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Wednesday, September 18 2019 @ 03:45 pm EDT

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Panama's Economic Growth Will Lead Latin America Again in 2014 - IMF

Money MattersPanama is the only country in the Americas whose economy will grow by more than 6%, according to the 'World Economic Outlook' report presented yesterday by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

IMF forecasts estimate Panama's gross domestic product (GDP) will grow 7.2 % in 2014 and 6.9 % in 2015. This represents an increase of 0.3 percentage points from the last report in October 2013.

For the former president of the National Association of Economists Adolfo Quintero, this projection is too optimistic.

'I think the Panamanian economy will grow 6.25 % this year," Quintero said. 'The public finances are not in the best condition and the next administration will face strong legacy commitments,' he said.

Panama maintains a fiscal deficit of 3.1 %, the limit allowed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and debt in the non-financial public sector exceeds 16 billion dollars, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

The figure does not include the more than 4 billion dollars necessary to pay for turnkey projects that have already been contracted.

'Whoever says investment in public works guarantees growth, is not familiar with the Panamanian economy," Quintero said.

'70% of the investment in the construction sector it belongs to the private sector, and 90% of the economy is linked to the international markets," he explained.

It is why, according to the economist, the economic slowdown in China (from 7.7% to 7.5 % in 2014, according to the IMF) will have a strong impact on the local economy.

The former minister of the Economy Domingo Latorraca agrees that changes in China will have effects for the country.

'The Panamanian economy must be kept well mixed. We should not have all our eggs in one basket,' he said.

Latorraca matches the IMF projections, noting that the economic slowdown will help to keep rising consumer prices under control, which according to the IMF paper will be 3.8 % per annum. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Leave it to the Estrella to take a report saying that the growth in the Panamanian economy will lead Latin America (again) at 7.2 or more in 2014, and try to turn it into a negative article. The Estrella newspaper is anti-CD and anti-Martinelli, so they don't want to say anything good, especially in the weeks leading up to an election.

The Panamanian economy has already demonstrated it's resiliency during the global economic slowdown of 2008 - 2010. When everyone else was tanking, Panama posted growth of 10.1% in 2008, 3.9% in 2009 at the height of the recession, and then quickly recovered to 7.5% in 2010 and 10.8 in 2011.

What's more, I see these economic prediction articles every year, and they are always wrong (low), every time. I don't think I have ever seen anyone - either in the Panamanian government or from international organizations like the IMF - that have been too optimistic or enthusiastic regarding the Panamanian economy. I personally think 2014 will come in well over 7% and more like 7.5% or higher. And once again, the best in Latin America.

Domingo Latorraca was the Minister of Economy and Finance under Mireya Moscoso, which probably makes him a Panameñista, a supporter of Juan Carlos Varela, and a likely enemy of Ricardo Martinelli. I don't disagree with anything he says in this article, but rather I'm simply pointing out that you need to consider the source.

With regards to inflation in Panama - if you will take a look at this chart below, you will see that in fact inflation has been trending down nicely over the past couple of years...

Jose Domingo Arias will win the election in May. The CD will continue the same economic policies which have worked very well over the past five years. They will build Line 2 and Line 3 of the Metro. The expansion of the Panama Canal will be completed during Arias' term in office and delivered. The Panama Canal - which is basically just a toll road - will start seeing the additional income from the newly expanded Panama Canal. New sectors of the economy will see unprecedented growth, especially in the mining sector where more than 6 billion dollars will be spent just to build a new copper mine.

So overall, I see none (zero) indications of any sort of significant problems for the Panamanian economy. And if having to deal with the impacts of yet another year of region-leading growth can be seen as a "problem" - then those are the sorts of problems you really want to have.

And here are those "problems." Unemployment is now at a practical level of 0% (full employment). It's really hard to get down past 4% because in any economy about that many people are either lazy or simply unemployable due to health issues, addition, or geographic location. Panama will continue to face a shortage of manpower, and they will slowly expand programs designed to let a trickle of foreign workers in to fill those positions.

A hot economy and zero unemployment puts upward pressure on both wages and prices. Inflation will be an issue, although it's been kept relatively low recently.

