Photos of Panama

Introduction

Background

Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela - named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When the latter dissolved in 1830, Panama remained part of Colombia. With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by the end of the century. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the subsequent decades. With US help, dictator Manuel NORIEGA was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were transferred to Panama by the end of 1999. An ambitious expansion project to more than double the Canal's capacity - by allowing for more Canal transits and larger ships - was carried out between 2007 and 2016.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica

Geographic coordinates

9 00 N, 80 00 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean

Area

total: 75,420 sq km

land: 74,340 sq km

water: 1,080 sq km

country comparison to the world: 118

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than South Carolina

Land boundaries

total: 687 km

border countries (2): Colombia 339 km, Costa Rica 348 km

Coastline

2,490 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm or edge of continental margin

Climate

tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)

Terrain

interior mostly steep, rugged mountains with dissected, upland plains; coastal plains with rolling hills

Elevation

mean elevation: 360 m

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

highest point: Volcan Baru 3,475 m

Natural resources

copper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 30.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 7.3% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 2.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 20.7% (2018 est.)

forest: 43.6% (2018 est.)

other: 25.9% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

321 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

population is concentrated towards the center of the country, particularly around the Canal, but a sizeable segment of the populace also lives in the far west around David; the eastern third of the country is sparsely inhabited

Natural hazards

occasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien area

Environment - current issues

water pollution from agricultural runoff threatens fishery resources; deforestation of tropical rain forest; land degradation and soil erosion threatens siltation of Panama Canal; air pollution in urban areas; mining threatens natural resources

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note

strategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Panamanian(s)

adjective: Panamanian

Ethnic groups

Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and White) 65%, Native American 12.3% (Ngabe 7.6%, Kuna 2.4%, Embera 0.9%, Bugle 0.8%, other 0.4%, unspecified 0.2%), Black or African descent 9.2%, Mulatto 6.8%, White 6.7% (2010 est.)

Languages

Spanish (official), indigenous languages (including Ngabere (or Guaymi), Buglere, Kuna, Embera, Wounaan, Naso (or Teribe), and Bri Bri), Panamanian English Creole (similar to Jamaican English Creole; a mixture of English and Spanish with elements of Ngabere; also known as Guari Guari and Colon Creole), English, Chinese (Yue and Hakka), Arabic, French Creole, other (Yiddish, Hebrew, Korean, Japanese)

note: many Panamanians are bilingual

Religions

Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%

Demographic profile

Panama is a country of demographic and economic contrasts. It is in the midst of a demographic transition, characterized by steadily declining rates of fertility, mortality, and population growth, but disparities persist based on wealth, geography, and ethnicity. Panama has one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America and dedicates substantial funding to social programs, yet poverty and inequality remain prevalent. The indigenous population accounts for a growing share of Panama's poor and extreme poor, while the non-indigenous rural poor have been more successful at rising out of poverty through rural-to-urban labor migration. The government's large expenditures on untargeted, indirect subsidies for water, electricity, and fuel have been ineffective, but its conditional cash transfer program has shown some promise in helping to decrease extreme poverty among the indigenous population.

Panama has expanded access to education and clean water, but the availability of sanitation and, to a lesser extent, electricity remains poor. The increase in secondary schooling - led by female enrollment - is spreading to rural and indigenous areas, which probably will help to alleviate poverty if educational quality and the availability of skilled jobs improve. Inadequate access to sanitation contributes to a high incidence of diarrhea in Panama's children, which is one of the main causes of Panama's elevated chronic malnutrition rate, especially among indigenous communities.

Age structure

0-14 years: 25.56% (male 508,131/female 487,205)

15-24 years: 16.59% (male 329,250/female 316,796)

25-54 years: 40.31% (male 794,662/female 774,905)

55-64 years: 8.54% (male 165,129/female 167,317)

65 years and over: 9.01% (male 160,516/female 190,171) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 53.9

youth dependency ratio: 40.8

elderly dependency ratio: 13.1

potential support ratio: 7.6 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 30.1 years

male: 29.6 years

female: 30.5 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 122

Birth rate

16.67 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 97

Death rate

5.01 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 196

Net migration rate

-0.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 100

Population distribution

population is concentrated towards the center of the country, particularly around the Canal, but a sizeable segment of the populace also lives in the far west around David; the eastern third of the country is sparsely inhabited

