General Information

    Oficial Name: The Republic of Panama
    Capital: Panama City
    Nationality: Panamanian(s)

    Location

    Panama is located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica. Panama occupies the southeastern end of the isthmus forming the land bridge between North and South America.

    Surface area: 75,517 Km2
    Currency: Balboa (PAB); US Dollar (USD)
    Population: 3,460,462 inhabitants  – (July 2011 est.)

    Population Concentration:

    Panama City is the most populated province with 987,700 inhabitants, followed by Colon with 160,882 and David with 116,791.

    System of Government

    Panama´s System of Government is a Constitutional Democracy. It is constituted by three branches:

    Executive Branch:

    The chief of the Panamanian state is the President, elected along with two vice presidents by popular direct and secret vote every five years. They cannot be reelected during two consecutive terms. The president has the collaboration of the cabinet of ministers.

    Legislative Branch:

    The legislative power is unicameral and falls upon the Legislative Assembly. It is formed by 72 members elected through nominations from their parties and direct popular vote for periods of five years. Its most important function is to write the laws of the nation.

    Judicial Branch:

    The court with the highest hierarchy in Panama is the Supreme Court of Justice, formed by 9 magistrates designated for periods of 10 years.

    Climate:

    Panama has a tropical climate. The temperatures are relatively high and vary during the year.
    In Panama City, temperatures typically range in from 24 °C (75.2 °F) to 29 °C (84.2 °F).
    In the Highlands: The climate ranges in temperature between 65°F and 85 °F degrees.

    Panama has two seasons:

    Dry Season: January – May
    Rainy Season: May – December

    Religion:

    The Panamanian Constitution establishes the freedom of worship. The Panamanian government does not collect statistics on religious affiliation of citizens, but various sources estimate:

    85% Roman Catholic
    10% Protestants
    5% Comprises: Jews, Buddhists, Hindis, Christian Orthodox and groups derived from Christian Protestant such as:Jehova’s Witnesses and Seventh day Adventist.

    Political Division

    Panama is divided into ten provinces locally known as: “ Provincias”, three provincial-level indigenous regions known as “Comarcas indígenas”.And there are two further comarcas within provinces that are considered equivalent to a municipality called “corregimientos”

    The ten provinces are divided into districts, autonomous political organizations in the community. Each province is administered by a governor who is designated by the Executive Branch..
    Panama’s ten provinces are:

    Bocas del Toro, Chiriquí, Coclé, Colón, Darién, Herrera, Los Santos, Panamá, Veraguas and Panama Oeste

    Panama’s three “ Comarcas Indigenas” are:

    Emberá, Kuna- Yala and Ngäbe-Buglé

    Panama’s two “ Sub-Comarcas”

    Kuna de Madugandí and Kuna de Wargandí

    Economy:

    Panama’s economy is one of the most stable, dynamic and promising in Latin America. During the last 20 years, GNP has experienced sustained growth and Panama´s economic growth shows no sign of slowing down, despite the world economic situation.

    Panama´s Economy is strongly oriented towards the services sector, with more than 70% of gross national product and 50% of the country’s employment is in this sector. However, another important source of income for the country is linked to the operations carried out by the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal expansion will be finished in 2014 and it promises to double its current income.

    The country is classified in the category of investment grade by these credit rating companies: Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings.

    Tax System:

    Panama maintains the principle of territoriality in its tax laws, which means that all income generated or obtained outside of the territory of the Republic of Panama is exempt from taxes as well as the obligation of presenting to tax declaration, however, one can be presented as foreign operations but without the need of paying taxes. Regardless of whether the company has to domicile in the country.

    According to Act 8 of March 15, 2010, which amended the Fiscal Code, the air, sea and land transportation companies, as well as passengers, shall pay ITBMS tax.

    7% of ITBMS is charged on: public entertainment, events, seminars, conferences, lectures and artistic, professional and sport presentations in general that are not free and whose annual incomes are over $36,000.

    10% ITBMS is charged on: The importation and sale of alcoholic beverages, as well as hotel or lodging services, jewellery and weapons.

    15% ITBMS is charged on: Tobacco derivatives (such as cigarettes, cigars, and snuff).
    Income and Porperty tax: depends on to table (according to income and status)

    National Days & Holidays

    According to Article 46 of the Labor Code, modified by the law of 1990 and law 51 of 1999, these are paid mandatory days of rest for National Holiday and (+) for National Mourning.

    Observations:

    The carnival celebrations begin on Carnival Friday and many employers give their employees the option to work extra hour’s weeks before in exchange for having off all of Carnival Saturday and Monday and Ash Wednesday till noon. However, this is up to the employer’s discretion.