Most people don't understand that Panama's debt is limited by law. The government can only borrow so much money, but as the economy expands then they can borrow more (because the limits are tied to GDP or the overall size of the economy.) Every administration has run their economic policies right up against those limits, and Martinelli has done the same thing. However for the first time all of the major rating agencies have given Panama's debt "investor" status - and it's improved since then. So, continued government spending on large infrastructure projects only adds more fuel to the fire, and it's enough to keep things hot and churning.

So sure, 7.2% or more for 2014? I'll take it...

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Panama, Mexico sign free trade pact

Money MattersPANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) — The presidents of Panama and Mexico have signed a free trade agreement that should smooth the way for Mexican businesses to operate in the Central American country.

Panama's Ricardo Martinelli and Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto signed the accord during a regional meeting of the World Economic Forum in Panama on Thursday.

Panama exported just $17.3 million in goods to Mexico last year, while Mexico sent about $1 billion to Panama and has about $2 billion worth of investments there.

Panama Commerce Minister Ricardo Quijano says the deal allows Panama to retain tariff protection on key agricultural products such as corn, potatoes and milk products.

The treaty still awaits ratification by legislatures in both countries.

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Expocomer Opens Today

Money MattersExpocomer opens today, known as the most important commercial showcase for Latin America - in it's thirty-second version (XXXII ) - featuring the distinguished legal and business personality from Colombia Noemí Sanín Posada, and president Ricardo Martinelli at the inauguration.

More than 500 companies from 30 different countries will be participating in Expocomer, who will present their products and services to buyers.

Raul Delvalle, president of the Expocomer organizing committee, said the expectation for this year is to maintain a good level of international involvement in the show, to keep improving to meet the increasing quality standards of buyers, and to increase the number of business contacts signed at the show.

José Luis Ford, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama, said that rather than being the organization's pinnacle event, Expocomer is more a Panamanian event because of the commercial bonanza that occurs as a result of the fair, which boosts the Panamanian economy in both direct and indirect ways, impacting in different areas.

Figures from the Chamber of Commerce show how in the last 25 years Expocomer has seen more than 785,176 visitors, has resulted in more than 384,063 business contacts, and commercial transactions worth more than $2.185 billion.

Expocmer will be held from 26 to 28 March and include countries in Latin America , Asia and Europe. This year three new countries are represented: Haiti, Kosovo, and the Czech Republic. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Expocomer is worth checking out if you've got the time. There are always "show specials" and other deals and discounts offered by the attending companies. So it's a good time to buy that (whatever you've been needing) at a reduced rate.

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Colon Free Trade Zone Exports to Venezuela Collapse

Money MattersThe diplomatic and trade crisis between Panama and Venezuela has affected the companies in the Colon Free Zone most directly.

Between 2012 and 2013, re-exports which was the main market of the Panamanian free zone fell 43 %, dropping from about $3 billion to $1.7 billion.

This decline was caused by the inability of Venezuelan businessmen to have access to US dollars, restricted by the strict exchange controls put in place by the Venezuelan government.

This year, a deepening of the crisis is expected after the breakdown of trade relations announced by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

According to the businessman and former president of the Association of Users of the Colon Free Trade Zone Severo Sousa, re-exports to Venezuela will plummet to $300 million.

If these predictions are true, the fall compared to 2013 would be 82.3%, and the business volume would represent only a tenth of what it was in 2012.

The fading of this market is combined with the massive debt accumulated by the businesses and the government of Venezuela with the companies of the Free Trade Zone.

In total , as calculated by the manager of the Free Zone, Leopoldo Benedetti, the debt is around $2 billion.

Although Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly said his country will pay their commitments, Sousa yesterday confirmed that at the moment there has been no approach from the Venezuelan authorities.


The Free Zone also has been affected by the imposition of tariffs on imports from Colombia, one of the great traditional destinations of the goods passing through Panama.

The country (Panama) took the case to the World Trade Organization, where it is hoped the issue will be decided in their favor.

Sousa said "it's going on the right track, but it's a very slow route" because "already almost two years have passed and a decision has yet to be made, and in this time period the companies of the Colon Free Zone have already suffered the consequences. The damage has already been done," he said.

Although he said he does not have the data regarding the businesses that have been forced to close as a consequence of these situations, he did acknowledge that the activity has decreased a lot in the commercial emporium. As an example he said "before traffic was heavy in the Free Zone and you could not find a place to park. Now, that does not happen."

