Panama Is No Longer Just The Home Of The Canal

When I know a resident has successfully moved into their new beach property, I often stop by with a bottle of wine or a plant just to make sure everything has gone smoothly and whether I might address any problems. I was making such a visit when a client from the United States was finishing up her unpacking and I noticed a stack of magazines.

“I can’t keep up with them,” said the woman as she smiled and gestured toward the pile of reading material. “I know I will miss English magazines in the printed form after a few months, but until then, I have a lot to keep me busy.”

While we talked, I looked over at one of the magazines which was turned over, leaving a full back-page cover advertisement in view. After a decade in Panama, I can easily recognize our main city’s skyline. Who could miss the “screw” building, even if the familiar bow of the Trump Tower is not present.

But, even then, when I realized the magazine was the venerable news periodical Time, I thought I must be mistaken. Time is a US publication. As I pulled it closer, there was a Panamanian face looking back at me and a headline, “Why A Bank Should Care About A Ride To Work.” Citibank, founded in 1812 as the City Bank of New York, was touting their partnership with the “Government of Panama” by funding the new mass transit system in Panama City.

The ad bragged about the bank’s relationship with Panama, dating back to 1902 when Citibank provided funds to develop the original Panama Canal. Here’s the ad in its full-page glory:

The ad in Time magazine that caught my eye.
The ad in Time magazine that caught my eye.

The single full-color advertisement told me a great deal more than just the fact funding for the new subway had come from a North American financial conglomerate. The ad addressed the unprecedented growth in Panama, the acknowledgment that Panama was progressively thinking about reduced greenhouse gas emissions and that we enjoyed forward-thinking leadership.

I couldn’t help but reflect, “Wow, they are really taking notice of us publicly!” I smiled.

A Testament to Panama’s Enviable Growth

Panama, as a country, and Panama City especially, has been on a growth tear. Our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a rate of 9.5% in 2012 and that was followed with a still impressive rate of 5.57% in 2013. This year, The International Monetary Fund (IMF), says the rate will be even higher. But, it is the projected sustained rates for 2015 and 2016 that are especially noteworthy. The IMF is conservatively projecting GDP growth in the 9-10% range for both years. Panama is clearly the place to be for investments, comfortable living and first-world amenities.

As I placed the magazine back on the stack of unread glossy publications, I couldn’t help but pat myself on the back. I have endured more questions than I care to remember about my decision to move and raise my family in Panama. I am a native of Australia and, while I love my home country, I have winced more than once at their arrogance when comparing themselves to Central and Latin America. I am quite sure I hit the lottery when I moved to Panama a decade ago.

Looking Ahead

According to leading economists, Panama’s growth will mainly be driven by investment and private consumption. With an unemployment rate of 2.9%, the main concern will not be growth but successfully managing that growth.

I have never been one to shy away from a challenge, but today, I feel some pressure when it comes to managing my own growth. Because I make my living selling high-end properties to individuals from all over the globe, it has become increasingly necessary for me to keep up with what is happening in all of Panama. Everything seems to be at warp speed. Property is selling at an incredible rate and inventory is shrinking. With 76.4 million Baby Boomers retiring in the United States and another 32 million doing the same in Canada, I am fielding calls about what is available now and in the next few years. The secret about retiring comfortably in Panama is no longer a secret.

An Unprecedented Demand for Property– and One Developer’s Response

Empresas Bern, the leading Panamanian real estate developer, has a new development in Nueva Gorgona, located about 50 miles from Panama City, which has 28 levels and is located right on the Pacific Ocean. Royal Palm offers the best in absolute beachfront living and will be a fabulous place to call home.

However, because of increased demand in the upscale market, Empresas Bern is moving forward with an ultra-luxury 33-story building inside the exclusive gated community of Coronado. Punta Vela offers the best of everything for the few who get to call it home. It is located adjacent to the upscale Coronado Golf, combining synergies and infrastructure. I know there is only so much space in Coronado and Punta Vela will be the crown jewel within the confines of the Coronado community.

There are many other projects in development up and down the Pacific coast, but Punta Vela has assets other locations cannot manufacture. Everyone wants to be in Coronado where the grocery stores are convenient and compete for your business, the single family homes are perfectly manicured, the restaurants are first-class and the International School offers college prep courses in a diversified environment. There are only so many residences for sale in Punta Vela.

Other residential projects will have some amenities, but Punta Vela will have every amenity. A gracious entrance, a roof top lap pool, a residents’ social area on the fifth floor leading to a large pool along with well-appointed common areas and a staff trained to offer the finest concierge services. Every over-sized balcony will offer amazing views of the mountains and the endless waves of the Pacific Ocean. Spacious one- to three-bedroom units will have floor to ceiling vistas, master bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and open-concept living areas.

Putting Panama in Perspective

I know there are many areas in the world which can provide an enviable residence, I just don’t know of any other place that can provide the kind of residential living Coronado can proffer to a wide spectrum of nationalities, with a strong infrastructure and projected growth for a reasonable budget. There is a lot to be said for seizing an opportunity when it is on an upward growth trajectory.

I am sorry I didn’t ask to keep the Time magazine. I think the advertisement represents a huge turning point for Panama. The time when a United States company stopped to tout the relationship between two countries, both at a cross roads.

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