President Martinelli’s administration has changed its position and halted the Bill on bearer shares.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
This topic has been critical in heated debates regarding its usefulness, and which up until now had been advocated by the Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima.
According to an artcile in Prensa.com, “With less than two months to go before the key date for approving the bill which seeks to immobilize bearer shares, the administration of Ricardo Martinelli, who defended the move, has made a u turn and decided to suspend the debate in the National Assembly. ”
“… In 2011 the OECD removed Panama from the list of “tax havens”, but the agency must assess whether the Panamanian laws effectively allow the exchange of financial information. ”
“… Sources have indicated that the u turn is a result of pressures of heavy lobbying by a group of jurists and lawyers led by Eduardo Morgan, Jr., who have opposed the proposal, arguing that it affects national integrity . ”
After receiving the first amount of $ 100 million in May 2011, the WorldÂ Bank said the government of Ricardo Martinelli has improved procurementÂ system with the PanamĂˇCompra program.Â It now has approved an additional $100 million.
WASHINGTON DC, March 26th, 2013 â€“ The World BankÂ Board of Directors approved a new US$100 million programmatic loan toÂ support Panamaâ€™s Â efforts to improve tax revenue, fiscal management andÂ transparency, and make social programs â€” which currently benefit moreÂ than 925,000 Panamanians â€” more efficient.
This is the second loan in a series of three programmatic loansÂ supporting the Governmentâ€™s plan to modernize and strengthen financialÂ management institutions and public procurement systems.
The plan also includes measures to increase transparency and theÂ exchange of tax information, expand the fiscal space via tax reforms andÂ improve the coverage and efficiency of the â€śBeca Universalâ€ť (UniversalÂ Scholarship), â€ś100 a los 70â€ť (100 at 70) and â€śRed de Oportunidadesâ€ťÂ (Opportunity Network) social protection programs. The first US$100Â million loan in the programmatic series was approved by the World Bankâ€™sÂ Board of Directors on May 4th, 2011.
The Government of Panama has already taken steps to reach its goal toÂ increase tax revenue by 13 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) inÂ 2014 â€“from 11 percent of GDP in 2009. Such measures include Â expansionÂ of the tax base, reducing fiscal exemptions and establishing a MajorÂ Contributor Unit. In order to improve the exchange of tax information,Â Panama has responded to 21 tax information requests from foreignÂ jurisdictions.
â€śWorld Bank support is essential to ensure that the Government ofÂ Panama keeps improving the efficiency and transparency of publicÂ administration.Â Â Measures to increase tax revenue, improveÂ Â taxÂ information exchange, establish best practices for public procurementsÂ and strengthen social programs will provide better social and economicÂ opportunities for all and help reduce poverty in Panama.â€ť said Frank De Lima, Minister of Finance of Panama.
In order to increase the transparency and efficiency of publicÂ procurements, Panama has also strengthened the Governmentâ€™s contractingÂ and procurement system through the creation and widespreadÂ implementation of the PanamĂˇCompra e-platform and the inclusion of more government agencies in framework agreements for the procurement of goods.
These framework agreements, which allow the Government to obtainÂ lower prices and improved performance from suppliers, now include aÂ catalog of 5,629 items commonly purchased by public institutions, moreÂ than double the 2,452 items registered in 2009.
With regards to the coverage and efficiency of social protectionÂ programs, the Social Development Ministry (MIDES, in Spanish) hasÂ adopted new eligibility criteria for beneficiaries of the â€ś100 a los 70â€ťÂ program, which provides US$100 to more than 86,000 pensioners over 70Â years of age that are neither covered by a pension plan nor the â€śRed deÂ Oportunidadesâ€ť program (which directly benefits more than 357,000Â people).
Moreover, the Training and Utilization of Human Resources InstituteÂ (IFARHU) has expanded the â€śBeca Universalâ€ť program, which grants anÂ annual scholarship of US$180 to students enrolled in public schools. TheÂ program now includes scholarships for students in grades 1 through 12,Â benefiting more than 481,000 students in public educations centers. BecaÂ Universal also benefits students from low income families attendingÂ private schools.
