WHILE PANAMA’S gross domestic product (GDP) increased 4.6 percent at the end of the first quarter of the year compared to the same period of the previous year it fell short of the Finance ministry’s projections.
It's the fifth consecutive quarter that the growth rate has declined. The figures reflects a slowdown in the national economy, which nevertheless maintains a remarkable growth rate when compared with any country in the region and many around the world would be happy to emulate the figures.
Sales of products and services totaled almost $9 billion, an increase of $393.4 million.
Finance, construction, energy, mining, real estate, health and business services continued to grow, while maritime services, restaurants and tourism were relatively stable. Sectors that saw a decrease in economic activity were farming, fishing and transport.
For the rest of the year, there is some uncertainty due to the impact of the Waked and Mossack Fonseca cases says La Prensa. The first has direct implications for employment due to the uncertainty surrounding the business group, which has been linked by the United States to money laundering the proceeds of drug smuggling.
The second has a potential effect on investment and retention of capital in the country due to the negative press generated by the leaking of millions of documents from the law firm.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance estimated that growth is the first quarter would be 5.7 percent. But officials are confident that the country's growth will increase once the Panama Canal expansion opens.
The official opening ceremony will be on Sunday, June 26, and the mega vessels carrying cargos from around the world will begin transiting the Canal the next day.
Some 70 heads of state have been invited to the ceremonies which begin at the Atlantic end of the Canal and concluding in Panama. Tickets have been distributed to 20,000 Panamanians.