Think Panama and the first thing that comes to mind is the Central American Republic’s famous canal. Little wonder. This maritime marvel, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 94 years ago, is the motor that keeps Panama’s economy humming even as the rest of the world stumbles.
Panama is successfully positioning themselves as the hub of the Americas — the place to be for business and finance, real estate investment, tourism and affordable retirement living. And the Canal is playing a fundamental role as the key to prosperity.
Already, the canal has transformed tiny Panama, home to 3.2 million people, into an international business centre and helped it achieve the fastest-growing economy in Central America – well on its way to becoming what observers are predicting is ‘the next Hong Kong’.
But if the canal is Panama’s heart, its soul is without doubt its geography. To borrow a phrase from real estate, Panama is blessed with location, location, location.
A canal — and a nation — is born
Situated on the eastern end of the isthmus forming a land bridge connecting North and South America, Panama is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. It is this strategic location between the Americas that prompted the United States to help Panama secede from Colombia in 1903 (Panama had formed an alliance with Colombia after breaking away from Spain in 1821). In return, Panama signed a treaty allowing the U.S. to build a canal across the narrow isthmus, giving U.S. sovereignty over land on either side, known as the Panama Canal Zone.