Friday, November 19, 2010

Iran, Venezuela plan to build rival to Panama Canal

source: Panama Investor Blog

I have heard these kinds of rumblings before, but it appears to have gotten legs where they are starting to do some work on the San Juan River on the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It is interesting to note that Vanderbilt used the San Juan river to carry gold rush prospectors back in the mid 1800's from the Caribbean to the Pacific. I have serious doubts whether this new venture will come to fruition for a number of reasons. First, if you google map the area between the lake and the Pacific you see that it is not an easy task to make a canal in that area even though it is only 20 KM. From the east side of lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean the San Juan meanders more that 175 km.It will take much more than simple dredging to make it passable for large ships. I think this is just more hyperbole from the likes of the three stooges to try and see how the U.S. will respond. This article states that the U.S. is concerned and looking into the matter.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Panama sees 56% growth in foreign direct investment Q1

This brief was sent in by Gary and is from JP Morgan, via Prima Panama


According to preliminary estimates released by the Comptroller General’s office, foreign direct investment (FDI) totaled US$609 million (2.3% of GDP) in 1Q10, up 56.4% from US$389 million (1.6% of GDP) in 1Q09. The sharp increase in FDI inflows was driven by reinvested profits, which more than doubled to US$387 million during the three-month period led by higher investments in Colon Free Zone enterprises. On a sectoral basis, the principal beneficiaries of FDI during the first quarter were the hotels,
telecommunications, agriculture, livestock, and real estate sectors. Panama’s FDI fell 26.1%y/y to US$1.8 billion in 2009 amid the global recession, matching the 25% plunge the IMF has estimated for all emerging markets. As the global economy recovers from its recent slump and financial flows to developing
countries strengthen, the Martinelli administration expects FDI inflows to surpass US$2 billion (7.6% of GDP) in 2010. (Franco)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Panama hopes to beat the global financial crisis

By Jeremy Schwartz - INTERNATIONAL STAFF for the PANAMA CITY — Cranes hover over the skyline like futuristic insects, buzzing around half-finished skyscrapers that make Panama City look like Miami or Hong Kong. If any country is poised to withstand the ravages of the global financial crisis, it just might be tiny Panama, which has quietly become a regional economic powerhouse in the past five years. Fueled by a superheated real estate market, windfalls from the Panama Canal and a burgeoning banking system, economic growth hit 9.2 percent in 2008 after soaring to 11.5 percent the year before. As nations from the United States to Japan confront shrinking economies in 2009, officials in Panama are predicting relatively robust growth of 4 or 5 percent this year. "This global crisis arrived in a moment in which we find ourselves stronger than we have been in the past," Minister of the Economy Hector Alexander said. "In Panama, the dominant topic isn't the recession." (more) (See Comments)
Editor's Comment: There's one part in this article where an economist named Gordon is quoted as having said "...the percentage of Panamanians laboring precariously in the nation's informal sector — doing things such as selling fruit at intersections — has risen from 33 percent in 2001 to 44 percent today." That's just plain wrong. In fact, the informal employment market has dropped substantially in the past five years to their lowest levels in modern history. There are now more formal jobs - positions in which the employees receive a standard wage, pay income taxes, and appear on the rolls of social security - than ever before. In fact back just eight years ago unemployment was pegged at about 15% or higher, and "underemployment" (informal or non-reported positions) were much higher than they are now. Without a doubt, the entire labor force in Panama has been moving towards formalization. Unemployment is down to about 6% or less. And this guy Gordon's statements are just flat-out incorrect.

(Comments Conclude, Article Continues)

While unemployment has soared in the United States, the unemployment rate in Panama fell from about 14 percent in 2004 to 6.5 percent last year. And as the U.S. is adjusting to life with 12-digit budget deficits, Alexander said Panama is hoping 2009 will be its third consecutive year with a budget surplus.

But the nation hasn't been immune to the global recession. Its real estate market might be heading for a sharp downturn.

Matt Landau, a New Jersey native and Panama City investment consultant, said real estate sales have declined precipitously in recent months, especially among the U.S. and European buyers who largely fueled the boom.

"When I first got here (about four years ago), people were buying (properties) for $200,000 and then flipping them for double or more in six to 12 months," he said. "That was happening even up to a year and a half ago."

Now, Landau said, Panama City is bracing for a glut of high-priced condominiums.

And as global trade is pummeled by the recession, Panama Canal officials expect the number of cargo ships passing through the waterway — and the tolls they pay to the Panamanian government — to fall almost 6 percent this year.

Even there, Panama has an ace up its sleeve in the form of a $5.2 billion Panama Canal expansion, which will widen the canal's locks to allow larger ships to pass through.

Although recession wasn't on the minds of Panamanian voters when they approved the expansion in 2006, officials see the megaproject as a perfectly timed stimulus that will directly create nearly 7,000 jobs in a country of 3 million and spark the creation of thousands of secondary jobs, just as the economy begins to sag.

"It's as if we are increasing public sector spending by 35 to 40 percent," Alexander said. "Today it works as a fiscal stimulus."

