Top 5 things that should change in the next 5 years

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Now that the supermarket baron is on the way out and the booze king on the way in, there are things in Panama that we hope will change over the next five years. Mind you, we hope. That's not the same as having high hopes, because we haven't. So here's the list:

  1. The real estate market needs to crash. Where do these promoters think we are; New York? Paris? London? Prague? $2,750 per month for a tacky studio in a bankrupt tower with a view of Panama's sewage system - are you guys for real? Casco Viejo is nice, but it's not Cartagena, in case you didn't know, and frankly every other small Spanish, French and Italian town a sort of looks like it, and is MUCH cheaper. Panama's real estate - purchase, but even more so the rents - is ridiculously overpriced. Pay first world prices for shoddy construction and cheap finishing in a generic tower in a third world city that can't decide whether it wants to be like Miami or Dubai. It's such a joke that it's a national disgrace. So we hope that market tanks, tumbles and crashes.
  2. Everybody in the legal system back to school. It's not just that the Public Ministry and the Judiciary are corrupt; they also can't read and much less write coherently. As a result, they don't understand their own laws, don't read verdicts that may serve as precedents - hell, they can hardly spell the names of the people involved right. Yes, it's that bad.
  3. Marketing courses for the "entrepreneurs". Obligatory. Not just the Panamanians, but also the foreigners. Especially the foreigners. We are completely fed up with all the drivel about rolling hills, bilingual country, crystal clear water, and so on. Hefty fines for anyone who still claims that Panama is a "bridge of the world" or the "heart of the universe". It's none of that. They say that Easter Island is the world's bellybutton and that makes Panama the world's what? Right: The world's asshole. Get used to it. So, everybody who uses the words "paradise" or "luxury" or "lifestyle" in marketing materials related to Panama should be shot, immediately, in front of their families. Same for websites in English written by people who don't know English and write gibberish. Like this latest find, a scheme called DreamSpear, which recycles a bunch of defunct companies into internship opportunities for people who are dumb enough to believe that they can learn business skills from failed entrepreneurs who write some of the worst web copy we've ever seen. Take. Them. Away.
  4. Get real about energy efficiency. The MultiPlaza shopping mall consumes as much energy as the entire town of Santiago. Because everything in Panama is left to "the market" and that market is dominated by project developers and other scum, there aren't any energy conservation initiatives to speak of, let alone alternative energy sources that don't depend on fossil fuels or killing the indigenous population.
  5. Break the back of COPA and get a budget airline in. A return flight to Bogotá costs about three times as much as a flight to Fort Lauderdale, at less than half the flight time. Time to tear apart the airline cartel that keeps prices artificially high in the entire region, that doesn't allow a free market and real competition to develop and violates thus our right to travel and be mobile. Plus COPA's customer service is a disaster.

Got anything to add to our list? Do so in the comments!

20 thoughts on “Top 5 things that should change in the next 5 years

  1. MORE billboards of scantily clad chicks selling watches or surfer girls selling Atlas Beer or (my favorite in Arraijan) the two half naked chicks selling industrial well pumps. In fact, all other billboard visuals should be banned. Unless you’re showing half-naked chicks, no billboard for you.

  2. Yes, spoken like a real human who actually lives in Panama!!!

    Maybe you should add all tradesmen such as Gardeners, plumbers, roofers, masons, laborers, and electricians , also any type of auto, truck, diesel, maritime, and aviation Mechanic that need to be trained to be able to actually do the work properly and actually have the right proper usable tools, manuals, and specifications to actually do the work properly!!

    I just had half of my roof replaced!

    I bought all the materials: Zinc roofing, painted (both side), and zinc roofing screws.

    I went through six different roofing companies to get one that would actually give a quote and show up to do the work!

    Then I find out that every one of the companies that told me what I needed (measurements) and list of materials, everyone had measured all the dimensions wrong and the Zinc sheets were 3.5 feet too long.

    It was a slight costly error of only $50.00, I am very lucky I bought the materials myself.

    Then they proceeded to show up with only three workers instead of the six they promised!

    No safety equipment of any kind or any Ladders!

    To make this short I had to oversee everything they did from not destroying and bending the zinc sheets to setting the Zinc sheets to from the replacement roof, Yet they still managed to offset one side by two to three inches to the inside (the rain now leaks on the edges where it should drain downwards instead of draining sideways), they also manage to miss drill holes and miss the carioles(trusses) with the Zinc roofing screws.

