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Country Report Panama October 2017

Country Report Panama October 2017

  • October 2017
  • ID: 325907
  • Format: PDF
  • By The Economist Intelligence Unit

Summary

Table of Contents

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Outlook for 2018-22



  • The president, Juan Carlos Varela of the Partido Panameñista, faces pressure to improve transparency. An investigation into corruption claims will hurt his popularity ahead of the end of his term in July 2019.
  • Mr Varela has support from members of the Partido Revolucionario Democrático and Cambio Democrático, giving him 49 of the 71 seats in Congress, but governability is likely to weaken ahead of the next election.
  • The current and next government's overriding economic strategy will remain focused on strengthening Panama's role as a global transport hub, promoting foreign direct investment in the logistics and transport sectors in 2018.
  • Toll income from the expanded Panama Canal will boost fiscal revenue, but social spending will prevent the government from achieving its target of balancing the budget while in office without tapping the sovereign wealth fund.
  • Construction projects will support growth averaging 5% in 2018-19, before a slowdown in the US economy causes growth to ease to 3.6% in 2020. It will then pick up to 4.6% in 2021-22 as US economic growth recovers.
  • Inflation will edge up to an average of 1.2% annually in 2018-22 as oil prices recover modestly. The current-account deficit will average 3.9% of GDP annually, but will be more than covered by foreign direct investment inflows.


Review



  • The Cámara de Comercio, Industrias y Agricultura de Panama, the largest business association, has called on the government to reform the judiciary following renewed concerns over the independence of Panamanian courts.
  • The Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, opened China's embassy in Panama on September 16th. More than 12 bilateral agreements are in discussion and some will be signed during Mr Varela's visit to China in late 2017.
  • Real GDP grew by 5.8% year on year in the first half of 2017, bolstered by the transport and logistics sector, which grew by 12.6%, as well as by above average gr0wth in the construction and mining sectors, both of which gained by 8%.
  • On September 18th the National Assembly passed Law 509, which reduces the property tax rate by 40-60% while eliminating exemptions from taxation, in an effort to increase property tax intake from a modest US$166m in 2016.
  • Inflation rose by 0.7% year on year in August, owing to elevated fuel prices, supporting our inflation estimate of 1.3% at year-end and 1% average inflation this year.
  • The Panama Canal Authority announced that in 2018 the canal will handle daily transits of eight large neo-panamax cargo ships, up from six currently, helping it to compete with the Suez Canal, which recently lowered transit tolls.


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