Percentagewise, the canal expansion dwarfs any stimulus project the United States is planning. The project represents nearly a quarter of Panama's $23 billion gross domestic product. By comparison, the $787 billion stimulus package in the U.S. represents about 5 percent of America's $14 trillion gross domestic product.

Counternarcotics officials have long suspected that Panama's boom has also been aided by an influx of money from criminal organizations. According to the U.S. State Department's 2008 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, the country's construction and offshore banking sectors are particularly susceptible to money laundering.

But Panama's economy has been helped by a stable and peaceful political scene, which the nation has enjoyed since the 1989 ouster of dictator Manuel Noriega.

When Noriega was captured by U.S. troops, Panama's economy was in shambles, paralyzed by an economic embargo of Noriega's regime. Successive democratically elected administrations have focused on economic recovery, enacting reforms and privatizing sectors such as telecommunications and electricity.

But some critics say Panama's spectacular economic growth in the past five years has left out the majority of its people.

"The problem is that the growth has stayed in a few hands," said Rolando Gordon, a University of Panama economics professor. "The economic boom hasn't been able to resolve any of the great social problems of the country."

Gordon said government statistics obscure the fact that even as the country's economy exploded, the percentage of Panamanians laboring precariously in the nation's informal sector — doing things such as selling fruit at intersections — has risen from 33 percent in 2001 to 44 percent today.

Gordon added that public schools are underfinanced, and access to drinking water remains problematic for many Panamanians. At the same time, the price of basic foodstuffs has increased.

"This boom we're having is tremendous," taxi driver Jose Cano said. "But for the poor, the humble, we aren't seeing the boom. The price of food is going up. I have my own taxi, so I'm doing pretty well, but there are a lot of people who are recycling cans and stealing scrap metal."

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ivanka Trump: It's Time To Party In Panama

Our newly disovered financial guru, Ivanka Trump, says that Panama’s real estate market is the strongest in the world. Ivanka, the executive vice president of development and acquisitions her fathers Trump Organization, impressed us mightily when she appeared on SquawkBox last week. It wasn’t so much that a pretty young thing turned out to be smart that caught us off guard. Lots of pretty girls are smart. But we had kind of figured that a scion of a celebrity family like the Trump’s would be a bit dim. In fact, she shines. “I have projects all over the world [and] have a unique sense of the global real estate climate and submarkets,” she tells Latin Business Chronicle. “With great conviction, [I can say that] Panama is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, real estate market. Our biggest problem is not having enough inventory. We only have a small percent of the building left.”

Apparently, Panama is pouring huge tax incentives into real estate development. She contrasts this with America, where taxes are going up. And the Panama Canal is still going strong.

Of course, both factors raise red flags. The Panama Canal is heavily exposed to international trade and shipping, both of which are looking at huge downturns as the world slips deeper into a recession. And tax incentivized building can often lead to unsustainable bubbles.

She also may be talking her book here. The Trumps have a major development underway in Panama. That said, this also gives her a unique perspective on the opportunities in Panama. So perhaps we shouldn't make too much of the conflict of interest.

John Carney - Wall Street Journal

Thursday, February 26, 2009

5 Good Reasons to Buy Property in Panama

Detailing five very good reasons why it is still a great idea to invest in some stunning property in Panama – whether you’re an investor or a new home seeker. The world is in financial crisis, globally speaking real estate markets are in decline, no banks are lending money for consumers to buy houses with, and chances are there has never been a worse time in our recorded history to buy property – and yet, in our opinion there are still at least 5 good reasons to buy property in Panama! You may have read the hype that the boom is continuing and that every property that’s for sale in Panama is a sound investment bet – well, that’s not entirely true. But neither is the negative hype about the market being saturated with greedy speculators and that Panama is heading for an almighty crash. There are 5 very sound and solid reasons why property in this stunning Central American nation is a good bet for long-term investors, holiday home seekers or even retirees and early retirees… (more)

1) Tourism is Increasing in PanamaPanama is a first world nation offering the associated comforts, and at the same time it is an ‘undiscovered’ gem of a nation where it’s possible to get truly away from the madding crowd and discover hidden coves and beaches, stunning rainforests, amazing flora and fauna, unaffected people and communities steeped in history and culture. In other words, Panama has something for everyone – and it’s cheap too, relatively speaking! All of these are reasons why the country has been welcoming increased numbers of tourists year on year – in fact, it has welcomed a 12% increase annually since 2004.

Hotel occupancy rates are exceptionally high, new airline routes are opening up bringing travellers direct from nations such as Italy and the Netherlands for example, and the government in Panama is continuing to plough substantial funds into the promotion of the nation internationally.

All this bodes very well for anyone who is interested in buying property in a country with a healthy and affluent outlook for the long-term. It means that desirable homes will make good rental properties, and that as more people arrive and learn about the delights of Panama, so more people will think over the long-term about relocating to live there – thus giving a property owner an exit strategy.