In addition he said "there are countless signs saying 'for rent' which means businesses are leaving and with them, the number of jobs is reduced. The loss of jobs would be about 3,000 or about 10% of the people who work in the area," said Sousa, citing numbers provided by the management of the Free Zone. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: So sales to Venezuela were about $3 billion in 2012 and that's expected to drop to $300 million in 2014. All of this has been caused by the actions of the government of Venezuela. They are trying to stem the outward flow of capital. Everyone who has any money in Venezuela has been trying to get it the hell out of there for years, while the government has been trying to keep the capital in the country, and to force their businessmen to push the money through the dysfunctional Venezuelan economy. Meanwhile, inflation in Venezuela was about 57% in 2013 and it's expected to be even higher in 2014. The riots and protests in Venezuela have been over rising prices, inflation, and the shortages of basic consumer goods such as toilet paper.

In short, the Venezuelan economy has crashed, and it's currently on fire. All of the foreign companies who were producing things there such as Toyota have stopped production completely. The foreign owned companies (which the central government and Maduro can't control) are pulling out or closing down.

The rich businessmen in Venezuela were taking advantage of the artificially low official exchange rate of 6 Bolivars per one US dollar. They would declare they intended to import goods to Venezuela so they need the dollars to buy those goods. The Venezuelan government then gives them the US dollars - accepting their Venezuelan Bolivars in exchange - at the official foreign exchange rate. The Venezuelan businessmen would then take the highly valuable US dollars and sell them on the black market at the unofficial rate of 60 to 70 Bolivars per dollar. So you take 6 Bolivars, turn them into one US dollars, then turn right around and convert that one US dollar back into 60 Bolivars on the black market. Follow me so far? Of course you're asking "why the hell would they do that? It doesn't make any sense."

The Venezuelan businessmen didn't actually import the majority of those goods they were supposed to be buying (mostly from the Colon Free Trade Zone). In some cases they would complete the sale, but then instead of importing the goods into Venezuela (or, after they were imported into Venezuela), those same businessmen would then smuggle the goods back out of Venezuela to someplace else - anywhere else - where they could be sold for US dollars or some other currency rather than the Venezuelan Bolivar.

The official money exchange mechanism in Venezuela was strife with corruption and that's what has caused this entire problem. People got paid a lot of money to look the other way and to allow things to occur, literally right under the noses of the officials who were supposed to be managing this whole system. It has since been shut down and replaced with something else - which closed the door on these corrupt practices - and that's what has caused this whole situation.

Of course it was unsustainable, and it all fell apart. That's why "exports" to Venezuela were $3 billion dollars (on paper) in 2012. In reality it was nothing more than a massive money laundering scheme, and the Panamanian businessmen in the Colon Free Trade Zone were grinning accomplices. The Colon Free Trade Zone is - first and foremost - a massive money laundering operation. Sure, a bunch of goods and materials flow through there. However it's a great way to launder money obtained from all sorts of illegal activities. Businessmen from all over Latin America walk in there every day and buy loads of crap with cash and have it shipped to the businesses in their home countries.

So a guy in Guatemala has a suitcase full of cash which he obtained by trafficking cocaine. He opens a store that sells sneakers. Actually, he opens several businesses - those which can take in lots of cash transactions like bars or restaurants are the best. So, he can take the (cocaine) cash in a bundle through the Tocumen airport. He can declare that money because he's a legitimate businessman, right? He uses the cash to buy a container full of sneakers, and he has those shipped back to Guatemala and he puts them for sale in his store. He just laundered the (cocaine) money, and turned it into (clean) sneakers, which he can then sell for apparently legitimate cash. That's one of the ways the Colon Free Trade Zone is used to launder money.

Anyway, back to Venezuela. The old official money exchanging operation has been shut down. And since it's been shut down, imports have come to a halt. With no imports, there's no toilet paper. And if there's no toilet paper, people protest. And then the government shoots and kills the protesters. Aren't centrally controlled economies fun? Man, talk about a throwback to the economic discussions of the 70's...

This is precisely the stuff that shut down the Soviet Union. And it will shut down Venezuela as well. Inflation. Lack of basic consumer goods. Unemployment. The worst economy in Latin America (despite being an oil exporting country). I mean, a chimp making economic decisions with a "wheel of fortune" could do a better job...