    I have an older BMW 1995 525ia, which I have had five different mechanics and shops work on, none of them were able to fixed or repair an overheating problem for very long, the last one had the balls to sabotage my car’s cylinder head by placing a wooden plug behind the thermostat blocing one of the major water circulation ports, which cause the water to stop flowing, of course it overheated and cracked the cylinder head beyond any possible rework and welding to make it totally usable, this so-called mechanic also used old damaged parts and stole all the new parts I had given him to replace($600.00 worth)!

    Now, I have bought the proper tools and replacement parts, in the long run it would have been much cheaper to do the work myself and not have the constant fear that the parts are not the ones I bought and the workmanship was done properly by using the proper Manuals, and specifications.

    Panama does not have a safe trained work force that is capable of keeping Panama moving safely and profitably.
    Riding any of the Taxis, buses, Metro buses, or the new subway is defiantly taking your life for granted.
    Maintenance and skill mechanics, tradesmen’s, and engineers are have not been trained to do the work properly and the skills to make anything last after being built or repaired.

    “Panama is above all Show and no GO! “

  3. I think someone needs to put the colombian whores in their place. These bitches think they can get 200 bucks an hour. Now, in the end, they will still for for 100, but meanwhile it is 5 bucks a god damn beer at habanos. WTF??

  4. Bunch of conceited expat brats. If you don’t like it, with all it’s disfunctions and problems, then leave. You are a disgrace to the rest of us foreigners who love Panama.

  5. Well, I’m from Panama and you’re right. Sorry if I write gibberish as you said, but I want you to understand why. We have a system ruled by a few families that just care about their own interests, not the rest of the country. We’ve been a ”democratic” republic since 1990. Nobody have interested in educating the people. We are just means to their ends. Like slaves, ignorant and submissive. I recommend you to read more about us before ranting about Panama. We have opened our country to everybody and it has done more wrong than good to the common Panamanian that can’t buy a house, can’t feed their family, can’t get proper education and so on

    • It’s these few families that actually cause most of the above mentioned, not the average Panamanians. Plus a number of really obnoxious “expats” and foreign “entrepreneurs”.

  6. I agree with Raul & Okke on this 100% some observations of my own.

    After overhauling the judicial system make any false advertising a serious crime.

    Please Sr. Varela do not start naming De la Guardias, Fabrega’s, Balladeres, etc, etc to cabinets, consulates etc, try some new names with new ideas. It is proven these old ingredients create and maintain shit. If your were a global company of any measure you wouldn’t hire them period.

    BAR exam by an independent body.

    Other observations, Buy a Japanese or Korean car if your going to live here! Common sense!

    Priority #1 Education, school maintenance and WATER! No glass financial towers please!

    Police that patrol their area 24/7 instead of barely reacting after the fact if any.

    Prosecute and make examples of all corrupt transit cops and do the same to the people willing to pay them.

    Disband ANAM and start over!

    Energy efficiency should first start in the Government buildings both old and new, try doors that shut correctly and forget those louvered windows.

    Combine the water, trash and light bills in one maybe some will have to become responsible?

    Crack down on the realtors /developers you can’t offer what isn’t built let the banks and investors take the bet, not the consumer / future victim. Realtors loose their license to conduct real estate or development (Panamanian born or naturalized realtor). Anyone who is not naturalized cannot conduct real estate here in any way no more tourist visa / penisionado realtors.

    And finally Outlaw Hawaiian shirts!

  7. First I want to point out, as an expat I did not move to Panama to make it like the United States or to change the country. However I would like to see Panama be the best it can be for myself, my family, my business, and for my Panamanian friends.

    My attitude is, if I don’t find Panama to be a fit for myself, my family, and my business, we will just move on just like we did when we concluded the United States and Costa Rica were not good fits.

    I am only giving my two bits here because this blog asked for comments.

    My father taught me not to criticize if I did not have some constructive solutions.

    The following are my observations and suggestions to make a change for the betterment of the whole country.

    1. High food cost; such as turkeys costing $47.00 when you can purchase one back in the United States for about $19.00 and get the second one free. Then pork ribs costing $64.00 for 3 racks of ribs.

    2. High rental cost.

    It took me some time to figure out why cities like Panama City or San Jose have inflated real estate rates. This is because all of the embassies and multi national corporations from around the world who are ill informed about the rental market, are able and too willing to over pay for these inflated rental rates, which hurts the local market.

    In the current market in Panama City were the rental market is over built, there is no need to over pay, but they still do. There is no competition for this over abundant inventory.

    3. High housing cost for homes built of cinder block material used to build fences. Reinforced with rebar half the thickness the rest of the world uses.

    Poor masonary skills. There are gaps in the mortar large enough for a rat to crawl through. This can be seen in the highrise construction as well. They feel this is okay because the stucco will hide the shoddy workmanship.