â€śAs part of its Partnership Strategy with Panama, the World BankÂ supports the Governmentâ€™s plans to strengthen its fiscal position,Â improve the efficiency of the public sector and benefit more PanamaniansÂ through social programs. Efforts to improve public financial managementÂ undoubtedly could help attain the goal of reducing poverty andÂ increasing opportunities for all,â€ť said Ludmilla Butenko, World Bank Representative in Panama.
The Government of Panama has also taken steps to strengthen its debtÂ management capacity with the formalization of specialist units in theÂ Public Credit Directorate of the Finance Ministry. It has alsoÂ Â established a strategy to further develop the domestic debt market,Â with the objective of increasing certainty, improve liquidity and expandÂ the investor base.
The US$100 million â€śSecond Programmatic Development Policy Loan forÂ Fiscal Management and Efficient Spendingâ€ť has a 20-year maturity periodÂ and a 3-year grace period.
For centuries Panama was a place people passed through on their way to somewhere else, a bridge between continents, a shortcut between oceans. Lately it has started to attract travelers of a different kind, transfixed by its beauty and seduced by its faded but not jaded charm.
Continued (page 3 of 3)
Six days later rioting broke out in ColĂłn. Locals were protesting a plan to sell off the state-owned land on which the Zona Libre, the second-largest free-trade zone in the world and ColĂłnâ€™s economic mainstay, is built. Reading online news reports at my desk in London I remembered something DoĂ±a Inga had said over lunch in Boquete when I asked how much Panama had changed in her lifetime and whether she felt anything had been lost. She adjusted her shawl and said: â€śSomething is always lost.â€ť
WAY TO GO
Copa (copaair.com) flies to and from dozens of cities in North and South America via Panama City. From Europe, itâ€™s simplest to pick up a connection in Miami or New York. Panama is on the whole navigable, but it doesnâ€™t hurt to have some expert help for anything off the beaten track: Scott Dunn (scottdunn.com) can tailor-make an itinerary for you based on your enthusiasm for beach, mountains, jungle, cities, or any permutation thereof. In Panama City, the Canal House (canalhousepanama.com) and Las Clementinas (lasclementinas.com) are lovingly restored and right in the beating heart of Casco Antiguo. The bar and restaurant at Las Clementinas are superb, and not only staffed by friendly locals but also frequented by them. Boquete is charming, and the splendid Panamonte Inn (panamonte.com) alone makes the trip there worthwhile. Simca Island is available to rent; for details, call Adam Coats at Abercrombie & Kent Villas at +44 1242 547932 begin_of_the_skype_highlightingÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â +44 1242 547932Â Â Â Â Â Â end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
DONâ€™T think that just because youâ€™re on holiday you can avoid the kitchen completely. Charlie Collins (chefcharliecollins.com) runs classes to teach the uninitiated which end of a name to hold.
In terms of fiction, Panama has not been particularly well served. Nonfiction-wise, itâ€™s a different (true) story. On the canal, two of the best are Hellâ€™s Gorge, by Matthew Parker, and The Path Between the Seas, by David McCullough. On the state of the nation at the time of the Torrijos-Carter treaties, Graham Greeneâ€™s Getting to Know the General is brilliant and baffling in equal measure.
In 1671 Panama City was captured from the Spanish by the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan, sacked, and, after burning for four weeks, reduced to smoldering ashes. It has since bounced back impressively. More than a decade of accelerated economic growth has transformed the place beyond recognition. Itâ€™s as though a fleet of skyscrapers was blown off course en route to Dubai and made landfall on the steamy, swampy shores of Panama City. The towers are arrayed like masts at a yacht club. The tallest and sparkliest of them occupy a strip of reclaimed land known as the Costa del Este. Eight years ago it simply wasnâ€™t there.
Plenty of people are doing exactly that. Although the results may be more conspicuous in other parts of the city, they are most romantic and beguiling in Casco Antiguo, the raffish, sun-faded, elegantly tumbledown old town. K. C. Hardin, a laid-back thirtysomething from Florida, has been instrumental in the revitalization of Casco. A corporate lawyer who got fed up with â€śsqueezing his left brain,â€ť he found his calling, and his wife, while on a surfing sabbatical in Bocas del Toro in 2003. One thing led to another, and before he knew it he had teamed up with a local business partner, bought an abandoned music school in Casco, and turned it into affordable space for artists. Now he runs Conservatorio, a property company with a conscience, as well as two beautifully refurbished hotels, the Canal House and Las Clementinas. A third, the American Trade Hotel, is due to open this year.
