The Other Panama City

The Other Panama City, Where The Living Is Tranquil And Sweet

Through le manifestation of shouting, chanting construction workers vocally en greve…along the dug-up, blown-up, muddy, and congested Avenida Balboa until, finally, the road expansion work ends…around Casco Viejo…and, suddenly, the views improve dramatically. Tall palms all around and, to your right, the still, calm, blue waters of the Bay of Panama. Behind it, on the horizon, the Panama City you’ve left behind…tall towers, rising rebar, and swinging cranes. From this distance and vantage point, along the Amador Causeway, the Panama City skyline is impressive…deceptively established. In truth, it’s a work in noisy, dirty progress.

But over here, on the Amador Causeway, Panama City is a different place altogether. Fresh. Finished. Just-painted…

The Causeway, built with earth moved during the digging of the Panama Canal, is today this city’s trendy place to eat, shop, bike, wander…and keep your boat. Panama City boasts a lot of things, but one thing it lacks is ample marinas. Here, along the Amador Causeway, are a couple of nice ones.

They’re building condos out here, too. I can imagine being comfortably installed in one of these when they’re complete. You’d have views of the bay and the city skyline, you’d be within walking distance of coffee shops, eateries, an ice cream parlor, and, maybe best of all, you’d be removed from the hubbub and chaos of central Panama City right now.

The problem is access. The Causeway is a long, winding, dead-end stretch, with one lane in and one lane out. Once the condos are built and sold, the traffic will likely become as intimidating as it is downtown.

Here’s my recommendation for the city planners working so hard right now: Launch a ferry service. Taxi people back and forth from the marinas at the Causeway to downtown Panama City.

London came up with a similar kind of solution to its traffic chaos: Barging. Today, maybe the best, certainly the most pleasant way to get around this city is on a barge on the Thames.


Kathleen Peddicord


The Condominium Manifesto

By Vivian Lewis,

Will the property booms in China, India, and Russia continue?

After all, we are seeing higher interest rates to stifle inflation in all three countries. This will inevitably increase the cost of borrowing money to buy condos in St. Petersburg or the suburbs of Shanghai or Mumbai. Can the condo boom continue in an inflationary environment?

Based on U.S. experience, the answer is probably yes. Real estate is a proven haven against rising prices. The price of property better tracks inflation than almost any other investment vehicle. Sometimes it beats price rises.

Having said that, I think some of the buy-to-let mania afflicting China and Russia is likely to slacken. (Indians, who have more experience with private ownership than China or Russia, did not see a sudden spurt in acquisitions of homes for renting out; they have been playing that market for decades.) Some of the fluffiest pre-construction apartment sales may turn sour as interest rates rise.

But for normal upwardly mobile Chinese or Russian city-dwellers, buying an apartment is not only smart; it is a major positive lifestyle choice. Precisely because other Chinese investments are producing weak or negative returns (bank accounts and stocks both produce negative returns after current 7.l1% per year inflation now so you lose by investing in stocks or putting your money in the bank), buying a condo makes sense. Many Chinese remain skeptical about official inflation figures in any case, not without reason.

In fact, because there is a shortage of girls to marry (because of the impact of the one-child policy on female birthrates), young women demand that their potential suitors have cars and apartments before saying “I do.”

In Russia, you can get a decent return on your savings with less-than-stellar banks, but at a risk. And the stock market, boosted by oil and gas shares, is doing relatively well in the world downturn.

But property still appeals. Young city-dwellers want desperately to get out of the multifamily apartments of the Soviet era and escape parents and grandparents, shared kitchens and baths, lack of privacy, and messes. The messes reflect the tragedy of the commons: hallways and sinks and toilets that are shared are never cleaned or maintained properly.

So the condo revolution in Moscow or St. Petersburg is replacing the Communist one. In all three countries that I visited in the last year, the rise of the middle class is visible and powerful. These newly-affluent people want to live the good life they see on their televisions. Flocking out to see and buy new-built city-edge and suburban real estate developments is the Condo Manifesto.

The demographics are favorable. Newly-affluent people are the fastest-growing component of the population. And before they buy diamonds or gold they will buy an apartment.

Note also that many of these new home-owners will have to drive to commute to work. So despite the fact that Hurricane Dolly missed the U.S. offshore oilfields, the price of oil will not permanently return to double-digit levels. Long term, alternative energy makes sense, except for politically-favored biofuels.

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