More than five decades of collaboration to improve the quality of life of Panamanians and promote equitable development
Panama has one of the most rapidly growing emerging economies of recent years. In 2012, the country’s economic growth in real terms was about 10 percent, the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean. The equally encouraging forecasts for this year place Panama in the group of countries with the greatest potential for economic expansion in the next decade.
As Panama’s principal development partner during the past 50 years, the IDB has approved a total of $4,426 million in loans for the country’s public sector and more than $107 million in technical cooperation grants. Over the past three years, the Bank has approved $1,180 million to Panama for education, water and sanitation, roads, public finance, and natural disaster and climate change preparedness. In addition to financial resources, the Bank has provided Panama with technical assistance and expertise to strengthen the capacity of its public sector institutions.
The IDB’s active portfolio of ongoing sovereign guarantee operations totals $835 million, with an available balance of $514 million. Thirty-five percent of available resources will be directed at education and social investment, and 27 percent will finance water and sanitation projects. The Bank has increased its financing to the private sector with an active portfolio of $636.3 million
In 2013, the IDB will continue its support to the sectors that have received Bank financing over the past three years, in addition to funding for strengthening Panama’s primary care hospital network. The Bank considers public-private partnerships to be a viable alternative for enabling Panama to carry out infrastructure projects, such as roads and public works in the health sector.
The IDB in the Field
The quality and accessibility of education are essential for equitable development. In Panama, the IDB is carrying out two operations totaling more than $100 million to improve education, particularly for indigenous and low-income students. The most recent project, which was approved in mid-2012 for $70 million, will provide innovative infrastructure to 20 high-schools and 47 elementary schools , that will benefit more than 38,000 students. The goal is to expand educational services from preschool to middle school and encourage students to complete the cycle.
Works are also underway to improve access to schools and improve the quality of education in the Emberá-Wounaan, Ngäbe Buglé y Kuna Yala indigenous administrative regions. The program, which is being financed with a $32 million IDB loan, seeks to expand educational opportunities at the middle level to benefit more than 24,000 students.
Health in the indigenous regions and among the country’s poorest population groups is a priority for the IDB programming in Panama. The Bank has provided a loan for $50 million―currently in execution―to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health and nutrition programs and at the same time overcome barriers to basic preventative services. The aim of the program is to reduce maternal and child mortality and malnutrition in children under five. The program will benefit over 200,000 people in the indigenous regions.
The Juvenile Detention Center in Pacora, on the outskirts of Panama City, has also received IDB funding. The center, which opened in early 2012, has a comprehensive model that includes training and social reintegration. It is part of the IDB-financed Comprehensive Security Program that aims to strengthen public safety with emphasis on prevention and care for at-risk youth.
The IDB is also financing major infrastructure projects, including the expansion of the Panama Canal and the Bay Sanitation Program. The Panama Canal expansion―one of the most important infrastructure projects for global commerce―is being carried out with the help of an IDB loan for $400 million. In addition, the IDB has approved $75 million for projects to improve sanitation and reduce pollution of streams and rivers in the metropolitan area and in Panama City Bay.
Regional projects include IDB funding for the Mesoamerican Observatoryon Freight Transport and Logistics, which is based in Panama and operated by Georgia Institute of Technology. The observatory, which began operations last October, is generating information and data to facilitate the development of public policies to increase the competitiveness of the Mesoamerican countries.
Panama and the Annual Meeting of the IDB and the IIC
Panama will host more than 3,000 participants from around the world at the Annual Meeting of the IDB and the Inter-American Investment Corporation.
The Annual Meeting will give Panama a unique platform to showcase its economic growth, competitive advantages, and large projects to government officials, businessmen, and bankers in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and North America. The country will also promote its business opportunities and tourist destinations, and particularly its goal of becoming the Hub of the Americas.
Among Panama’s competitive advantages are its geographical position and natural beauty, and its entrepreneurial and creative people. The country is also known for its strong banking sector, ability to attract foreign direct investment, technology and financial services, and port and air infrastructure.
- Ángela Fúnez