K.C.â€™s community-led, softly-softly approach has helped attract interest to a part of town that many had long since written off as a no-go area, and to restore it to something like its former glory. Itâ€™s a question of balance, he explained over tapas and a glass of Rioja in a smart wine bar near the waterfront. â€śI grew up in Miami and saw what happened to South Beach. I worked in New York and saw what happened to Williamsburg. Itâ€™s the same deal here. You can use up as much energy stopping forward movement as you can preserving the past, because thereâ€™s a real risk of over-gentrification.â€ť Itâ€™s a risk the locals seem on the whole happy to take. They adore K.C. In Casco streets where once he might have been mugged, today heâ€™s mobbed. Gringos adore him, too. The last entry in the visitorsâ€™ book at Las Clementinas when I checked in was signed â€śBono.â€ť The garrulous Irishman had filled an entire page with a fulsome song of praise and self-referential observations on rock-star sunglasses and Central American politics, in neatest schoolboy hand. If it wasnâ€™t written by the man himself, it could only have been the work of Craig Brown.
Flying west to Boquete, the rusty iron rooftops looked like paperbacks that had been left open, facedown, on a billiard table. Boquete is a misty, pretty town in the foothills of a volcano, near the border with Costa Rica. It is beloved of bird-watchers, coffee aficionados, and white-water rafters. It also has the Panamonte Inn, an impeccable fold in time where Ingrid Bergman once came to get away from it all and dashing Admiral Byrd wrote his memoirs.
I had been told to make a point of seeking out Inga Collinsâ€”DoĂ±a Ingaâ€”a Panama institution, whose family has owned the Panamonte since the 1940s. We met over a lunch magicked out of thin air and unpronounceable ingredients by her son Charlie, a chef.
â€śSometimes I talk too much,â€ť said DoĂ±a Inga. After a couple of hours in her company this seemed wholly plausible, though I couldnâ€™t imagine anyone ever wanting her to pipe down. DoĂ±a Inga is pushing 90 and still going gangbusters. Sheâ€™s a dry cocktail of Swedish genes and American-educated directness and is a natural-born storyteller.
Itâ€™s cooler in Boquete than it is at sea level. DoĂ±a Inga wore a shawl across her narrow shoulders. She had, she explained, seen governments come and go, insurgents enter stage left, and dictators exit stage right. The U.S. invasion of December 1989, when Manuel Noriega was deposed? Highly inconvenient. Ruined the Christmas dinner that she had spent days preparing because it prevented her husband, who was in Panama City on business when the Yanquis arrived, from coming home until Boxing Day. But Panama had been good to the family, in shipping, fishing, farming, and the hotel. â€śCa-a-a-a-nned frui-i-i-i-t was the one thing that didnâ€™t pay off,â€ť DoĂ±a Inga said at last, and looked slightly surprised, as if the thought had only just occurred to her. She had a drawl like the Continental Divide that reminded me of John Huston.
â€śAnyhow. You were asking about ColĂłn. We-e-e-e-ll. Back when I started going there, the Hotel Washington was the thing in ColĂłn. Just the thing. Weâ€™d sit in the shade under the balcony, in those beautiful cane chairs they used to have, and weâ€™d watch the ships go by. And there was the French bazaar. The Cuban fabric store. And the Strangersâ€™ Club.â€ť She started waving her hands in little Charleston circles, singing:
Ta-ra-ra boom-de-ay! Â Did you get yours today? Â I got mine yesterday! Â Thatâ€™s why I walk this way . . .
DoĂ±a Inga straightened her shawl and returned her hands to her lap. â€śWe-e-e-e-ll. Anyhow. That was ColĂłn. We had to make our own fun.â€ť
ColĂłn, the port city where the canal meets the Caribbean Sea, used to be the end of the Royal Road, a cobbled conveyor belt for the conquistadorsâ€™ loot. Some 300 years later it became the terminus of the Panama Railway line, the precursor of the modern canal. The city was burnt down in 1885 by an angry Colombian, then rebuilt in the French Colonial style. At the height of its prosperity it was one of the great cities of Latin America, cosmopolitan, elegant, thrumming with commerce.
