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The Many Faces Of Today’s Panama

Panama today is a wildly different place from the Panama I visited for the first time 12 years ago…and a significantly different place, even, from the Panama Lief and I moved to, with our family and our business, four years ago.

A dozen years ago, Panama was in recession, following the still-recent departure of the U.S. military who had been managing and operating the Panama Canal. When they left, they took their families and their disposable income with them. Leaving a hole…

That Panama quickly stepped up to fill. This country took control of its canal and turned it, in short order, into a burgeoning business. Then it began reinvesting the profits the canal revenues were throwing off.

Over the past half-dozen years or so, we’ve watched as Panama City has been transformed by the new Cinta Costera parkland along the Bay of Panama…as new roads, more roads, paved roads have been blazed across the country, including in remote and previously inaccessible regions…as Tocumen International Airport has been transformed from a typical Third World operation to this region’s bigger, far more modern hub, with new restaurants, services, and amenities being added all the time…as work has pushed ahead on the expansion of the canal itself, so that the country’s cash cow will be able to accommodate more and bigger freighters…as the country’s first legitimate five-star beach resort opened an hour-and-a-half outside the city…and as, downtown in the capital, the landscape has been reshaped by ever-higher high-rises (including last year’s Trump Tower), mega-hotels (including the new 1,499-room Hard Rock), and more and bigger shopping malls (including the luxury wing at MultiPlaza where you can shop for Hermes, Tiffany, Rolex, and Jimmy Choo, if that’s your thing)…

Panama City is increasingly a place where you can find anything, do anything, buy anything you might be in the market for…if you’re willing to pay the cost.

Which leads to the flip side. Not all the changes that have taken place in Panama’s recent history have been good ones. The cost of living in Panama City, for example, no longer qualifies as cheap. It can be more or less affordable, depending how you want to live, but Panama’s capital is not one of the world’s great bargains, and the cost of living here today is noticeably greater than it was four years ago when we first became residents.

Neither is Panama City a peaceful, relaxing place to live or retire. New infrastructure (including, most recently, the new city metro), new business ventures, and continually expanding foreign investment mean commotion, even chaos. Panama City today is a busy, noisy, gritty place to be. Not everyone is up for it.

All that being true (as it is), what are Lief and I still doing here? We could be anywhere in the world, yet here we are, continuing to invest in the expansion of our Panama City-based business.

The reason is simple: Despite all the changes of the past several years, Panama remains the world’s number-one place to start and to operate an Internet business. We live and run our business here completely tax-free.

But that’s our current agenda. Right now, Lief and I are entrepreneurs abroad.

Your current agenda could be something else entirely. Perhaps you’re a would-be retiree…an active investor…a concerned investor looking for diversification…a young would-be expat looking for a new start…or a family with young children in the market for an interesting option for where to raise them…

Would Panama make sense for you?

I can’t say specifically, of course, but I can tell you with the confidence born of a dozen years of firsthand business, investing, and, most recently, child-rearing experience in this country that, yes, I’d say Panama could be just what you’re looking for.

For Panama today is not only the world’s best place to start and operate an international business. It is also and still the world’s top retirement haven and one of the easiest places on earth to be an expat (thanks, in part, to the well-established and growing community of expats already enjoying life here). It can be a great place to raise children, thanks to the many good international bilingual schools (plus the French school, where our son attends)…and thanks, as well, to the fully developed child-rearing infrastructure, from the parks and playgrounds to the music and dance schools and qualified pool of tutors for everything from languages to piano, from basketball to horseback riding…

What if you’re a retiree or an expat on a budget? Then, while Panama City may not make sense, elsewhere in Panama could, indeed, provide just the new life you’re looking for…at a price you’d be able to afford…even if your budget is very small. Our two favorite budget-lifestyle choices in Panama right now are Las Tablas (if you want the beach life) and Santa Fe (if you prefer mountain views and cooler temperatures).

For such a small country, Panama serves up tremendous diversity–of lifestyle, of opportunity, and of costs.

There are reasons Lief and I chose to move to Panama four years ago…and reasons why we remain committed here still. For us, Panama is an entrepreneur’s playground, a tax haven, and a land of long-term opportunity, both business and investment.

Would we retire here? In fact, we intend to, someday…at least part-time. We’ll build a home on the western Pacific coast of the Azuero Peninsula that will be part of our eventual retirement plan.

I imagine that, by that time, Panama will be a very different place than it is today.

And that’s the thing to understand about a dynamic market like this one. It’s constantly changing…for the better…and, sometimes, not so much…

There are many good and important reasons to be thinking right now about spending your time and moving your money beyond your home country’s borders. I know you recognize these reasons as well as I do. And I tell you, based on long personal experience at this, that, right now, Panama offers some of the most appealing options for accomplishing both of those objectives.

Is Panama perfect?

Nope.

Would Panama be right for you?

I have no idea. But here’s what I suggest…

Join me and my top Panama contacts, resources, advisors, and friends for my next Live & Invest in Panama Conference.

We’ll help you find out.

Kathleen Peddicord

Continue Reading: Expat Travels In Cartagena, Colombia, And Panama City, Panama

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