Contributed by: Don WinnerBy Cynthia Sanchez for the Panama America - The decline in the (residential) construction sector this year has been offset by investment in tourism and hotel construction, in both Panama City as well as along the beaches, along with new shopping centers being built, office buildings, and low-cost housing. According to the Panamanian Chamber of Construction (CAPAC), the value of building permits - those which have already been approved as well as new projects - has been "very stable" throughout 2009 - generating an investment of $1.2 billion dollars and showing no variation when compared to 2008. According to a report issued by Panama's Comptroller General covering the period from January through September of 2009, the value of permits issued to build new buildings and to construct repairs and additions registered an increase of 7.0%, with much of the increases being felt in the district of Colon (38.1%) and Panama (15%). Permits for non residential buildings rose by 95.2%. Meanwhile, decreases were registered in San Miguelito (-59.1%) and Arraiján (-49.2%). As a group, construction in David, Chitré, Santiago, Aguadulce and La Chorrera fell 16.1%. Permits for residential construction fell by 17.1%. (more) (See Comments)
Editor's Comment: This report is right on. There are increases in non residential construction, while residential construction is slowing. It's good to see that overall the construction industry is still expanding because a construction worker doesn't care if he's pouring cement for a high rise condominium, a new shopping center, or a new hotel. The expansion of the Panama Canal will keep even more people working once the construction of the third set of locks gets up to full swing. And, there's even more "mega" projects on the horizon with the eventual construction of the Metro mass transit system. Construction is one of the best ways to take the temperature of the Panamanian economy - it just keeps going, like the proverbial Eveready Bunny. It keeps going and going and going and going and going and going...
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Construction Materials: The cost of building materials has influenced the development of this industry, since according to the Panamanian Chamber of Construction, they are proportional to the final cost of the end product. During 2007 and 2008 costs for materials skyrocketed - some materials recorded price increases three times in the same year. This year, the costs of construction materials has increased "very little" but they are still expensive because Panama is not an industrialized country and the sector is exposed to the fluctuations caused by international trade. For example, a bag of cement now costs about $7.00 dollars, but it is more expensive in the interior of the country due to the cost of transportation.
Labor Issues: So far this year seventeen construction workers have been killed on the job. The Chief of Safety of the Unified Construction Workers and Associates Union (SUNTRACS), Gregorio Guerrel, said they are currently negotiating with the CAPAC and the Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development (MITRADEL), a project on a safety fund that will protect workers and their families if they should be hurt on the job in an accident. He said MITRADEL only goes to a construction project when a worker dies, and they do not comply with safety inspections. "When they do an inspection, they just talk to the bosses and say that all is fine," he said.
Construction is one of the sectors that generates the most jobs in the country - more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.