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 Post subject: The Panama Story
PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 12:46 pm 

Joined: Wed Jul 09, 2008 7:41 pm
Posts: 3
The Panama Story

The Good The Bad And The Ugly

I recently returned from Panama after traveling around the country to get another look at it for long term potential as an investment and residential location. I have been following Panama's development since the days of Manuel Noreiga when I remember him banging his chrome coated machete on the podium during one of his national speeches daring the then first Bush president, George Bush senior and the CIA to come and get him. Of course they did because they had no choice for Noreiga was a former CIA agent/informant and had collected a warehouse full of evidence against the CIA and Bush when Bush was the head of the CIA. Noreiga was threatening the US Government with the release of all this information if he was bothered any more in the future. So the US Military invaded the country to cover the a$$ of Bush and the CIA and engaged in a one week burn party destroying every document that could be embarrassing. This part of the mission was very successful and they even bagged Noriega as a trophy.

The part that did not work out so well was the plan for the US Military to take over the banks and raid the information about all account holders and their operations . The banks in Panama to their credit lock their doors and refused entry stating that any information would have to be taken by force and that none of it would be surrendered. This justified act of defiance has to this day had tremendous lasting affects in a positive way and firmly placed Panama as a destination of financial security when dealing with the larger international financial institutions. During the United States attack on Panama there was a virtual stampede of thousands of corporations transferring their domicile over night (on paper) to other jurisdictions assuming the worst in privacy intrusion by the US Government and their pit bull the US military. After a couple of weeks of ransacking all the secret files of the Noriega and with the week long shred and burn party at his intelligence headquarters in Panama City over and with limited luck penetrating Panama's banking and corporate structure the US Government had no choice but to retreat with Noriega in tow to make sure he was not able to say any thing about the activity he did for the US Government in Latin America.

This invasion and attack left a lasting impression on the Panama people and it's government in a negative way. It became abundantly clear to it's people that Panama had to be free from the United States and to find a much larger and diverse set of friends in the world not only for it's physical security but just as important it's financial survivability. What Panama realized after the invasion of the alleged sovereignty of the county was that until their old colonial masters (The United States) were gone there would be no chance of establishing the country as an independent republic that guaranteed financial security and privacy. Without these basic guarantees Panama had no chance to become the Hong Kong of Central America. As we all know this happened on January 1st 2000 and set panama down it's own road as an independent republic with phenomenal potential to create a modern financial and shipping hub with a colorful historical past and ecological environment and people that would make it the envy of the world. The independent Republic of Panama was a dream that still can be a reality but as will be shown it has made a lot of mistakes already and needs a lot of corrections to reach this goal.

Panama Today And Tomorrow

During visit to Panama City in July of 2008 I was amazed at the massive amount of construction going on beginning from just after dawn until well after dark. From the Casco Viejo along Avenida Balboa to Punta Paitilla and beyond is one big construction site. The roar of machinery and jackhammers and the human chanting and yelling is something to see. I walked the water front along Avenida Balboa many times during all times of the day and night to get the true feel of the place and sat and watched the people and traffic and the pulse of this city in the birth stage. The entire water front or should I say former water front along Avenida Balboa is one giant gravel pit being formed by the filling in of the sea with gravel and dirt for a hundred yards out or more from the original coast line to form a new coastal promenade. The massive project called the Cinta Costera is to be an approximate mile and a half walking promenade with recreational facilities for all the people to use.

The Punta Paitilla building projects of skyscraper condo mega homes that reach to the sky are something like I have never seen before any where. Just the mass of workers like ants building giant ant hills to the sky makes even a seasoned traveler like myself stop and stare with amazement for such a small Central American country. I stood on the street corner at Punta Paitilla for a long time where there was only standing room only and just watched and what I saw was both inspiring and also very scary. Scary not in a physical threat sense because it was in broad daylight and I was surrounded by thousands of people and as my ex-wife use to say “your a very scary guy” which as she clarified was to be taken “in the most loving sense”. The scary part of what I was witnessing at the massive Punta Paitilla construction site of multiple skyscrapers is the potential for social and political unrest once this building dynamo comes to a halt like it has already done in the rest of the world.

I watched the workers as they interacted with each other and the upper class people that were trying to enter the area or even passing by in their cars in route to the Corredor Sur interstate highway that runs parallel to the waterfront. What I saw in the workers was a sense of arrogance and even resentment toward those driving buy or trying to enter the area to get to the freshly built high rise homes. The entire world is economically grinding to a halt and with it will also go Panama. Panama like in the days of Spanish occupation in the 1500's to 1800's is nothing more than a conduit of commerce for pirates whether they were the Spanish themselves transporting fortunes in gold and silver or characters like Captain Morgan who stole it from Panama or the modern entrepreneurs invading the country today. Panama has become a modern Tortuga with it's government officials selling out to the highest bidders. The tsunami wave of economic collapse is heading right at Panama and will funnel through the canal and overwhelm the economy from commercial shipping to real estate to International Banking. When this happens in the next two years all the construction workers and the people working in the support businesses will let their resentment loose on the Panama Government and the financial/real estate industry that created the bubble. The upper class in Panama are living the good life with all of their shopping malls created for the fast money of American style consumerism. What took America only 40 years to do, Panama has/will done in only 10 years.