    Holy Week runs from Holy Thursday through Saturday, reason for which many employers give their employees the option of working overtime in the weeks prior in exchange for having off from Thursday at noon through Saturday, in case employees work on Saturdays. However, this is up to the employer’s discretion.

    • January 1st : New Years
      •    January 9: Martyrs’ Day
      •    Carnival Tuesday
      •    Holy Friday
      •    May 1st : Labor Day
      •    August 15th : Panama La Vieja Foundation
      •    November 2nd : Day of the Death
      •    November 3rd: Panama’s Independence from Colombia.
      •    November 5 Battle for Independence in Colon
      •    November 10th : Primer Grito de la Villa de los Santos
      •    November 28th : Panama’s Independence  from Colombia.
      •    December 8th : Mothers’ Day
      •    December 25th :Christmas

    Work Schedule:

    Banks: Panamanian banks open from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00p.m. (Mondays to Fridays) from 9:00 a.m.to 12:00 p.m. noon (Saturdays).

    Foreign banks: Open from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (Mondays to Fridays).

    Businesses: Open Mondays through Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. including Sundays in many cases.

    Public Administration: Open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. noon and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Monday to Friday).

    Communication and Transportation

    Panama’s Transportation System

    Metro Bus

    Panama has a new bus routes system called “Metro Bus” it also counts with a subway transportation system that is currently under construction.

    Taxis

    24 hours taxi service stations available nationwide at a pre-established cost per route.

    Special Services for Tourism are available on request.

    Panama has to national road network which includes all highways, roads, streets and bridges on its territory.

    The main highways in Panama are:

    Pan-American Highway: This is the country´s main artery.
    Central Highway
    “Transistmica” Highway:
    Currently most highways have been expanded and repaired including:

    “Panama- Chorrera Highway”
    Panama – Colon Highway”.
    Two important bridges connecting the province of Panama with the rest of the country´s interior are :

    The Bridge of the Americas locally known as “Puente de Las Americas”.it was inaugurated on October 12, 1962.
    The Bridge of the Centennial locally known as:”Puente Centenario”, it began operation in 2005.
    The country´s most important ports are:

    Balboa Port
    Cristobal Port
    Almirante Port
    Colon Conteiner Terminal
    Panama International Terminal
    Manzanillo International Terminal
    Panama has eight airports, two of them are located in Panama City:

    Tocumen International Airport: It is exclusively used for international flights.
    Albrook Airport: Specially used for regional flights.
    Scarlett Martinez International Airport at Rio Hato: Currently under construction.
    Panama counts with corridors, which are highways built to handle the traffic of the capital city.

    “Corredor Sur” – “Southern Corridor”
    “Corredor Norte”  –  “Northern Corridor”

    History

    The Republic of Panama was named after a native word meaning “abundance of fish” and   “abundance of water”.

    Panama was discovered by the Spaniard Rodrigo de Bastidas en 1501.  It remained faithful to the Spanish crown until November 10, 1821, when “The Grito de La Villa de Los Santos” occurred and unleashed the separatist movement from the Spanish Empire. It started with the residents of Azuero (without backing from Panama City) moreover, the influence of the separatists in the capital slowly converted, the Coronel José Fábrega (supporter of the Spanish Crown domain) into a supporter of the Panamanian independence movement. He collaborated with the separatist in the capital to create a National Assembly, where the fate of the country would be decided.

    On November 28, 1821,the national assembly was convened and it was officially declared (through Coronel Fábrega,  who was invested with the title of Head of State of Panama) that the isthmus of Panama had severed its ties with the Spanish Empire and its decision to join New Granada and Venezuela in Bolivar´s recently founded Republic of Colombia.

    However, while Panama City was celebrating, the residents in Colon dealt with moments of great tension. Colombian troops led by the Coronel Torres refused to leave Panama. However, on November 5th, 1821, thanks to the support of the United States with the “Nashville” battleship placed in Colon´s Bay Independence was embraced peacefully. Thisday is now remembered as “Colon City´s
    Independence”.

    In 1903, the United States and Colombia signed the Herran-Hay Treaty to finalize the construction of the Panama Canal but the Colombian congress rejected it. Followed by the rejection of the treaty, the separatists wanted to negotiate directly with the United States and they sent Manuel Amador Guerrero to establish all the negotiations. Right after, the United States moved to support the separatist movement in Panama to gain control over the remnants of the French attempt at building a canal. The morning of November 3rd, 1903, after a huge suppression of the Colombian troops, the Revolutionary declared the separation of the isthmus and later the Independence of the Republic of Panama.

    The canal was administered jointly by both countries until December 31st, 1999 when the Canal was handed over to Panama.

    On November 4th, 1903 the first Panamanian flag was sewed and was paraded through the streets as a sign of Independence. This day is now remembered as “El Día de la Bandera” which means, the day of the Panamanian National Flag.

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