Panama Country Report
Panama is positioned between Colombia to the south and Costa Rica to the north in Central America (Woods, 2009). Panama is situated on a thin piece of land connecting two large areas known as isthmus (Woods, 2009). It forms the South and North America land-bridge. Panama joins the Pacific Ocean from one border and the Caribbean Sea on the other border (Woods, 2009). The country intersects the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean through the 50-mile canal cutting Panama in half. Panama City, the capital city which is also the biggest one, is situated on the nations Pacific coastline and has 827828 residents (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). Colon is the second largest city with 140,908 residents on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean (Woods, 2009). This paper is a country report on Panama and explores its location, population, income sources, ethnicities, languages, colonial history, and socio-economic and economic problems facing the country.
The population of Panama is rapidly growing with an approximate total population of 2,808,268 in July 2000, and 1.34% growth rate (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). In 1990, there was an increase in population to 2.2 from 1.5 million in the year 1970. In 2010, Panama registered another increase in population to 3.2 million (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). Fertility rates are high with every female giving birth to 2.32 children, and 19.53 births per 1,000 individuals. The mortality rate registered in every 1,000 persons is 4.95. Panama experiences high poverty rate; hence, high infant mortality results from poor health facilities (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). The immigration rate increased in 2000, with 1.16 in every 1,000 Panamanians immigrating to the other countries in search of better paying jobs in places such as the United States. The youth covers the major Panamanian population with an age group of 5-14 registering 550,000 people (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). However, the number of individuals who are over 60 equals to 240,000. Life expectancy in the country is about 78 years for females and 73 years for males. Panama expects that by 2055 the largest single group of people will be between the age of 30-39 and those over the age of 55 will be high by 2050 (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). Panamas society and culture is mainly Spanish-Caribbean. Mestizo, a mixed ethnic background of mostly Native-Americans and Spanish make up 70% of Panama population. The other ethnic groups include Native Americas, Whites, and Africans, who make up 6%, 10%, and 14% respectively (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). The countrys Native Americans are the minority ethnic group; as a result, they are facing the challenge of discrimination in politics, housing, and employment. A larger population of Panama, almost 60%, live in urban areas including Colon and Panama City (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). Other residents of almost 50% live in the strip between Panama City found on the Pacific and Colon located on the Caribbean Coast. The unoccupied land adds to about 25% (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008).
Panama is advantaged with geographical position that largely contributes to the economy (Woods, 2009). Panamas economy is established on well-developed sectors such as the Colon Free Zone, the Trans Panamanian oil pipeline, government, insurance, banking, and the Panama Canal (Woods, 2009). The nation adopted the US dollar, which, in its turn, helped in the development of the economy and terms of trade. The creation of Colon Free Zone and International Banking Centre were developed due to Panama unique monetary system (Woods, 2009).
Panama is best known for its Panama Canal. However, it is also known for its rich cultures, lush rainforest, and beautiful beaches (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). The Panama Canal, also known as the eighth wonder of the world, connects the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean through the Isthmus of Panama (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). This man made Canal cuts across isthmus at 48 miles thus providing freighters, other marine traffic, and cruise ships a fast and safer route.
Panama has a diverse cultural and racial composition. The Naso and Bri-Bri are lesser tribes neighboring the Costa Rica border (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). The Kona, Ngobe-Bungle, and Embera-Wounaan are the native tribes found in tribal-led reservations within Panama. About 150,000 individuals are of Chinese ancestry (Gritzner & Swanson, 2008). Recently, it was estimated that about 6% of the inhabitants are Amerindian, 10% are white Europeans, 14% are mixed West Indian and Amerindian, and 70% are mixed White Indian and Amerindian and mixed black and white (mestizo and mulatto).
The bulk of Panamanians are multilingual. The Amerindians speak their own language. The most widespread spoken language by more than 90 percent of the countrys residents is Spanish. English is a second language, but popular among business workers and Panamanian experts.
In 1821, Panama declared its independence from Spain and merged with Ecuador, Venezuela, and the Republic of Gran Colombia to form a brief union of Colombia (Harding, 2006). In 1826, the liberator Simon Bolivar called it the Pan American Conference (Harding, 2006). The Separatist rebellions occurred during 1830-1841, but still Panama remained part of Colombia. During the 16th century until mid-18th century, the isthmus linked the west coast of South America and Spanish trade was possible mainly through the Lima capital Viceregal (Harding, 2006). Isthmus gained power over the freshly reconstructed New Granada Viceroyalty. The region of Isthmian was the major economic transport zone before the exploration of the Europeans (Harding, 2006). Isthmian was also the center of most Amerindian cultures having contact with the region (Harding, 2006). In 1501, the Spaniard Rodrigo de Bastidas was the pioneer European to visit Panama. Spain occupied the country in 1502. Vasco Nunez de Balboa led the military through the isthmus and revealed the Pacific Ocean (Harding, 2006). The settlement of San Sebastian, Nombre de Dios, and shortly Portobelo were recognized at the Caribbean coast in spite of the tough resistance by the Cuna Amerindians (Harding, 2006). More so, Panama City was established on the Pacific coast.
The poor economy has contributed to the increase in poverty due to the lack of sufficient jobs (Hassig & Quek, 2007). Almost 14% of Panamanians are unemployed regardless of the majority of services sector growing (Hassig & Quek, 2007). Panama also suffers from a slow rate of rural-urban migration and a low number of economically active individuals. Panama has a high level of income inequality (Harding, 2006). Panama has registered high number of females in higher education, but still many of them graduate and get low-income jobs (Hassig & Quek, 2007). Regardless of the constitutional equality, women are generally not offered equal opportunities as men. The wages received by women are on average 30% lower than mens. Panama has a pervasive problem of domestic violence (Hassig & Quek, 2007). Women at workplaces undergo sexual harassment despite the Labor Code prohibiting the act. Victims of domestic violence prefer counseling instead of prosecution, since domestic abuse convictions are uncommon (Hassig & Quek, 2007). The US construction in the Canal Zone increased migrant workers into Panama City and Colon by causing an increased problem of housing in urban areas.
Panama is well known for its geographical features that strongly contribute to the economy. The unique monetary system of Panama has helped in developing the International and Colon Free Zone Banking Centre. The Panama Canal links the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean through the Isthmus of Panama. Panama is diverse with various cultures such as the Naso, Kona, ngobe-Bungle, Bri-Bri, and Embera-Wounaan. The official language for Panamanians is Spanish, with English as their second language. In 1821, Panama gained its independence from Spain. Panama faces various political, social, and economical problems such as poverty, unemployment, and gender inequality despite the constitutional equality. Domestic violence is high among women.