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Panama has amended several immigration regulations that impact real estate investors in Panama, according to the My Panama Lawyer Blog. Some of the laws changed include the length of stay allowed for tourists, regulations on foreign workers, changes in the minimum investments for forestry and other visas, and an increase in the required minimum income for the pensionado program.

Here is a selection of some of the changes, which will be effective starting  August 25th, 2008:

-Tourists may remain in the country only for 90 days, with only those with an original period under 90 days being able to ask for an extension to complete the 90 days when justified (Art. 21),

-Forestry temporary visa minimum investment is raised to US$60,000, up from US$40,000, with an additional requirement of 10 hectares purchased (Art. 100),

-Forestry permanent visa minimum investment is doubled to US$80,000, with an additional requirement of 20 hectares purchased (Art. 180),

-Self-solvency investor visa minimum investment is increased to US$300,000, up from US$200,000 left in Panama bank account for 3 years (Art. 192).

-Self-solvency investor visa minimum investment alternatives include also real estate for which at least US$300,000 is paid for, free of mortgage (Art. 193) or a mixture of a 3-year deposit and mortgage-free real estate up to a combined minimum of US$300,000 (Art. 194),

-Self-solvency investor visa real estate may be held under a Private Foundation which founder or beneficiary is the applicant,

-Pensionado minimum income is raised to US$1,000, up from US$500, or a mixture of US$100,000 in directly-held Panama real estate (Art. 200 - it does not specify if the property is free of mortgage),

To read more of the important changes in the immigration regulations, read My Panama Lawyers full post here, or download the full documents in Spanish here and here (yahoo ID required).

Congratulations to Irving Saladino, who took first place in the men’s long jump on August 18th at this year’s Beijing Olympics, bringing home Panama’s first gold medal in Olympic history. The gold is the first medal awarded to a Panamanian athlete since Lloyd LaBeach took home two bronze medals in the 100 and 200 meter races during the 1948 London Olympics.

Panama President Martin Torrijos commended the athlete calling Saladino “an example of success and perseverance for all Panamanians.” The president also said that a new sports complex constructed in Panama will be named in the athletes honor. The complex will include a new football stadium, a gymnasium, a hall of fame, and will be completed in 2009.

Source:
Panama honours its gold (Edmontonsun.com)

Panama’s tourism industry brings in $1.5 billion in revenue per year, more than earned from the tolls at the Panama Canal, according to a recent article in the Seattle Times. Panama’s government, through the official tourism ministry - IPAT, have sought to increase the country’s visibility by promoting the recent “Panama – It Never Leaves You” advertising campaign. The article discusses major tourism destinations in Panama, including Isla Parida, David, Boquete, and Bocas del Toro.

The article also described the rapid pace at which growth and development have been occurring in parts of Panama. A local from Isla Parida, an island ten miles off the coast from David in southwestern Panama, describes his current frustration have sold his property over a decade ago when surrounding land was converted into a national park, not knowing the value the property would be holding today.

The author goes on to describe his experience Boquete, in Chiriqui Province:

Nowhere is the investment as intimate as in the lush foothills of the 11,397-foot Baru volcano, where Americans retire in mass to the town of Boquete. Signs on the edge of town promote Coldwell Banker, Kohler sinks and the Hacienda Los Molinos, which promises, in English, “A Fabulous Lifestyle in Boquete… Later, [we] drive the road east from Boquete and pass parked bulldozers, cleared hillsides and billboards promising more.

I thought the article was interesting, and shows the wealth of opportunities that Panama offers to international tourists. Panama is uniquely positioned as a crossroads of business and culture, as well as an ecological crossroads between two continents. This diversity will help to continue to diversify and help bolster Panama’s already robust tourism industry.

Source:

A detour-filled drive across Panama (Seattletimes.com)

Located 45 minutes north of Panama City, the Nikki Beach resort is scheduled to open in March of 2008. The Nikki Beach Playa Blanca Resort and Spa complex will include a 140-unit condo-hotel in addition to two other elements, Nikki Beach Residences, which will feature 60 two and three bedroom ocean view apartments, and Nikki Beach Lofts, featuring 68 one and two bedroom ocean view lofts. Nikki Beach, internationally known for its opulent hotels and resorts, recently opened a similar resort in Turks and Caicos, and currently has 15 planned resorts worldwide.

