El Economista, the Latin American version of The Economist had a lot to say about Panama. It had important articles about the region, as usually, but specially for Panama it had good news about investments in the country. Chevron is investing $12 millions in Panama raising their storage capabilities near the ports at the Caribbean Coast. It also had a count of the current number of financial institutions operating in Panama: 92. 19 local banks, and the rest international brands. The 3 top banks being: Banco General (8,006.5 million dollars), HSBC Bank Panama ($6,400.8) and Banco Nacional ($5,695.50). During the first trimester they had a growth of 8.8%, which even if less than the incredible 11.9% they had last february it is still good taking in consideration all the repercusions of the world wide financial crisis.
The other big news is the Canal Expansion, which has been given the “green light” now that the works have been appointed. This year, the Panama Canal will blow it´s 95th candle and the Expansion is budgeted (who really knows!) will at $5,250 million dollars. The group who will be handling the Expansion is headed by the Spanish company Sacyr Vallehermoso S.A. and includes companies from Italy (Impreglio S.p.a.), Belgium (Jan de Nul) and Panama (CUSA). The work will start at the ends of 2009 and are supposed to finish in 2014.
On another note, the new President have taken concrete steps to expedite the construction of a new transportation system (basically, a metro). He created a Secretary just to work on this and the construction, which will be financed by Brazil (thanks Lula!) will cost $1,100 million dollars. I personally really, really appreciate that this issue is being taken with seriousness. Transportation are the veins of a country, and if they are clogged, it becomes a huge obstacle in the economic performance of a country.