SOURCE: CIA WORLD FACTBOOK
Local Long Name: RepÃºblica de PanamÃ¡
Capital: Panama City
Currency: Balboa (PAB) â€“ U.S. Dollar (USD) note: Panama uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, but produces its own coins, which are only valid in Panama
Historical Background: With U.S. backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the U.S. allowing for the construction of a canal and U.S. sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. On September 7, 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the U.S. to Panama by the end of 1999. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the intervening years. With U.S. help, dictator Manuel Noriega was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and the remaining U.S. military bases were turned over to Panama by or on December 31, 1999.
Area: 78,200 sq km (48,600 sq mi)
Coastline: 2,490 km (1,547 mi)
Climate: Tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season from May to January and a short dry season from January to May
Terrain: Interior is mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected, upland plains. The coastal area is largely plains and rolling hills.
Natural Resources: copper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower
Natural Hazards: occasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien area
Environmental Current Issues: water pollution from agricultural runoff threatens fishery resources; deforestation of tropical rain forest; land degradation and soil erosion threatens siltation of Panama Canal; air pollution in urban areas; mining threatens natural resources
Geography Note: strategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean
Population: 3,309,679 (July 2008 est.)
Ethnic Groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%
Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%
Languages: Spanish (official), English 14%. Many Panamanians are bilingual.
Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write): 91.9% (2000 census)
Independence: November 3, 1903 (from Colombia; became independent from Spain November 28, 1821)
National Holiday: Independence Day: November 3
President and Chief of State: Martin Torrijos Espino (since September 1, 2004)
Economic Overview: Panama's dollarised economy rests primarily on a well-developed services sector that accounts for three-fourths of GDP. Services include operating the Panama Canal, banking, the Colon Free Zone, insurance, container ports, flagship registry and tourism. A slump in Colon Free Zone and agricultural exports, the global slowdown and the withdrawal of U.S. military forces held back economic growth in 2000-2003. The government has been backing public works programs, tax reforms, new regional trade agreements and development of tourism in order to stimulate growth. Unemployment remains at an unacceptably high level.
GDP Per Capita: $10,700 (2007 est.)
Population Below Poverty Line: 37% (1999)
Agriculture Products: bananas, rice, corn, coffee, sugarcane, vegetables; livestock; shrimp
Industries: construction, brewing, cement and other construction materials, sugar milling
Export Partners: U.S., Netherlands, China, Sweden, UK, Costa Rica, Spain (2007)
Illicit Drugs: Panama is a major cocaine transshipment point and primary money-laundering center for narcotics revenue; money-laundering activity is especially heavy in the Colon Free Zone; offshore financial center; negligible signs of coca cultivation; monitoring of financial transactions is improving; official corruption remains a major problem