Urbanization

urban population: 68.4% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 2.06% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population

1.899 million PANAMA CITY (capital) (2021)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.84 male(s)/female

total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

52 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 93

Infant mortality rate

total: 11.25 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 12.37 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 10.08 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 130

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 79.47 years

male: 76.66 years

female: 82.41 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 57

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 94.8% of population

total: 98.3% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 5.2% of population

total: 1.7% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

1.57 physicians/1,000 population (2016)

Hospital bed density

2.3 beds/1,000 population (2016)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 97.2% of population

rural: 72.4% of population

total: 89.1% of population

unimproved: urban: 2.8% of population

rural: 27.6% of population

total: 10.9% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

<500 (2018 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: intermediate (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: dengue fever

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 95.4%

male: 96%

female: 94.9% (2018)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years

male: 12 years

female: 14 years (2016)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 10.2%

male: 7.4%

female: 15.3% (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 125

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Panama

conventional short form: Panama

local long form: Republica de Panama

local short form: Panama

etymology: named after the capital city which was itself named after a former indigenous fishing village

Government type

presidential republic

Capital

name: Panama City

geographic coordinates: 8 58 N, 79 32 W

time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: according to tradition, the name derives from a former fishing area near the present capital - an indigenous village and its adjacent beach - that were called "Panama" meaning "an abundance of fish"

Administrative divisions

10 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 3 indigenous regions* (comarcas); Bocas del Toro, Chiriqui, Cocle, Colon, Darien, Embera-Wounaan*, Herrera, Guna Yala*, Los Santos, Ngobe-Bugle*, Panama, Panama Oeste, Veraguas

Independence

3 November 1903 (from Colombia; became independent from Spain on 28 November 1821)

National holiday

Independence Day (Separation Day), 3 November (1903)

Constitution

history: several previous; latest effective 11 October 1972

amendments: proposed by the National Assembly, by the Cabinet, or by the Supreme Court of Justice; passage requires approval by one of two procedures: 1) absolute majority vote of the Assembly membership in each of three readings and by absolute majority vote of the next elected Assembly in a single reading without textual modifications; 2) absolute majority vote of the Assembly membership in each of three readings, followed by absolute majority vote of the next elected Assembly in each of three readings with textual modifications, and approval in a referendum; amended several times, last in 2004

Legal system

civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court of Justice

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent only: yes

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Laurentino "Nito" CORTIZO Cohen (since 1 July 2019); Vice President Jose Gabriel CARRIZO Jaen (since 1 July 2019); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Laurentino "Nito" CORTIZO Cohen (since 1 July 2019); Vice President Jose Gabriel CARRIZO Jaen (since 1 July 2019)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president

elections/appointments: president and vice president directly elected on the same ballot by simple majority popular vote for a 5-year term; president eligible for a single non-consecutive term); election last held on 5 May 2019 (next to be held in 2024)

election results: Laurentino "Nito" CORTIZO Cohen elected president; percent of vote - Laurentino CORTIZO Cohen (PRD) 33.3%, Romulo ROUX (CD) 31%, Ricardo LOMBANA (independent) 18.8%, Jose BLANDON (Panamenista Party) 10.8%, Ana Matilde GOMEZ Ruiloba (independent) 4.8%, other 1.3%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (71 seats; 45 members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies - populous towns and cities - by proportional representation vote and 26 directly elected in single-seat constituencies - outlying rural districts - by plurality vote; members serve 5-year terms)

elections: last held on 5 May 2019 (next to be held in May 2024)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PRD 35, CD 18, Panamenista 8, MOLIRENA 5, independent 5; composition - men 55, women 16, percent of women 22.5%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (consists of 9 magistrates and 9 alternates and divided into civil, criminal, administrative, and general business chambers)

judge selection and term of office: magistrates appointed by the president for staggered 10-year terms

subordinate courts: appellate courts or Tribunal Superior; Labor Supreme Courts; Court of Audit; circuit courts or Tribunal Circuital (2 each in 9 of the 10 provinces); municipal courts; electoral, family, maritime, and adolescent courts

