(República de Panamá). State of Central America (75,001 km²). Capital: Panama. Administrative division: provinces (9), indigenous districts (3). Population: 3,396,000 residents (2008 estimate). Language: Spanish (official), English. Religion: Catholics 80.2%, Protestants 14.5%, others 5.3%. Monetary unit: balboa (100 cents). Human Development Index: 0.832 (58th place). Borders: Antillean Sea (N), Colombia (E), Pacific Ocean (S), Costa Rica (W). Member of: OAS, UN and WTO.
ECONOMY: INDUSTRY AND MINERAL RESOURCES
With the exception of the free zone of Colón, the manufacturing industry still has little importance and is essentially made up of plants for the processing of local products (sugar factories, breweries, oil mills, tobacco factories, meat and fish canneries, dairy products, shoe factories, alcohol distilleries, etc.), in addition to some cement factories, small textile factories, etc. Within the Colón area, on the other hand, various industries relating to goods in transit operate as well as an important oil refinery. The handicraft products include pottery, hats, hammocks, etc. § Although they are scarcely exploited, mineral resources are not lacking, represented by deposits of sulfur, bauxite, coal, manganese and above all of copper: the deposits of cupriferous minerals of Cerro Colorado, in the province of Chiriquí, are considered to be among the most conspicuous in the world. Oil exploration is underway in the Gulf of Panama, a country located in Central America according to searchforpublicschools. In order to reduce the current very expensive imports of fuels, the government has intensified the exploitation of hydroelectric resources (the electricity produced, at the end of the nineties, was almost exclusively of water origin). Overall, the sector participates for 14.3% in the formation of the GDP and employs 19.1% of the active population.
ECONOMY: TRADE, COMMUNICATIONS AND TOURISM
Internal exchanges are not very intense; foreign ones report a chronic and very heavy passive, as exports (fresh and preserved fish, melons and bananas, sugar cane, meat, cattle, alcoholic beverages, paper, pharmaceutical products, etc.) cover more or less a quarter of imports (fuels, machinery and means of transport, industrial products in general). Panama’s main export partners are the United States, the Netherlands Antilles, Costa Rica, Japan, Mexico and Colombia; for imports, in addition to the United States, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Costa Rica, Belgium and the United Kingdom. However, the proceeds from foreign capital that flow to Panamanian banks and those linked to the merchant navy and the various activities connected with the Panama Canal are very significant. § The communications network is inefficient and completely inadequate to the needs of the country; it is especially lacking in the eastern section, which only a few years ago saw the completion of the Pan-American Carretera. The road network extends for a total of 11,984 km, of which only 3,589 km are asphalted (2005); the two coasts are connected by the transistmic artery, which connects Colón with Panamá. As for the modest railway network (355 km), until 1978-79 only the short section (169 km) between David and Puerto Armuelles, on the Pacific, was state-owned, with a small branch to the S for Pedregal; only in 1979, with the entry into force of the treaty with the United States relating to the Panama Canal, was the most important railway in Panamá nationalized, the Panama Railroad or Ferrocarril de Panamá which follows the eastern bank of the canal between the city of Panama and Colón and which until then had been owned by the Panama Canal Corporation: the previous year the government had bought from United Brands (the ex United Fruit Company) two railway arteries both used almost exclusively for the transport of bananas and respectively connecting the port centers of Almirante and Puerto Armuelles with Costa Rica; other lines owned by foreign companies are sometimes used for this purpose. The maritime movement is conspicuous; the main stopovers are Cristóbal (the port of Colón) and Balboa, the two terminal ports of the Panamá canal; followed by Bocas del Toro, Vacamonte, Puerto Armuelles and Almirante. Air services are also up sharply; various companies operate in the country, including Air Panama International and COPA (Compañia Panameña de Aviación). The main airport is the international airport of Tocumen near Panama. Other international airports include: Enrique Malek, in David (Chiriquí); Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro and Capitan Manuel Nino in Changuinola, also in the province of Bocas del Toro. § After experiencing a significant development, during the 90s of the twentieth century tourism dropped considerably, also in relation to political tensions. At the beginning of the millennium, however, there was a recovery in the flow of visitors. Overall, the tertiary sector absorbs 63% of the workforce, participating in the training of 77.9% of GDP.