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Panama Country Information

Background:
With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. On 7 September 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US 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 US help, dictator Manuel NORIEGA was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were turned over to Panama by or on 31 December 1999.

Geography
Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica

Area: total: 78,200 sq km
Water: 2,210 sq km
Land: 75,990 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina

Border countries: Colombia, Costa Rica

Climate: tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)
Terrain: interior mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected, upland plains; coastal areas largely plains and rolling hills

Elevation extremes:
Lowest point: Pacific Ocean - 0 m
Highest point: Volcan de Chiriqui - 3,475 m

Natural resources: copper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower

People
Population: 3,000,463 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure: 30.2% (male 461,427; female 443,932)
15-64 years: 63.6% (male 967,490; female 940,344)
65 years and over: 6.2% (male 88,611; female 98,659) (2004 est.)
Median age: 25.9 years
Population growth rate: 1.31%
Life expectancy at birth: male: 69.82 years
female: 74.56 years (2004 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%
note: many Panamanians bilingual
Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write): total population: 92.6%

Government
Country name: Republic of Panama
Government type: constitutional democracy
Capital: Panama
Independence: 3 November 1903 (from Colombia; became independent from Spain 28 November 1821)
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch: chief of state: President Martin TORRIJOS Espino (since 1 September 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (78 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (nine judges appointed for 10-year terms)

Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Roberto ALFARO Estripeaut
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Tampa
FAX: [1] (202) 483-8416
telephone: [1] (202) 483-1407

Embassy: Avenida Balboa and Calle 37, Apartado Postal 0816-02561, Zona 5, Panama City 5
mailing address: American Embassy Panama, Unit 0945, APO AA 34002
telephone: [507] 207-7000
FAX: [507] 227-1964

Economy
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 US military forces held back economic growth in 2000-03. 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.

Population below poverty line: 37% (1999 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 20.8%, industry 18%, services 61.2% (1995 est.)
Unemployment rate: 13.8% (2004 est.)

Agriculture: bananas, rice, corn, coffee, sugarcane, vegetables; livestock; shrimp

Industries: construction, petroleum refining, brewing, cement and other construction materials, sugar milling

Exports - commodities: bananas, shrimp, sugar, coffee, clothing

Currency: balboa (PAB); US dollar (USD)

Communications
Telephone system: domestic and international facilities well developed
international: country code - 507



All information on this page provided by The World Factbook. See http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html.
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