People are often very surprised when I casually mention that I’m a resident of Panama. I certainly don’t look Panamanian.
Yeah, I’m not. But after the 2016 election, I decided that putting all my eggs in the the one basket of the USA probably wasn’t going to work out long term, and that I should diversify. So I got my permanent residency in what at the time was the easiest country for me to do so: Panama.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about Panama and traveled there every year (except for 2020) to at least get my passport stamped and retain my permanent residency status, and often to stay longer and enjoy the place. Though I’ve not yet traveled very far from Panama City, it turns out that I really like it there! The people are friendly and the culture suits me well. In my next trip, I plan to rent a car and visit the western part of the country which is stunningly beautiful from all the pictures and videos I’ve seen. I’m particularly interested to check out the Boquete and Bocas Del Toro areas.
Aside from playing tourist amongst the locals and appreciating the tremendous biodiversity of this little isthmus that connects North America to South America, I also really appreciate how the Panamanians have positioned themselves in the geopolitical world and the business world. I see it as a smart country positioned well for making some smart decisions.
Geographically, they are the center of commerce from north to south and east to west. With their famous canal, they are the gatekeepers for much trade. Panama City (Ciudad de Panamá) is THE business hub of Latin America. It’s like Singapore or New York or London or what Hong Kong used to be, the place where the most commerce is done. While there is still a lot of dysfunctional bureaucracy to be found, there’s plenty that works there. It just changes all the time. If you were to look for corruption and nepotism, you’d be able to find it in Panama. But this is not nearly as widespread as in other places I’ve traveled. The people are practical, and flexibly business-minded. There’s usually a way to do what you want to do, it just isn’t clear or predictable in advance. So they’re not sticklers for rules, and will generally be creatively accommodating…just don’t depend on what anyone tells you for their delivery timeline.
Financially, they are on a dollarized economy — kinda. Technically, their currency is the Bolivar, and if you need change the coins are often minted with the faces of Conquistadors. Yes all the paper money shows the same dead presidents that we know, minted in the USA. There is no price conversion from the US to Panama, five bucks is five bucks. Nice and easy.
They’re also being super smart about crypto. It’s not a done deal yet, but there is legislation before their congress now to accept blockchain currency as legal tender. And were they to do so, I believe they’d become the most attractive Dollar to Crypto exchange jurisdiction on the planet overnight.
One of the things I like about that is that, if they ever needed to (and they might sometime in the next few years!) it is possible that they could change the peg to the Bolivar if they wanted. So for example, if the USD were to fall 50% in value, they could theoretically retain their economic standing by saying it’s now a 2:1 exchange from Dollars to Bolivars, for instance. Meaning their economy rises with the US, but doesn’t have to fall with it.
I’m looking forward to returning to Panama this Summer. Who knows what will change in the world by then?