Graham Greene visited ColĂłn in the 1970s while in the throes of an unaccountable infatuation with Omar Torrijos, the sad-eyed dictator who signed the treaties with Jimmy Carter that would eventually return the canal and the Zone to Panama. The city had become, Greene wrote, a slum. He stopped to buy some film near the Hotel Washington and decided to walk the rest of the way. After a few hundred yards he was bundled into a police van and told that, although he was traveling with an armed bodyguard, he would be putting his life at risk if he remained on the street.
A similar thing happened to me when I was there. I too was traveling with a bodyguardâ€”happily, one supplied by an elected president rather than an army general. And I too had been warned not to get out of the car in ColĂłn. Why not, I asked Russell Goedjen, a beardy old Panama hand, originally from Wisconsin, who runs a marina in ColĂłn and looks reassuringly like Captain Birdseye. â€śToo many kids running around with guns,â€ť he growled.
At the time the warnings seemed overcautious. People in ColĂłn were friendly, inquisitive, chatty. I saw plenty of kids running around, but none with guns. The bold ones posed to have their picture taken. Younger brothers and sisters tagged along, hiding and shrieking behind their hands. I was invited to join a poker game by a woman with curlers in her hair and dollar bills piled high on the table in front of her.
The Hotel Washington, like the rest of the city, had clearly seen better days, but there was a kind of wasted grandeur about it. Coconut palms grew through cracked asphalt in a windswept courtyard by the sea. The ships on their way to and from the canal looked far away. A jet-black queen with braces on his teeth and denim hot pants on his buns loitered by the pool with a fat, freckly fellow who might have been his boyfriend or his pimp. Like everyone I met in ColĂłn, they were happy to spare a few minutes to reflect on the human condition and the rise and fall of nations.
For centuries PanamaÂ has beenÂ a place people passed through on their way to somewhere else, a bridge between continents, a shortcut between oceans. Lately it has started to attract travelers of a different kind, transfixed by its beauty and seduced by its faded but not jaded charm.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Steve KingÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Adriana Santiago
Shortly before noon on my last day in Panama I found myself tottering across the Miraflores Locks in hot pursuit of Stanley Motta. Stanley is a straight-talking, no-nonsense 67-year-old, a devoted family man, and, officially at least, Panamaâ€™s only billionaire, with interests in aviation, banking, property, insurance, and the duty-free business. Part of the furniture of the nation. This explains why we were tottering across the Miraflores Locks. Not any old billionaire gets to do that. Which is just as well, because the locks are about two feet wide, with a life-threatening drop off one side into a yawning steel chamber large enough to hold a 105-by-950-foot Panamax container ship. â€śIf you fall, fall to the other side,â€ť Stanley shouted over his shoulder. He was loving this. Lights were flashing, indicating that the locks were about to open. But Stanley wanted to show me the control tower in the middle and nobody was going to stop him. He was held in admiration, if not in reverence, by everyone to whom I mentioned his name. It was a stroke of good luck that allowed me to see Panamanian things, briefly, the other way round, through Stanleyâ€™s eyes. There, safe and sound in the library hush and air-conditioned cool of the control tower at the Miraflores Locks, I saw him grinning like a schoolboy at what must be one of the few things on the face of the Earth, apart perhaps from his grandchildren, that still renders him awestruck: the canal in action, a paradigm of efficiency and order.
â€śDoesnâ€™t it blow your mind?â€ť he said.
It did. It does. There would be no Panama without the canal. Punto. But it came at a price.
November 3, 1903. Some say five shots were fired, some say six. A Chinese shopkeeper and a donkey of unrecorded origin were killed. The revolution was over in time for sundowners. In this fashion Panama gained its independence from Colombia. The gunships that Theodore Roosevelt had mustered offshore in support of the Panamanian rebels, together with the bribes his people had paid the Colombians to bugger off back to BogotĂˇ, had done the trick. Roosevelt was used to keeping his foot firmly planted on the throats of would-be revolutionaries. This, he later recalled, was altogether easier. â€śI simply lifted my foot.â€ť In this fashion the United States gained the right to build and control the Panama Canal and a strip of territory on either side of it known as the Canal Zone.
It didnâ€™t take the Panamanians long to realize theyâ€™d been diddled. It took them another 96 years, however, to wrest control of the canal and the Zone from the Americans.
