under $100.00. With the exception of Casco Viejo, El Cangrejo is Panama City’s preeminent walking neighborhood with just about everything you need within a 5-10 minute walk. Traffic has also recently been alleviated in El Cangrejo thanks to new streetlights, stoplights, and crosswalks.
Every evening I watch the sun set over the city skyline and wait for the pair of lovebirds that call the tree in front of our building home to come back at night. They are like clockwork: 6:30 pm, flapping their short wings that carry their fat little bodies gracefully through the air.
GDP outpacing manufacturing growth
In the past five years, industry in Panama has had virtually no impact on gross domestic product (GDP). Figures from the Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR) reveal that the percentage change in manufacturing was much lower than the GDP but this trend seems to be improving and may be bolstered by the ratification of the Panama/USA free trade agreement. An interesting statistic: from 2005-2010, GDP growth in Panama has been on average of 8%, but industrial manufacturing growth has been less than 3% during the same time period.
Now more than ever the country’s geographical position and it’s recognition as an international logistics center opens new opportunities for industries, both domestic and international. Panama no doubt has great potential for industry using plant material, fruits, fishery products, agro-industry prducts and minerals, segments a few years ago were not taken into account by most manufacturers.
Companies like Sony, Panasonic, L’Oreal, Hitachi, Daewoo, Mitsubishi, Unilever and Bosch all have a small manufacturing presence in Panama, and the Panamanian government continues to court additional multinational companies. From the allure of Ciudad de Saber (home to a number of multi-national corporations) to the new and impressive Panama Pacifico, foreign businesses continue to reiterate the draw we’ve known now for several years: that Panama’s strategic location and improving infrastructure will have a central role in the evolution of Central America for many decades to come.