Political parties and leaders

Democratic Change or CD [Romulo ROUX]
Democratic Revolutionary Party or PRD [Benicio ROBINSON]
Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement or MOLIRENA [Francisco "Pancho" ALEMAN]
Panamenista Party [Jose Luis "Popi" VARELA Rodriguez] (formerly the Arnulfista Party)
Popular Party or PP [Juan Carlos ARANGO Reese] (formerly Christian Democratic Party or PDC)

International organization participation

BCIE, CAN (observer), CD, CELAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAES, LAIA, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, Pacific Alliance (observer), PCA, SICA, UN, UNASUR (observer), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Juan Ricardo DE DIANOUS HENRIQUEZ (since 16 September 2019)

chancery: 2862 McGill Terrace NW, Washington, DC 20007

telephone: [1] (202) 483-1407

FAX: [1] (202) 483-8413

consulate(s) general: Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Tampa, Washington DC

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant), Charge d'Affairs Roxanne CABRAL (since 9 March 2018)

telephone: [507] 317-5000

embassy: Edificio 783, Avenida Demetrio Basilio Lakas Avenue, Clayton

mailing address: American Embassy Panama, Unit 0945, APO AA 34002; American Embassy Panama, 9100 Panama City PL, Washington, DC 20521-9100

FAX: [507] 317-5445 (2018)

Flag description

divided into four, equal rectangles; the top quadrants are white (hoist side) with a blue five-pointed star in the center and plain red; the bottom quadrants are plain blue (hoist side) and white with a red five-pointed star in the center; the blue and red colors are those of the main political parties (Conservatives and Liberals respectively) and the white denotes peace between them; the blue star stands for the civic virtues of purity and honesty, the red star signifies authority and law

National symbol(s)

harpy eagle; national colors: blue, white, red

National anthem

name: "Himno Istmeno" (Isthmus Hymn)

lyrics/music: Jeronimo DE LA OSSA/Santos A. JORGE

note: adopted 1925

Economy

Economic overview

Panama's dollar-based economy rests primarily on a well-developed services sector that accounts for more than three-quarters of GDP. Services include operating the Panama Canal, logistics, banking, the Colon Free Trade Zone, insurance, container ports, flagship registry, and tourism and Panama is a center for offshore banking. Panama's transportation and logistics services sectors, along with infrastructure development projects, have boosted economic growth; however, public debt surpassed $37 billion in 2016 because of excessive government spending and public works projects. The US-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement was approved by Congress and signed into law in October 2011, and entered into force in October 2012.

Future growth will be bolstered by the Panama Canal expansion project that began in 2007 and was completed in 2016 at a cost of $5.3 billion - about 10-15% of current GDP. The expansion project more than doubled the Canal's capacity, enabling it to accommodate high-capacity vessels such as tankers and neopanamax vessels that are too large to traverse the existing canal. The US and China are the top users of the Canal.

Strong economic performance has not translated into broadly shared prosperity, as Panama has the second worst income distribution in Latin America. About one-fourth of the population lives in poverty; however, from 2006 to 2012 poverty was reduced by 10 percentage points.

Real GDP growth rate

5.4% (2017 est.)

5% (2016 est.)

5.8% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 37

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: BBB (2011)

Moody's rating: Baa1 (2019)

Standard & Poors rating: BBB (2020)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$133.587 billion (2019 est.)

$129.688 billion (2018 est.)

$125.07 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 82

GDP (official exchange rate)

$66.801 billion (2019 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$31,459 (2019 est.)

$31,049 (2018 est.)

$30,455 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 65

Gross national saving

30% of GDP (2019 est.)

29.3% of GDP (2018 est.)

31.4% of GDP (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 36

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2.4% (2017 est.)

industry: 15.7% (2017 est.)

services: 82% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 45.6% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 10.7% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 42.9% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 3% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 41.9% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -44.2% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

sugar cane, bananas, rice, poultry, milk, plantains, pineapples, maize, beef, pork

Industries

construction, brewing, cement and other construction materials, sugar milling

Labor force

1.633 million (2017 est.)

note: shortage of skilled labor, but an oversupply of unskilled labor

country comparison to the world: 127

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 17%

industry: 18.6%

services: 64.4% (2009 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.1%

highest 10%: 38.9% (2014 est.)

Budget

revenues: 12.43 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 13.44 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

37.8% of GDP (2017 est.)