The canal opened in 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. Thanks to an ingenious system of staggered locks, a ship could make the 48-mile transit between the Atlantic and the Pacific in 8 to 10 hours. The alternative was a long and dangerous voyage down one side of South America and up the other via Cape Horn.
The idea of building a canal across the tightly cinched isthmus of Panama wasnâ€™t new. Spanish conquistadors, English privateers, French dreamersâ€”they had all tried, or talked about trying. Between 1880 and 1888 Ferdinand de Lesseps, the genius of the Suez Canal, wasted more than a billion francs and 20,000 lives on a doomed attempt to replicate his earlier triumph. Corruption, bad science, and mosquitoes put paid to his dream. The fiasco broke him. He spent the last years of his life staring out a window clutching an old newspaper reporting his failure.
People who were there when the Panama Canal was being built spoke of it as â€śthe highway of civilizationâ€ť and â€śthe greatest liberty ever taken with nature.â€ť Nearly a century later it has lost none of its power to astonish. True, like most modern highways, this one has a traffic problem. Ships queue at both ends. Industry observers fret about â€śdwell time,â€ť new trade routes, the next-generation class of post-Panamax mega-ships that are too big for the canal, the cost of expansion, the prospect of obsolescence. But the ships keep coming to Panama. They pass, almost silently, from one ocean to another, elevated for part of their transit 85 feet above sea level, as if they were weightless, as if, here, the laws of physics had ceased to apply. The highway is very much open. And the liberty taken with nature seems as great today as it ever did.
Panama has only one canal but many islandsâ€”an island, the brochures used to say, for every day of the year. Jean Pigozzi owns one of those islands, but thereâ€™s nothing everyday about it.
Itâ€™s on the Pacific side, about halfway along the isthmus, near Coiba National Park. You can sail there or you can fly. On maps the island is labeled Isla Canales de Tierra, but Pigozzi has renamed it Simca, after his fatherâ€™s car company. Heâ€™s also bought up a sizable slice of the neighboring mainland, so that if you can see it from Simca, Pigozzi probably owns it. When I met him in London to talk about my Panama plans he pointed out that, in the daytime, guests on his island canâ€™t see another building or, at night, so much as a pinprick of electric light. The darkness itself, he might have said, is his too.
As well as being an inheritor of the family automotive fortune, Pigozzi is a successful investor in his own right, an international party-circuit phenomenon, a colorful addition to Vanity Fairâ€™s Best-Dressed List, and the owner of what is probably the worldâ€™s finest collection of contemporary African art. Everything about the manâ€”his shoes, his spectacles, his rumbling basso profondoâ€”is larger than life. A nice little bungalow on a quiet, convenient beach was never going to be an option for him. Thus, having bought the island, he immediately set about constructing a high-tech, Bond-villain lair at its summit, together with a state-of-the-art marine-research station, the Liquid Jungle Lab, at its base. All thatâ€™s missing is a white cat.
â€śItâ€™s built out of pure craziness,â€ť Pigozzi told me. That, plus several million dollarsâ€™ worth of steel, glass, iron, concrete, ceramic tiles, bamboo, fiber-optic cable, Glidden paint in nursery tones with names like Sugared Lime and Sweet Baby Boy, Memphis-style furniture, a playful Murano chandelier, and a couple of others from the set of the movie Tower Heist, in which Pigozzi had a cameo. All of which had to be loaded into containers and shipped across oceans from points north, south, east, and west to Pigozziâ€™s harbor. Where in the torrid heat it had to be unloaded and then loaded once more onto a quaint funicular that for years made its tireless way up and down a steep muddy hillside to the building site at the top of the mountain. Where it had to be unloaded all over again.
A bit too Fitzcarraldo for my taste. I remember thinking that the bath towels at Simca were so huge and heavy that the prospect of carrying a couple of them from my room to the pool was enough to make me lie down and take a nap instead.
Several household-name architects and interior designers were involved in the planning and execution of Simca, but the project is entirely and unmistakably Pigozziâ€™s own. It has his paw prints all over it. It also has his contemporary African art all over it. Look out, if you get the chanceâ€”and you may get the chance, because Pigozzi has decided to make Simca available for rentâ€”for the Seydou Keita prints in the downstairs bathroom by the swimming pools. And yes, that is â€śpools,â€ť plural. There are two. Perrier in one, San Pellegrino in the other, as their owner likes to joke.