But it certainly pays to understand the role played by the businessmen of the Colon Free Trade Zone, and how they collaborated with the rich Venezuelan businessmen who are doing everything in their power to remove Maduro from power, including setting what's left of the economy on fire in order to prompt and fuel the ongoing protests and demonstrations. You have to fondle the entire elephant, grasshopper...

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Martinelli Will Announce Free Trade Agreement with Mexico

Money MattersThe Minister of Commerce and Industry of Panama Ricardo Quijano expressed confidence yesterday that President Ricardo Martinelli would announce the completion of negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with Mexico during his visit to the country tomorrow for talks with his counterpart, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

"Everything seems to have ended well ... what we have to see now is the finalization of the text, but everything indicates that we're done" with the negotiation of the agreement, Quijano told RPC Radio.

"Already between today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday) we should have the text ready" for the treaty, so Martinelli will be able to announce that the Free Trade Agreement with Mexico has been completed, Quijano said.

Delegations from Mexico and Panama on Saturday conducted the fifth round of Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Martinelli will travel to Mexico tomorrow, on Monday, where he will meet with President Peña Nieto.

The idea is that the FTA will be signed when Peña Nieto comes to Panama for the World Economic Forum, whose Latin American edition will be held in Panama from 1 to 3 April, Quijano said.

In 1996 the two countries began talks on a trade agreement, but those tales were suspended in 2003 due to differences over the tax issue. However, the entry into force on 31 December 2011 of a treaty to avoid double taxation paved the way for the resumption of negotiations in 2013.

"I believe Panama got what we were looking for," said Quijano, and he said Mexico was very mature and responsible during the negotiations.

Trade between Panama and Mexico in 2012 totaled $561 million.

In addition it is estimated that the investment made by Mexican companies in Panama exceeds $2 billion, making Panama the tenth largest recipient of Mexican investment in Latin America and the Caribbean.

With this Free Trade Agreement, Panama may become part of the Alliance of the Pacific, because one of the requirements for membership is to have an agreement with its founding members (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru) and Mexico was the only one with which Panama has not yet signed. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: These agreements serve to smooth the way for increased trade between countries, by removing barriers and restrictions, and generally making things easier. Ricardo Martinelli, who is first a businessman and then a politician, understands the value of these sorts of agreements, and during most of his administration they have quietly and persistently pursued greater and improved trade relations with all partners - Mexico included.

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Panama economic growth slows to 8.4 pct in 2013

Money MattersBy Lomi Kriel (Reuters) - Panama's economy slowed in 2013 after two straight years of double-digit growth, but remained one of Latin America's fastest expanding economies thanks to heavy government infrastructure spending, official data showed on Thursday.

Panama's economic activity rose 8.4 percent last year compared to a downwardly revised 10.2 percent in 2012, the government statistics agency said, figures in line with what the finance ministry had projected for the year.

The easing in growth comes as investments in large-scale infrastructure projects, including the $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, draw to a close.

The Central American country escaped the worst of the global recession, expanding at an average rate of 8 percent over the past six years and notching double-digit growth in 2011 and 2012.

Much of Panama's growth is credited to the public infrastructure spending, including the construction of the trademark canal's third lane and Central America's first metro.

President Ricardo Martinelli, whose term ends in May, has also poured money into new roads and hospitals and cleaning of Panama Bay, boosting the construction industry's growth by 30 percent in 2013.

The spending has created a budget deficit of 2.7 percent of GDP, Finance Minister Frank De Lima said, which some analysts find worrying given the strong growth the country has had.

Growth has also been lifted by construction and development of a $6.2 billion copper mine on Panama's Atlantic coast, which helped expand the mining industry by nearly a third last year.

The mine is expected to become one of the world's biggest open-pit copper developments and Panama's biggest source of exports, and its first shipments are due in 2016, according to Minera Panama, a subsidiary of Canada's First Quantum Minerals Ltd.

Still, Panama's overall growth was cooled by the worldwide economic slowdown, which dulled trade through the canal and ports.

A delay in the waterway's expansion, which is now projected to finish by December 2015, also persuaded some shippers such as Danish oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk to use alternative routes from Asia like the Suez Canal, which fits bigger ships carrying more goods cheaply.

