Pure Business (Panama)

Panama City, Panama 2013

So my last planned trip has finally happened. I went to Panama City with the Universidad de Chile and 30 other MBAs for one week. We met with HP, Catapillar, and other companies. We also toured the city and learned about the canal´s importance, the economy and politics of Panama. We had a great time together and I made some really good friends and contacts both in Chile and Panama. As the trip ended and everyone headed back…I having planned in advance to pack, move, and look for a job in Panamá…I remained.

We landed on a weekend so the first few days we did touristy stuff as a group. Day one was a city tour (canal, casco viejo, history, general get your bearings straight) and the second day was beach day on Isla Grande about 2 hours away. Not the prettiest beach but an easy and fun bonding experience. I roomed with Daniela who also happened to not know anyone in the group because she was Finance and weekend MBA. The rest were various from the evening MBA programs and the program in Antofagasta up in N. Chile. All in Chile do the MBA evening or part-time program because it is expensive to not do so, and most stay in Chile to do it and don´t go abroad unless they have a scholarship! I did not take any evening classes because I decided against it but that left me not meeting MBAs apart from this trip, but I had a good educational semester none the less.

Monday arrived and we were very busy, meeting the people from the affiliated school, ex-president, companies, economic departments, seeing new parts in spare time, getting to know one another, and having a great time in Panamá City! We had presentations with Caterpillar, HP, and one of the 92 banks in this country!

I learned that the economy of Panama is thriving on tourism, canal, zona libre (tax free area) and a few others (banks and airport included – Copa Airlines is PAN). The top three users of the canal are the US, China and then Chile with 55M imported. They are building a new larger canal right by the current one that will fit the Post Panamax ships and should open in 2015, 101 years after the current one opened. Besides this construction, there are many other things in the city that are under construction, for example a metro, a longer freeway, new port for those new ships and canal, buildings (as if there were not enough), and many other things. Some of you may know but Nicaragua was planning to build a larger canal for the boats, but it turns out they likely wont because 1) they have no clue how to (they met with the Panama canal people and basically asked questions and didn´t present) 2) it will take to long (6 yrs), and 3) costs too much (80Bil). Panama´s economy is the 40 most competitive in the world (after Azerbaijan) but has the 2nd worst distribution of wealth…Chile is #1…hard to see sometimes but it is very true (one main city for work and half of population in that one city).

I learned that Chile is a friend country, meaning it is easy to get a work Visa, in addition the US, Canada, Uruguay and many others are too. GREAT NEWS right! In addition, each company is only allowed 10% foreigners to work unless they are in a free zone (there are a few)…..hope that doesn´t wreck it for me!

Interesting that Panama does so well and it runs without a Central Bank. It has been using the USD for over 100 years.Its PIB is 36.2 Billion of which 80% comes from the City of Panama! The country is able to run without a Central Bank mainly because it is a services run economy (those banks and canal stuff again) not commodity based. In addition it has a local and international based market, it uses USD and has good interest rates.

Panama is has a very young population, 56% are under 20 yrs old. Unfortunately over half are poor and lacking quality education. This appears to me to be a huge huge problem! In fact the schools here mainly seem run down or very small. UChile partnered with Quality Leadership University which here seems to be well known because of its connection with UChile, but in addition it is called University of Louisville (KY) because the founder and president went there for school and they also have the affiliate connection like with the UChile. In general the population is 51% between the ages of 20-60 yrs old…few seniors here.

Also to note is that there are many large companies here that have placed their central offices to LATAM here, hence why I came up here and am looking for work from here! Oh yes and Panama has Free Trade Agreements in the LATAM countries with Chile, Peru, Colombia, MX, Central Am, and Dom. Rep. (US obviously has one too but only since last year – Oct 31).

Hoping the contacts and information I have from studying for a week here really pay off. So far I have Adidas and Asics contacts. Plus, I met people from Nike and other companies though other means. There seems to be a lot of opportunities here. One presentation actually ended offering us all jobs (and I have never seen that happen in any presentation)! A few friends in this group are highly interested in moving here. I am helping them from here and they are helping me in Chile with their contacts! Also in October my university has a networking meeting here so I will make more contacts!

As you can see this was for me a very entertaining trip in terms of economic information, culture, and more.

*More about Panama on these blogs:
Trading One Star For Two (Panama)
1 year living and working abroad – Panama
Panama International Marathon 42k (Panama)
Cycling Oceano a Oceano (Panama)
Panama, Will You Be My Valentine?

*Other blogs on Belize and Nicaragua.

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