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Best Places To Go In 2017

Back home in Panama City after nearly three weeks on the road celebrating the holidays… first Christmas in Baltimore then New Year’s in Colonial Williamsburg… we return to our adopted home town with rejuvenated eyes and a fresh perspective.

And we’re reminded why Panama is a benchmark against which other retirement havens are compared.

After nearly nine years as full-time residents, we take what this country has to offer for granted. My mom, though, who arrived in Panama City with us last week, is seeing it as a first-timer.

“Wow, that’s an impressive skyline,” she observed as we approached the city from the airport.

From the corkscrew-shaped high-rise borrowed from a Dubai design to the sail-shaped Trump Tower, Panama City’s silhouette is marked with iconic spikes and rises that are extraordinary when you remember the context.

This is Central America, after all.

In front of the rows of high-rise towers is the recently completed bayfront promenade known as the Cinta Costera. This pedestrian zone is green, lush, and well-manicured. Beyond it is a marina… and beyond that is a never-ending line of ships awaiting their turns for passage through the Panama Canal.

Also out in the Bay of Panama is a new island formed of reclaimed land and marked off into million-dollar lots upon which, now, multi-million-dollar homes are being built. Another idea Panama got from Dubai.

Living and working day-to-day in Panama City, we sometimes fail to see what’s right in front of us. This little country is working overtime to remake itself into a global contender. Panama has set an agenda for itself… to become the next Singapore… and it’s on its way.

I wouldn’t recommend Panama City as a top retirement choice anymore. It’s expensive to live here, relative both to the rest of Panama and to other global retirement lifestyle options.

If you’re looking for a place to invest for either immediate (from rental yield) or long-term (from capital appreciation) return, Panama City should be dead center of your radar.

Values in prime neighborhoods rose 8.8% in 2016 on average and are expected to continue to appreciate over the next 12 months. Values neighborhood by neighborhood will cycle up and down over time, but this is a market to bet on big picture and long haul. The economy continues strong, thanks largely to expanding Panama Canal revenues. Expanded capacity is expected to increase Canal cash flow 17% in 2017.

If you’re looking to start an internet or laptop-based business, Panama City is perhaps the best place in the world to base it. Hard to argue with an opportunity to operate tax free. The idea sure got our attention.

If your agenda is more to do with living than investing and you dream of life at the beach, take a look outside Panama City, starting about an hour west along the Pacific coast. This City Beaches region, as it’s called, offers diverse beachfront communities that are fully appointed and populated by an established and growing population of foreign retirees (meaning ready friends and English-speaking neighbors) and to fit every budget. You can own a condo of your own here on Panama’s Pacific for as little as US$235,000.

What’s being going on here in Panama while we’ve been away, we asked our staff upon our return last week…

In the wake of last year’s Panama Papers debacle, they reminded us, Panama has adopted new guidelines requiring all corporate registered agents to be licensed and identified and to have current accounting for all company activities on file at all times.

In other words, Panama corporations now come with more paperwork and more expense…

In other news, in what promises to be one of the biggest deals in the airline industry this year, Avianca, Latin America’s second-biggest airline, is deciding among three merger proposals, one from United Continental Holdings Inc. (parent company of United Airlines), one from Delta Air Lines, and a third from Copa Airlines, Panama’s flagship carrier.

Gaining access to Avianca’s network would boost the footprint of any of the three contenders considerably.

We’re rooting for the two U.S. operators, both of whom lack substantial position in the Latin American marketplace. If Copa wins the bid, it’ll mean even less competition among regional carriers and higher prices for us regional travelers.

Finally, the expanded canal locks inaugurated in June have not only meant more cash flowing through this little country, as I mentioned above.

They’ve also earned Panama a place on Frommer’s list of “Best Places to Go in 2017.”

We agree, of course. Hope to see you down here in sunny Panama sometime soon.

Kathleen Peddicord

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