Pigozzi celebrated his 60th birthday on Simca in January 2012. People I spoke to who were there said it was an enchanted place to throw a party. The carbonate walls of the pavilion and the pools are fitted with thousands of L.E.D.â€™s that glow and pulsate and change color in time to music. But I was there alone. Alone, that is, apart from the captain of Pigozziâ€™s 220-foot yacht, Amazon Express, and a skeleton crew of perhaps 20 or 30 housekeeping, security, and ground staff. I was pleased to have the place, relatively speaking, so much to myself. I didnâ€™t feel the faintest inclination to switch on an iPod or fire up the popcorn machine in the screening room. I turned the L.E.D.â€™s on once for the fun of it and then turned them off again. Otherwise I stared into space, across jungle canopy and sea and sky. The stupendous scene lived and breathed gigantically, extending to the horizon in every direction, animated by weather and tide, shifting light, the squawks and back-row chatter of wildlife. I was reminded of something Andy Warhol, of all people, said: â€śI think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art anybody could want to own.â€ť
Real estate Panama – Come to Panama & Turn YOUR Frown Upside Down!
As from April 1st, 78% of the customs duties charged by Panama on imports of Canadian agricultural products will drop to 0%.
Duties on Canadian products not originating in agriculture will fall to zero in 95% of cases.
For Panamanian producers of fresh produce, the current FTA now opens opportunities for increased exports, considering that Canada imports 75% of the fresh produce consumed by its population.
The Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Panama was signed on May 14, 2010, endorsed by the Panamanian parliament in the same year, while in Canada the endorsement was completed recently in September 2012.
Canadian sectors that will benefit the most from the agreement are those producing pork and beef, and frozen potatoes.
Ministers discuss more Panama-Canada flights, visas
Tuesday, 19 March 2013 19:16
The governments of Canada and Panama are both interested in expanding flight frequencies between the two countries, says the Panamanian Foreign Ministry.
The issue was discussed during a Sunday March 17 meeting in Panama City between Panamanian Foreign Minister, Fernando Nunez Fabrega, and the Minister of State of Canada, Diane Ablonczy, to expand bilateral relations.
Nunez Fabrega said that the Rio Hato airport will be inaugurated soon and would be a great start to increase the flow of tourists through Canadian Airlines flights. The Panamanian foreign minister suggested a review of the bilateral Air Transport Agreement, as well as streamlining the procedures for granting visas to Panamanian nationals. The difficulty of obtaining a visa to Canada has long been a sore point, and was raised by media representatives when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Panama to discuss the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries. Nunez Fabrega even suggested that consideration be given to the abolition of visas in general, or at least as a first step, to Panamanian diplomats, in reference to the principle of reciprocity. Panamanians visiting the UK for less than six months do not need a visa. The Canadian minister said that her country shared the interest with Panama of being a member of the Pacific Alliance, a mechanism in which the two countries have observer status. She said Canada would at the next meeting of the Alliance on May 23 in the Colombian city of Cali, with the aim of achieving full membership.
Don Winner at The Panama Guide reports on an article that appeared in Prensa announcing another move ahead by Panama.
PanamaÂ jumped 19 positions in the tourism competitiveness report prepared byÂ the World Economic Forum, improving from 56th in 2011 to 37 achieved inÂ 2013.
With this jump Panama was described as a â€śrising starâ€ť inÂ international tourism by the WEF. The country improved more than anyÂ other country in the global ranking which is published every two years.
The study analyzed the factors that make countries attractive as aÂ destination for investment or business development in the travel andÂ tourism sector.
At the regional level in Panama was ranked fourth behind theÂ United States, Canada and Barbados, but beating the most experiencedÂ tourist nations like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Brazil.
The report is based on data from various public sources,Â international institutions working in the travel and tourism industry,Â and experts, as well as the results of the Executive Opinion Survey,Â conducted by the WEF.
The increase in the number of hotel rooms with the installationÂ of chains with international prestige was one of the factors that droveÂ the country, in the report which was published this year under the themeÂ â€śReducing barriers to economic growth and job creation.â€ť
Between 2010 and 2012 more than 30 new hotels were built inÂ Panama, bringing 6,200 new hotel rooms on line throughout the country,Â of those 72% or 4,500 are in the capital city.
