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· Population: 3.4 million
· Total workforce size: 1.4 million
· Unemployment Rate: 7%
· Literacy Rate: 94%
· Official Language: Spanish
· GNI Per Capita: $6,280
· AT Kearney Global Services Location Index: 34th of 50
· Ease of Doing Business rank: 72nd of 183
· Standard and Poor’ currency risk rating: BBB-
· Economist’s 2010 Democracy Index: 46th of 167 (Flawed Democracy)
· Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index: 73rd of 178, score of 3.6
· Selected as one of 8 LATAM countries to make the Gartner Top 30 Offshore Services Destinations
· Corporate Tax Rate: 27.5%

What does Panama offer as an outsourcing hub?  For starters, a strong economy, political stability, and a weather resume free of hurricanes, seismic activity, or volcanoes offers some assurance to the risk averse.  Panama’s national currency is the US Dollar, helping to ease financial transactions, and the prevalence of the English language (14% of citizens speak English natively, and it’s a second language for the majority of Panamanians) further welcomes American business.  Tax benefits are found within Panama’s Colon Duty Free Zone, the 2nd largest free trade zone in the world.  Their work force is professional, educated, and accustomed to a highly productive 6-day work week.

Congress Approves Trade Agreements with Panama, 
Colombia, and South Korea

October 13, 2011 
 The U.S. Congress approved trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama 
in what creates the largest opportunity for exporters in decades.  This ends any fears that actions of the US government leaned toward protectionism, and the bills passed in light of opposition that these agreements will lead to job losses. 

The Colombia bill faced the most Democratic opposition, on the grounds that Colombia did little to protect union leaders from assassination.  According to Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists.  Indeed, the Nation Union School, a labor rights organization in Medellin, reported that 51 union members were killed last year, an increase from 47 in 2009.   Under the agreement, over 80 percent of U.S. exports will become duty free immediately, and remaining tariffs will be phased out over the next ten years.  Key U.S. exports will gain immediate duty-free access to Colombia, including information technology equipment.

Last year, the U.S. exported $6 billion worth of goods to Panama and imported minimally from the country, but the new trade agreement will make it easier for the U.S. to compete for contracts in Panama's $5.25 billion expansion of the canal.  The FTA guarantees access to Panama's $20.6 billion services market, including priority areas such as financial, telecommunications, computer, distribution, express delivery, energy, environmental, and professional services.  Phasing out tariffs on imports and exports will benefit farmers in numerous ways, but will also allow for the duty-free export of information technology equipment.

Read the facts of the FTAs: ColombiaPanama

Cable & Wireless signs $10.8 million Contract with
Panamanian Government

Cable & Wireless will support the Panamanian government's 'Panama without paper' project, aimed at digitising the country's civil administration. The 'Panama without paper' project is part of the government's Digital Government program to transfer its documents and communications to electronic platforms and thus reduce paper use. Cable & Wireless will install systems designed to enable government departments and institutions to share information electronically and reduce their paper-based procedures. Twenty departments and Government-run organisations will be involved in the initial roll-out, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Ministry of Agricultural Development, Civil Aviation Authority, Maritime Authority, Authority of Transit and Land Transport, Social Security Fund, National Customs Authority, the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers and the Institute for the Training and Utilisation of Human Resources. The project will also cover the creation of a 'citizens portal' to provide Panamanian citizens with access to basic Government services online, such as downloading PDFs of forms, or applying for a passport. The contract is worth around USD 10.8 million. Under the terms of the deal, Cable & Wireless Panama will supply, install and support the new systems over the next three years. CWP will create broadband connections between the departments, a front-end portal and will back-up data in one of its data centers.  A customer service support line will also be set-up to provide ongoing support.