37.4% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 138

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$3.036 billion (2017 est.)

-$3.16 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 174

Exports

$25.94 billion (2018 est.)

$24.7 billion (2017 est.)

note: includes the Colon Free Zone

country comparison to the world: 72

Exports - partners

US 18.9%, Netherlands 16.6%, China 6.5%, Costa Rica 5.4%, India 5.1%, Vietnam 5% (2017)

Exports - commodities

fruit and nuts, fish, iron and steel waste, wood

Imports

$28.978 billion (2018 est.)

$28.175 billion (2017 est.)

note: includes the Colon Free Zone

country comparison to the world: 72

Imports - partners

US 24.4%, China 9.8%, Mexico 4.9% (2017)

Imports - commodities

fuels, machinery, vehicles, iron and steel rods, pharmaceuticals

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$2.703 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$3.878 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 114

Debt - external

$101.393 billion (2019 est.)

$94.898 billion (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 54

Exchange rates

balboas (PAB) per US dollar -

1 (2017 est.)

1 (2016 est.)

1 (2015 est.)

1 (2014 est.)

1 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 92% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 99.4% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 77% (2019)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 671,799

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 17.46 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 86

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 5,073,123

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 131.85 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 119

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: domestic and international facilities well-developed; investment from international operators; competition among operators helps reduce price of services; launch of LTE services; govt. fixed-line projects and popularity of mobile broadband connectivity see growth; Chinese company Huawei helps with G-fast technologies (2020)

domestic: fixed-line 17 per 100 and rapid subscribership of mobile-cellular telephone 132 per 100 (2019)

international: country code - 507; landing points for the PAN-AM, ARCOS, SAC, AURORA, PCCS, PAC, and the MAYA-1 submarine cable systems that together provide links to the US and parts of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to the Central American Microwave System (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

multiple privately owned TV networks and a government-owned educational TV station; multi-channel cable and satellite TV subscription services are available; more than 100 commercial radio stations (2019)

Internet users

total: 2,199,433

percent of population: 57.87% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 118

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 540,220

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 14 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 82

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 4 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 122

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 12,939,350 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 47.63 million mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 57 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 1 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 3 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 3 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 20 (2017)

under 914 m: 30 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 60 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 8 (2013)

under 914 m: 51 (2013)

Heliports

3 (2013)

Pipelines

128 km oil (2013)

Railways

total: 77 km (2014)

standard gauge: 77 km 1.435-m gauge (2014)

country comparison to the world: 128

Waterways

800 km (includes the 82-km Panama Canal that is being widened) (2011)

country comparison to the world: 71

Merchant marine

total: 7,886

by type: bulk carrier 2,604, container ship 615, general cargo 1,347, oil tanker 789, other 2,531 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 2

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Balboa, Colon, Cristobal

container port(s) (TEUs): Balboa (2,905,049), Colon (3,891,209) (2017)

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces; Panamanian Public Security Forces (subordinate to the Ministry of Public Security), comprising the National Police (PNP), National Air-Naval Service (SENAN), National Border Service (SENAFRONT) (2020)

note: on 10 February 1990, the government of then President Guillermo ENDARA abolished Panama's military and reformed the security apparatus by creating the Panamanian Public Forces; in October 1994, Panama's National Assembly approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting the creation of a standing military force but allowing the temporary establishment of special police units to counter acts of "external aggression"

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Panamanian Public Security Forces are comprised of approximately 26,000 personnel (20,000 National Police Force; 4,000 National Border Service; 2,000 National Air-Naval Service) (2019 est.)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

Panama's security forces do not maintain heavy military equipment, instead focusing on light air transport, patrol, and surveillance capabilities; since 2010, Italy and the US have been the leading suppliers to the security forces (2019 est.)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

organized illegal narcotics operations in Colombia operate within the remote border region with Panama

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 79,155 (Venezuela) (economic and political crisis; includes Venezuelans who have claimed asylum or have received alternative legal stay) (2020)

Illicit drugs

major cocaine transshipment point and primary money-laundering center for narcotics revenue; money-laundering activity is especially heavy in the Colon Free Zone; offshore financial center; negligible signs of coca cultivation; monitoring of financial transactions is improving; official corruption remains a major problem