To this number another 27 hotels must be added that are being built in other parts of the province of Panama.
Among the international chains operating in the country include Hilton, Wyndham, Hard Rock and RIU, among others.
In the line of tourism infrastructure, Panama peaked at positionÂ 42 of a total of 140 countries surveyed, while in airport infrastructureÂ the country was ranked number 16.
Other topics considered in the report to analyze the tourismÂ competitiveness of countries are the regulatory framework for doingÂ business and living costs. In these lines Panama was located atÂ positions 18 and 26, respectively.
Despite achieving the most improvement in the competitivenessÂ ranking, fate has not overcome obstacles related to the preparation ofÂ human resources, limited access to health services, and the expense toÂ be incurred by companies because of security and violence.
The lack of experienced staff was evident with the constructionÂ of new hotels. It is estimated that there is an unfilled demand forÂ eight thousand skilled workers, especially in operational areas such asÂ waitresses, waiters and technicians.
Besides not having experienced staff, the tourism industry isÂ lacking workers who speak other languages ??like English, German andÂ Portuguese.
A study by the British human resources firm People 1st found thatÂ Panama needs to improve the quality of service to establish itself as aÂ premier tourist destination.
Jesus Sierra, president of the Panamanian Association of Hotels,Â says the WEF report reflects the reality of the country, but adds theyÂ are working to reduce the deficit of skilled labor.
With regards to levels of security, he points out that Panama is aÂ safe destination for tourists, and announced that this year will beÂ held in the country the first hemispheric conference on hotel security.Â â€śPanama is a safe destination, and we seek to improve the visitorÂ experience,â€ť he added.
European countries dominate Economic Forum report
Switzerland again took first place in the study of tourismÂ competitiveness of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Switzerland isÂ notable for its efficient transport system and excellent customerÂ service. According to the WEF Switzerland has the best hotel schools inÂ the world and much of its territory is protected, becoming an attractionÂ for tourists.
European countries dominate the top 10 ranking, except the UnitedÂ States, Canada and Singapore. According to the report, the tourismÂ sector has been strengthened by the growth of the middle class inÂ emerging countries. (Prensa)
The retirement experts at International Living have released the 22nd Annual Global Retirement Index just in time to catch North Americans in the cold of winter. Panama ranked at the #2 spot and garnered quite a bit of publicity through major news outlets like Forbes and Yahoo! News that ran the story.
Ecuador took the #1 spot for the fifth year in a row in this study whose editors assess the cost of groceries and average temperature as well as friendliness and utility costs. Some 100 countries were considered. Ecuador stood out for its low cost of living, how far the real estate dollar goes and for offering attractive incentives to seniors.
Panama’s #2 position was described thusly:
“Panama is just plain easy. Panama City is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with great restaurants, and excellent hospitals. It’s a banking and commercial hub so you find a real international community there. Panama is committed to attracting foreign retirees and offers the world’s best incentive program to do so, making it convenient and easy to get residence there.
“Like Ecuador, the cost of living in Panama is significantly lower than what you’d expect back home. A budget of $1,700 to $2,500 a month, housing included, would see you eating out, movies a few times a month, perhaps even with a housekeeper a couple da s a week, and so on.”
It is not surprising that with a sub 5% unemployment rate and a growth rate of over 8% on average, Panama is suffering from a shortage of skilled labor.
Panama is near the top of the list of countries where there is theÂ most acute shortage of skilled labor. Guatemala and Costa Rica areÂ located in the middle of the table.Â In the Canal country, 47% of employers said they have difficulties inÂ filling jobs with the right people. In Guatemala this percentage is 36%,Â and in Costa Rica it is 35%.
The Manpower report identifies the key strategies cited by respondents, to overcome the problem:
Employers were asked what strategies they implemented in order toÂ overcome the difficulty of filling positions. Responses varied widely,Â from providing additional training to current staff and improving compensation to forming partnerships with educational institutions in order toÂ provide candidates with the essential skills that organizations cannotÂ provide alone. However their answers clearly pointed to a need forÂ solutions to help them close the skills disabling specific efforts toÂ promote their organizations. In addition, the percentage of employersÂ who have adopted three main strategies to overcome the problems of lackÂ of talent, increased from last year and suggests that more companiesÂ have not started doing anything, because of the crisis.