Panama's $33.6 billion economy has also been affected by a dispute with two of its biggest trading partners, Colombia and Venezuela, which disrupted Panama's Colon Free Trade Zone, the world's largest duty-free area after Hong Kong.

Venezuelan traders owe the free trade zone about $1.2 billion because of difficulties exchanging the Venezuelan bolivar for dollars. Meanwhile, Colombia has imposed additional surcharges on importing items such as clothes and shoes.

Panama's Finance Ministry has switched to using 2007 base rates instead of 1996, modifying economic back data.

Editor's Comment: Focus on one thing - "...remained one of Latin America's fastest expanding economies..." The amazing expansion of the Panamanian economy remains firmly on track. Only Panama can complain that 8.4% growth is a bit off, after two years of double digit growth. The rest of the economies of Latin America would give their left coffee bean to be growing at 8.4%...

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Cargo Movement Through Panamanian Ports Increased 2.2% in 2013

Money MattersA total of 78.2 million metric tons of cargo moved through Panamanian ports in 2013, representing an increase of 2.2% compared to 2012, according to an official source.

The increase in freight movement in 2013 over the previous year was about 1.7 million metric tons, explained the Secretary of Economic Affairs and competitiveness of the Presidency, Kristelle Getzler, during the presentation of the main economic indicators of the country.

Getzler said the positive trend seen at the end of 2013 has continued into 2014, because in January there was a 22% increase in transfer loads as compared to the same period last year.

A total of 5.7 million metric tons were moved in January 2013, while in January 2014 the total increased to 7.0 million, the official explained.

There were also increases during January 2014 in the movement of containers, up 2.7%, and in the movement of vehicles, up 58.8%. (Critica) (snip)

The number of visitors to Panama also increased by 5.6% according to statistics provided by the Panamanian Tourism Authority (ATP).

A total of 2.2 million tourists arrived in Panama during 2013, compared to 2.08 million in 2012.

Foreign Direct Investment also showed a significant increase, up 61.1% (4.651 billion) in 2013, up from 2.887 billion in 2012.

Finally, levels of poverty (25.8 %) and extreme poverty (10.6%) in 2013 decreased by 0.7 and 0.5 percentage points respectively over the previous year.

Getzler said statistics from the Ministry of Economy and Finance ( MEF) state that approximately 10,000 people moved out of poverty in 2013, while unemployment, according to the latest data last August remained at 4.1 %, the same as in 2012. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: I cut out some relatively boring details on the exact numbers of movement of this or that through the ports - and who cares? What matters is the overall headline, that the ports in Panama are seeing more traffic, which is a good thing on several fronts. This report paints an picture of the Panamanian economy that is in excellent health. Increases in port traffic. Increases in FDI. Increases in the numbers of tourists arriving to the country. Lower levels of poverty and extreme poverty. Low unemployment. I honestly can't remember publishing a "bad news" economic story for Panama - and I've been doing this for ten years.

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Canal Conflict Will Be Resolved Before The End Of February

Money MattersPanama's Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima, said the conflict between the Panama Canal Authority and the GUPC consortium responsible for the canal expansion will be solved, and the newly expanded Panama Canal will be opened during 2015.

He said there will be a final solution before the end of February, because uncertainty is not good for the Canal, the country, or the world.

"This situation affects the rest of the countries preparing to expand their ports and receive Post Panamax vessels," he said.

He said ships going through the Suez Canal take more time to reach their destination, so it is in everyone's best interest for the newly expanded Panama Canal to be completed as soon as possible.

Canal Revenue Projections

According to Minister De Lima, they still have not prepared the 2015 budget, nor do they have estimates regarding the contribution (amount of revenue) that will be generated by the Panama Canal.

"What is it intended, is that the contribution received by the government from the Panama Canal is not affected," he said.

He said currently the Panama Canal provides $950 million annually to the state.

"What is happening at this time, is there will be no negative economic impact en the country in these years. When we write the 2014 annual budget we will meet with the ACP, to learn how much to expect in 2015," he said.

The contractual conflict that threatens to cripple work on the Panama Canal expansion project is now going into a third week during which it is hoped there will be some final decisions regarding the future of the project, caused by a lack of liquidity for the GUPC consortium. (Panama America)

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Panama economic growth cools to three-month low in November

Money MattersPANAMA CITY, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Panamanian economic activity eased in November to its slowest pace since August, the national statistics agency said late on Friday.

