General Information

Panama is a country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. The Panama Canal, a famous feat of human engineering, cuts through its center, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route. In the capital, Panama City, modern skyscrapers, casinos and nightclubs contrast with colonial buildings in the Casco Viejo district and the rainforest of Natural Metropolitan Park.

Population
The population of Panama is approximately 3.4 million, about 52% of which reside in Panama City, consisting of mainly the Mestizos (70%) and a mix of West Indians, Caucasians and Indians. The dominant religion is Roman Catholicism.
Political Structure

Panama was a Spanish colony until 1821. In 1903, Panama broke an alliance with Colombia and became an independent republic. There are three Branches of Government:

The Executive Branch of the Government is at present composed of a President and two vice-presidents, elected by majority vote, for a five-year term. The Ministers of State are appointed by the President subject to approval by the Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly is composed of legislators elected from the electoral districts for a five-year term. The Judicial Branch of Government consists of Supreme Court of Justice, five Superiors Courts and three Courts of Appeal. The Supreme Court of Justice is presided over by nine judges appointed for a ten-year term.
Infrastructure and Economy

The Colon Free Zone is located on the Caribbean side of the Isthmus of Panama near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal. This Free Trade Zone is the second largest in the world after Hong Kong. Operations and transactions taking place in the Free Trade Zone are subject to a special tax treatment whereby imports from other parts of the world and re-exports to other countries are exempted from any import or export taxes imposed by Panama. Income earned from re-exports is taxed at specially reduced rates. Panama has the world’s largest shipping registry and a well- established Banking Centre. Economic growth will be bolstered by the Panama Canal expansion which began in 2007 and is expected to complete in 2014-15 at a cost of US$5.3 billion.

Language
Spanish is the official and spoken language. English is also spoken widely in urban areas and is used daily in commerce and international trade.

Currency
United States Dollar.

Exchange Control

There are no foreign exchange controls in Panama.

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