PANAMA



Mireya Moscoso
President

Panama

(pronounced "meeh-REH-yu mos-KOH-soh")

"From now on we are in charge of our own destiny. We don't want a divided country, we want a unified nation."

The Republic of Panama is a Central American country of 78,200 sq km (30,193 sq mi). It shares a western border with Costa Rica and an eastern border with Colombia. The Caribbean Sea lies north of Panama, and the Pacific Ocean is on the southern end of the country.

Panama had an estimated population of 2,882,329 in 2002, with a population growth rate of 1.26%. Panama enjoys one of the highest standards of living in Central America. Life expectancy is 75.9 years and 90.8% of the population is literate. Approximately 70% of all Panama-nians are mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white); 14% are West Indian; 10% are white; and 6% are Native American. A majority of the population (85%) is Roman Catholic but a significant number (15%) are Protestant. Spanish is the official language, although English is also commonly used in urban areas.

A majority of the Panamanian workforce is employed by the service industry. The three main sources of employment are banking, commerce, and tourism. The gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at US $16.9 billion, or US $5,900 per capita) in 2001. There has been little development in agriculture and industry in recent years, because more than 61% of Panama's economic activities are in the service industry. One of every three Panamanians is part of the country's labor force but unemployment has remained high (estimated around 13% in 2000, as of 2003 it was pegged at 18%).

The main export products are bananas, rice, corn, coffee, and sugarcane. Panama's main trade partner is the United States. The unit of currency is the balboa , which has a fixed exchange rate of one balboa = US $1.00. U.S. dollars are commonly used as currency, because of the large influence of the United States,

Panama is known around the world because of its 80 km (50 mi) transoceanic canal built by the United States in 1914. The virtual monopoly held by the canal over trade between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans has continued to fuel resources into the economy. Tolls for crossing the canal were raised by 8.2% in 1997 and 7.5% in 1998. The transit fee for small vessels now stands at over US $1,500. These increases were justified by claims that the canal will need to be expanded by the year 2020 to meet the expected increase in demand.

ADDRESS

Presidente de la República de Panamá
Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá

Also read article about Panama from Wikipedia

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