Economic activity rose 7.95 percent in November compared with the same month last year, below the 8.26 percent rate notched in October.

The finance ministry projects Panama's $33 billion economy expanded 8.5 percent last year.

Though the economy is stepping back from the double-digit growth Panama has posted in four of the past six years, it is still one of the fastest-growing in the region.

The growth is spurred by massive infrastructure spending, including the ongoing expansion of the Panama canal, which began in 2007, and the $1.8 billion construction of Central America's first metro rail system.

But since the start of 2014, the Panama Canal Authority has been embroiled in a public row with the consortium known as Grupo Unidos Por el Canal over $1.6 billion in added costs the GUPC says have arisen during work on the project.

Editor's Comment: Panama's economy is still growing nicely and will expand by another 8% or more for the year (2013). Amazingly enough, this has been going on for more than a decade now. It's all good news on the economic front in Panama. What's going to end it? A manpower shortage. There are already more jobs available than there are people to do them, and a shortage of people with the skills necessary to do the jobs. Step one is to get a body with a pulse who can fog a mirror that's place in front of their face. Step two is to train that body to do a task. It's one thing if you have the warm bodies, and can train them. It's quite another when you run out of warm bodies.

After ten straight years of economic growth, Panama now has a practical level of 0% unemployment - or full employment (where the jobs are located). Of course you can still find people who are unemployed, swinging in a hammock up in the mountains 40 miles from the closest road. But those guys apparently want to be unemployed, or else they would come down out of the mountains to get a job. The Panamanian economy is now about to reach that level where growth might start to slow due to a lack of warm bodies. It happens. Expect the Panamanian government to continue the trend of loosening rules and regulations on foreigners to allow more to come in, live, and work legally. The beat must go on...

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Panama economy grew 8.9 % in the third quarter of 2013

Money MattersPanama's economy grew 8.9 % of gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter of 2013, compared with the same period last year, driven by domestic consumption, the government reported today.

Panama's GDP stood at 7089.6 million for the third quarter of last year, 582.1 million over the same period of record in 2012.

This was stated at a press conference by the Project Coordinator of the Secretary for Economic Affairs and Competitiveness of the Ministry of the Presidency of Panama, Gina Gomez.

She said the accumulated growth between January and September 2013 reached 8 % of GDP, higher than the 7.5% calculated by both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which the official assessed as "very positive."

The GDP growth in the third quarter of 2013 was based on the "success" of sectors such as retail, construction, mining, manufacturing, land passenger transport, telecommunications, banking and real estate, health, private education, and services, according to official information.

Also the export of fruits such as banana, watermelon and cantaloupe, and by fishing, hotels , air transport and port activities.

According to statistics from the Comptroller General's Office, cited by Gomez, activities that registered declines were commerce from the Colon Free Zone, the second largest in the world after Hong Kong, and Panama Canal operations.

There were also declines in agricultural activities such as rice, corn, sorghum, beans, vegetables, coffee, raising cattle, and hogs.

Gomez said the Monthly Index of Economic Activity (MIEA) for October rose by 8.26% compared to the same period in 2012, which showed "positive rates all categories measures of economic activity."

The 8.26% expansion for October left a cumulative rate of 7.79% for the first ten months of the year.

The IMAE not reflect one hundred percent of the economic activity in the country, but its components are used as a reliable basis for making investment decisions, according to official information.

Foreign direct investment (FDI ) in January-September totaled 2.962 billion dollars spent, or $74.6 million more than over the same period in 2012.

Panama's economy grew by 10.6% of GDP in 2012 and the Government has estimated that it will expand by 8.5 % in 2013. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: I literally can't remember the last time I wrote or covered a "bad news" economic story for Panama. The economy has been growing by an average rate of about 10% per year or more since at least 2004. The GDP per capita (PPP) continues to improve and expand, meaning the average Panamanian has more money to spend than ever before. There are still a couple of counties that are "richer" than Panama (depending on whose data you choose to believe) such as Chile and Argentina - but in the next decade or so the Panamanian economy will continue to grow. Before too long Panamanians will be the "richest" citizens of Latin America - it's inevitable.

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