I could see it in the personalities of the Panama people through out Panama but most pronounced in Panama City. It is the dawn of arrogance where charging a fair price or even the legal required price has been superseded by ripping others off so I can live an more luxurious life today and not worry about tomorrow. I am not just picking on Panama for the rest of the world that has been infected by American style greed and consumerism is falling into the same trap. When these workers in Panama suddenly find themselves out of work and their hope for this middle/upper class life style with shopping malls and good homes and good schools for the children are taken away from them there is going to be a lot of trouble in paradise. These workers are already striking and protesting for more of their piece of the pie and when the building boom drops off in the next six months there will be trouble and Panama City will come to look and feel very much like the Santo Domingo the capital of the Dominican Republic.

The Panama Government has sold its people down the river in almost every aspect.(1) It has allowed the rapid explosion of real estate development that is not sustainable and is both environmentally and socially destructive that has increased the rate of inflation to 9.6% a 28 year high. (2) It has been conned or better put paid off into expanding the width of the canal by adding massive new canal locks at the cost of 6 billion dollars that will blossom into 10 to 20 billion before it is over. The enlargement of the lock system which the country can not even begin to afford is happening at the time when the world is heading into a World Depression that will last any where from 10 to 20 years. (3) The Panama Government has sold out to all levels of foreign companies wishing to park their companies in Panama without properly supervising their activities. Such companies act without any consequences because they have already paid the officials in the Panama Government off. Such companies as Epay Inc a debit card company registered to operate out of Panama rips unsuspecting customers off knowing that there is no consequences for their actions. The President of Panama and his agency cronies hold up in their guarded buildings like resident pirates collecting tributes from those who wish to operate within their domain. The Panama Government and increasingly it's people have adapted the “Palanca” method of business operation which is who ever has the most financial or political influence called “pull” is the one who gets the prise. The quality of your character and that of your business is irrelevant. The only real measure is how much you or you company is willing to contribute financially and what kind of favors you can do for them.

Those who doubt this only need to look as far as the three main sources of income of the country, canal operations, real estate, and financial institutions and the pay off kick backs that government officials get. All one has to do is to take the bus from Panama City across to Colon on the Caribbean side or from Colon to Portobello a 45 minute ride further south to see where all of Panama's income is not going to. The Panama Government and the wealthy families that run it either directly or indirectly are sucking the financial life blood out of the country at an incredible rate. What they are leaving behind are giant modern United States style shopping malls and sky scrapper homes overlooking the Panama City shoreline and select other enclaves down the Pacific coast. Panama City has become one big orgy of greed and deceit in the apartment/home rental business. Companies in the financial sector like Epay Inc are poring into the country and setting up skeleton offices to perpetrate their scams on trusting new customers that believe Panama is safe because of the deluge of be happy and retire in safely promotion web sites about Panama. Judgment day is quickly approaching after the tsunami of investments have filled the pockets of the select families at the top. In a year from now the tsunami wave of of greed will begin to withdraw as it is doing all over the world right now and the true destruction of the wave of greed that has overwhelmed the country will be seen.

The people who have bought into their ivory towered sky scrappers over looking the Pacific that can still afford to stay there themselves will be looking down on an increasingly angry population that thought they to could have the middle class life style and be able to shop in those big shopping malls. These people will be forced to return to their former levels of life style and in the end they will be worst off than they were before. Panama will become increasingly dangerous and the ivory towered enclaves will become fortresses of physical safety instead of happy retirement homes. The working middle class will be angry because they lost ten years of their lives working toward an unobtainable goal and the still poor will resent that everyone above them walked on their backs for those ten years for nothing.

What Panama should have done was develop the country along strict environmental standards promoting the country as a unique ecological enclave. This combined with canal and the financial sector under strict regulation to prevent such companies as Epay Inc from operating and at the same time promoting the safe, private and guaranteed banking for individuals both Panamanian and foreigners regardless of the bank account size would have put Panama on the map as a world class sanctuary. The tourist dollars would allow the restoration to the granduer of their former selves in such locations as Portobello. Fort San Lorenzo, and Casco Viejo the old quarter of the real old Panama of the past. By engaging the poor lower class in the restoration process and their actual operation off the different facilities at the historic sites would eliminate such enclaves of poverty and crime as Chorrillo that is on the very door step of the Casco Viejo. The possibilities for the development of Panama as a historical, cultural, financial and environmental center of Latin America is virtually endless. I like Panama before it sold out to the highest bidder and allowed scam companies like Epay Inc to operate within the country. From Epay Inc at one end to the large real estate developers and banks that fund them to the Panama Government itself are raping the country and more importantly the people. There will be a price to pay for this behavior when the financial tsunami washes over panama and the working class turn on the Government and the upper class that has been ripping them off for the past eight years

I advise foreigners to stay away from all investments in Panama in real estate, banking, and even the ecological restoration programs such as teak reforestation until Panama cleans up and clears out the growing numbers of pirates robing the country and it's lower class blind. There will be hell to pay in the next few years. Give it some thought or better yet take a trip there and take the path not travel by those who stay in the finest hotels to get the real picture. The Panama people are over all good people. It is the upper class and the government officials from the president on down that are the real pirates. The Panama people have missed a wonderful opportunity and it will take at least another generation before it will come around again.

 Post subject: Re: The Panama Story
PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2009 8:05 pm 

Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2009 3:52 pm
Posts: 2
Hook's analysis of Panama is outstanding. I grew up in Panama and knew it as a paradise. I left in 1982 and did not return until 2007. The contrast was impossible to express. Hook has described it exactly and explains precisely what has gone wrong in the country. I agree with Hook's assessment of what Panama could have been. It was a dream place to grow up in and I'm glad I had the chance to experience it as it was.

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