It seems like every time I come to Panama now the first word that springs to mind is “impressive”.
I first traveled to Panama back in 2003… fourteen years ago.
I remember landing at Tocumen International Airport for the first time– it was a depressing backwater that was barely functioning.
Berkshire Hathaway’s Buffett On Diversification
In his 2014 letter preview, Buffett states that, far from being a weak choice, indexing can often achieve investor's goals far more easily than complicated picking strategies. This is a special guest post by Robert R. Johnson, Ph.D., CFA, CAIA. He is a full professor of finance at the Heider College of Business at Creighton Read More
And on the way into town there was hardly any sign of civilization; everything seemed completely impoverished.
Basically Panama was just another third world toilet bowl back then.
But over the years as I kept coming back, and even as I lived here back in 2007, Panama really started to grow… thanks in large part to the expansion of the Canal.
Economists can quote figures about GDP and foreign direct investment to measure growth, but what really matters is standard of living.
And people here are living MUCH better than ever before.
Panama’s middle class has exploded, growing from almost nothing to more than a third of the population… and rising. It’s far higher in the capital city.
They’re able to afford the basics that Western countries take for granted– air conditioning, washing machines, laptops, televisions, smart phones, Internet access, etc.
Home and vehicle ownership have soared (contributing to Panama City’s horrendous traffic).
And since Panama has become a major international hub for trade, transportation, tourism, business services, and finance, the job market is robust.
This isn’t some country where the locals are all picking bananas; there are plenty of meaningful careers and opportunities available to people who work hard.
And unlike in the United States where wages haven’t kept pace with inflation, Panamanians become wealthier each year.
The transformation has been incredible.
Today Panama City is easily the most cosmopolitan capital in Latin America with a bustling skyline and nightlife that rivals Miami’s.
Everywhere you look there are clear signs of prosperity (and hence business and investment opportunities).
And that trend will likely continue.
I just came out of a meeting with a senior government minister in which we discussed a wide range of projects and incentive programs.
They’re keen to continue attracting more businesses and industries here, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the minister had a particular interest in cryptofinance and how it might be implemented.
Bear in mind, this is a country where just about anyone can come and obtain legal residence to live, work, and set up a business. It’s great.
It’s called the “Friendly Nations Visa”, and it provides an easy framework for people from just about every country in Europe and North America, along with Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.
Basically you have to deposit a small sum of money in a Panamanian bank and submit an application packet to the authorities.
(By the way, Panamanian banks tend to be extremely conservative, liquid, and well capitalized, plus it’s a US dollar economy so you might not even have any exchange rate risk.)
Through this visa you can ultimately receive permanent residency in the country, which will remain valid even if you don’t live here.
Even if you don’t qualify for the Friendly Nations Visa for whatever reason, there are literally dozens of other ways to obtain residency here, ranging from reforestation to business investment.
Foreigners can also qualify to apply to become Panamanian citizens after five years of residency and obtain a Panamanian passport.
Bottom line, Panama is a great deal.
And it makes a LOT of sense to consider obtaining such an easy second residency in a growing, thriving country that might one day lead to a second passport for you and your entire family.
You might not ever need it. But it’s hard to imagine you’ll be worse off having such a great Plan B.