The resort, which is located in Playa Blanca, has seen a recent surge in major international projects and upscale condominiums, including a Hard Rock Hotel opening in the area in the near future. Playa Blanca, Panama was also rated one of the top destinations to visit in 2008 by the New York Times.

Source:
Nikki Beach Playa Blanca Resort & Spa To Open In Panama On March 1 (Hotelinteractive.com)

For anyone interested in keeping up to date on local news and events, here is a selection of English language newspapers in Panama:

The Panama News: an English language online news magazine with articles written by Eric Jackson. The magazine features a variety of stories on topics that relate to Panama’s economy, culture, lifestyle and natural environment.

The Bocas Breeze: An online magazine with articles in both Spanish and English that discuss news and information relating to Bocas del Toro.

The Bajareque Times: An online news magazine that publishes stories related to the Boquete region in both Spanish and English.

La Prensa: The Republic of Panama’s primary major print and online newspaper. Published only in Spanish, La Prensa can be translated into English (or any other language) using Google Translate.

These are just a sampling of English language news resources for Panama. If any readers have further recommendations, please share!

A recent Reuter’s article ranked the Garden of Eden Resort in Bocas del Toro the number two ‘clothing optional’ resort destination in the world. The top resort went to a scandalous sounding resort in Mexico called The Au Naturel Club (definitely not beating around the bush with that one). According to the article, the Panama resort is on a pristine island on Panama’s Caribbean coast, and features a laid back atmosphere. The resorts website makes it clear that the property is strictly “adults only,” and offers many opportunities for their adventurous clientele, including snorkeling and kayaking.

While I personally prefer to keep my clothes on in public, apparently there is enough of a demand for these types of resorts to necessitate a top 10 list (although I would hate to know what the worst ‘clothing optional’ resorts are).

Panama is currently building the first diamond market in Latin America. The 50 story diamond bourse will include safes, a gemological institute, laboratories, polishing and cutting facilities, and a trading hall.The diamond market is expected to attract 300 traders, and will serve growing markets in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Argentina. The $200 million project in Panama City is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

Despite modest diamond and gem production in South America, the region has relied on exchanges in the United States and Europe to supply gemstones for jewelery. The creation of a diamond bourse in Panama City will be a tax-free zone and is expected to lower the retail prices of diamonds in Latin America. The creation of a diamond market in Panama City, recognized by the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, will continue to increase Panama’s reputation as a major trade hub in the Americas.

Source:

Panama To Open Up Latin American Diamond Market (Africa.reuters.com)

Donald Trump’s company Trump Entertainment is planning on opening a casino on the Pacific Ocean in Panama City. The casino would be Trump’s first gaming facility outside of the United States, and is likely to feature slots and assorted table games. The casino will be part of the Trump Ocean Club hotel and condominium complex currently under construction, and will likely open to coincide with the condo in either 2009 or 2010.

The details of the new casino, which has yet to be named, are still being negotiated. The development comes amid financial problems for Trump in the United States, as his company is currently selling off the under performing Trump Marina casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The company is hoping that the small casino, which is part of the $400 million project in Punta Pacifica, will help bolster the Trump’s international reputation. In addition to Panama, Trump Entertainment is also considering expanding their gaming empire to locations in Uruguay, the Philipines and the Ukraine.

Trump Hopes To Expand His Entertainment Empire Outside Of The US

Source:
Panama In The Cards For Next Trump Casino (Pressofatlanticcity.com)

Panama City has seen incredible amounts of construction in recent years. A slide show from La Prensa includes photographs documenting the construction boom in Panama City.

Here is a link to the slide show, translated by Google. Clicking on the individual pictures should provide an English translation. The original Spanish version of the slide show can be found here.

Panama City (from Wikipedia.org)

Panama has the highest rate of foreign direct investment as a percentage of GDP of any country in Latin America, says the Latin Business Chronicle. Panama’s $1.8 billion FDI contributes to 9.1 percent of the country’s nearly $20 billion GDP. Following Panama on the list were Chile, El Salvador and Costa Rica. Ecuador and Venezuela had the lowest rate of foreign direct investment of all of the Latin American countries. Despite Panama’s high foreign direct investment, Panama’s FDI actually decreased by 29 percent from 2006. Both Chile and Panama  topped the Latin Business Chronicles ‘Latin Business Index,’ which was published in May.

Source:

Venezuela: Lowest FDI per GDP (Latinbusinesschronicle.com)

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