2) Desirability of Panama and its Property Product. Panama has it all – from a bustling and cosmopolitan capital city to tiny rural enclaves, from high rise luxurious real estate, to beach huts and fabulous fincas. Therefore, yet again there is something of appeal to everyone. So whether you want to live on the coast and be a beach-bum or you want to live the high life in Panama City, you can when you choose the right type of home for you in Panama. This makes the nation a great choice for anyone thinking about moving abroad – because you can likely find your perfect home in this one nation – no matter what it is you’re looking for in a property!

3) Property in Panama Can be Competitively Priced. Because the really booming times in Panama’s recent history are currently over, there are many speculators keen to exit the market and consolidate their debts, there are developers doing their best to off-load already constructed stock, and there are private vendors willing to accept below asking price offers for property. What’s more, away from the glitzy, modern high-rise property market in Panama City, most real estate in Panama is sold on a more personal basis. You’ll find that those who are selling a family home for example, are far less likely to want to sell to an anonymous buyer from abroad and far happier to sell to you if you befriend them, enter into direct negotiations with them and remain calm, open and friendly throughout. These sorts of vendors would rather sell to you for a lower sum if you take this approach, than they would to an overseas buyer they have never met who is dealing with a slick real estate agent and offering them their asking price!

In other words, Panama is a market where there is a lot of room for movement when it comes to asking prices – no matter which approach you take and which properties you’re looking at. And it’s also a market with some exceptional bargains.

4) Long-term Potential for Profit. Panama’s canal extension project is on track, tourism numbers are consistently rising well, the government and business environment are stable, fiscally speaking Panama is affluent and successful, the ‘pensionado’ scheme attracts more wealthy ‘retirees’ annually and the real estate market’s transparency is improving. These are all very good reasons why Panama has exceptionally good long-term potential in terms of its property investment prospects. Whilst things are looking less favourable at the moment due to the current state of the global financial market, those who look to the long-term and take anything but a speculators approach to the market stand to reap the rewards eventually.

5) Lifestyle. The final reason why we feel that property in Panama is a good bet is simply because the lifestyle available in Panama is fabulous! It’s once again the case where you can get what you want from life – so, if your idea of heaven is shopping in glitzy boutiques, working in the City, dining out in posh restaurants and living in luxury – you can have that lifestyle in Panama City. Or, if you prefer the thought of living in a friendly expat community close to the sea and with wonderful views and a very laid back pace of life, this type of lifestyle is also possible. Alternatively, those who want to get away from it all or who want to live on the beach, in the mountains or perhaps in the local community can also find a property that will give them the lifestyle they want.

Hopefully this article has demonstrated that property in Panama can be a solid investment purchase, a lifestyle home choice or just a great buy for long-term potential appreciation…and that you can find whatever it is you’re looking for in Panama.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The World's Top Property Hotspots for 2009

Oxford 26 January 2009 - International real estate investment specialists Property Frontiers have named their top six property investment hotspots for 2009 – and the list contains some surprises. Panama, the Central American republic tops the list due to a strong economy, a favourable tax regime and offshore banking attracting businesses from across the globe. Investors can choose a variety of different options, from hotels enjoying high occupancy rates, to offices, and beachside resorts. The expansion of the Panama Canal looks set to underpin future economic growth. The Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur is a thriving city with affordable property and accessible cheaply with a new budget airline linking direct to London with flights from just £99. Outside of Kuala Lumpur is the teeming tourist playground of Sabah on North Borneo,Where Brazil is a booming economy and with sun, samba and a cheap cost of living, is taking over from Florida as the fun capital of the world – and is the same flight distance from London as Miami.

Tourism is lifting off around the northeast city of Natal, which boasts average daily temperatures of 28°C all-year-round and mile after mile of sandy, palm fringed beaches. If traditional buy-to-let is the target, Sao Paulo is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing cities with an insatiable demand for quality accommodation. Slovakia’s High Tatras national park offers all-year round tourism as a UNESCO area of outstanding natural beauty. In the summer, the mountains are an attraction for walkers and golfers, while in the winter cheap skiing lures visitors from all over Europe.

The USA is tipped as one to watch as prices bottom out. Apartments in Florida are selling at 54% lower than their launch price, and according to the builders, at less than their build cost and offer an instant 6% rental return. Coming in last is the UK, with property bargains piling up at auction houses and market commentators still forecasting that prices are stagnating or still falling in most areas. “In real terms the pound is at a point not seen for 10 years. This offers a fantastic buying opportunity for international investors. As a company we have never seen so many enquiries from our international investors looking for UK property. A combined depreciation of the pound and the market now makes UK property some 54% cheaper than a year ago.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Consumer confidence high in Panama

Although the rest of the world's consumer confidence may be in the toilet, Panama's is still riding high. As this particle points out, it is due partially to a 13th month year end mandatory bonus and Panamanian's belief in a brighter future.

Excerpt From La Estralla:

Jacques de Raucourt of GFK Marketing Group, the company that carries out the consumer’s confident surveys for the Panamanian Chamber of Commerce said the increment of the index in Panama was directly related to the high level of commercial activity in December, mainly because during that month the Panamanians receive more income, like the 13th month payment and other incentives.
Consumers expectations about the financial situation of their homes went up to 118, five points higher that in November, which indicates optimism for the future.