    Instead of planning ahead for where electrical conduit and plumbing will be located, they destroy the new brick wall by hacking it up to install the plumbing and electrical work, then patch up the damage.

    There is no oversight of the quality of concrete work for the high rises and much less for sidewalks. I doubt anyone knows what slump is.

    There are no standards for sidewalks, curbs, and gutters, if they have them at all.

    The government and the municipalities are of the mind after they put in these substandard sidewalks they do not have the responsibility to maintain them.

    Then there is the tin or plastic roofs for new construction. I could go on with this subject but I will stop here.

    3. Why does the country have to be a 45 mile an hour country with half way decent highways?

    4. Improve the speed by reducing the ingress egress on the highways so they can increase the speed on the highways. We do not need police officers every half mile to harass and extort the motorist via these bogus speed traps.

    5. Add designated pull out areas on the highways for buses to pull off the highway to pick up passengers.

    6. The toll roads should have cash booths to make the toll roads more tourist friendly.

    7. To make Panama more tourist friendly create better signage for the highways and expressways. Then develop better signage to all the major attractions as well as for such locations as the airports, bus terminals, subway stations, malls, connecting highways, and major neighborhoods. These changes will increase revenues.

    8. Get rid of the older crooked cops.

    9. Revamp the Frontiera immigration area. It should not take an hour to 3 hours to get processed. Plus if the electricity goes out, they should know they need generators as backup to continue operating. I guess this requires too much common sense.

    10. The whole country needs to learn about customer service. You don’t just hang up on a caller because you can’t understand them or the issue is too difficult.

    Business people need to learn about following through, returning phone calls, and responding to e-mails. Everybody knows about the poor customer service in restaurants. This is to the complacency of the owner’s and to their unperceived detriment, because they do not realize their loss of income.

    Those Panamanians who cry about not getting a piece of the pie are the very ones who look a gift horse in the mouth when a customer comes into their shop and tries to drop business into their laps and they won’t even take the time to give the customer a quote to get the business.

    Then there are those Panamanians who speak English and have their college degrees who are mad at the world because they settled for and took a dead end job by choice.

    11. The government needs to get a handle on the importing of substandard products being dumped into the country. This does not help or protect the consumer.

    When it comes to warranties and service, the government should demand they be equal to or greater than what is being offered the industrialized countries. Also realizing Panama City is not the center of the world, that the rest of the country requires these same services and protections.

    12. There needs to be an investigation into food cartels making it impossible for locally grown foods such as garlic to be sold.

    13. The high crime rate needs to take a front and center priority, there is no reason why we should have to live behind bars in our own homes.

    Gangs should be hunted down like the wild animals they are. I would like to see these mamma’s boys get caned like they do in Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei. This will put the fear of God in any future wannabes.

    14. There needs to be put in place means to report corrupt police officers, immigration officers, taxi drivers, unscrupulous merchants, landlords, lawyers and medical professionals.

    15. The government needs to open the door for the medical profession to foreigners. The medical schools and what ever current oversight that is in place is a joke. I have been to several dentist offices that do not even have a sink in the patient area for the doctor to wash their hands before starting a procedure. They put their dirty hands into their latex gloves of which they touch with their dirty hands. I have seen doctors answer their cell phones and open doors with their gloves on then put their hands back into a patients mouth. The sink you use to rinse out your mouth is often not cleaned after each patient. The last office I went to in David had blood in the sink.

    16. The world knows that aluminum causes dementia but every restaurant is permitted to use this material rather than steel and stainless steel. Plus the retail stores sell this health hazard to the public. Somebody needs to explain the affects this has on the governments budget in the form of increased medical care cost. Out law the use and sales of aluminum pots and pans.

    17. No respect for the cross walks. There is a lack of driver’s edicate. Since most people are first generation
    drivers, they should be required to attend an accredited driving school or take a drivers education class in school before acquiring a drivers licence.

    18. It is a lie and false advertisement to state to future expates that they will be increasing his or her quality of life by living here in a country that is in many ways still stuck in the late 50’s and early 60’s at best. One could spend the day elaborating on this one.

    19. Get the politics out of getting the newly designated international airports opened and operational. This will benefit the growth and economy in these communities they are located in.

    20. There are too many emergency phone numbers. The government needs to consolidate these numbers into one, such as 911 for police, fire, and ambulance services. There is no need to have the redundancy of operators, office space, and equipment. This will increase the efficiency, accountability, and reduce the budgets for each of these agencies.

    21. We all know this is not America but every home and building needs an address number not solely for receiving mail but for ambulance service, police, and fire protection.

    22. Yes, there is a need for street signs, if the country is truly serious about developing the tourist market. Having street signs not only makes it easier for tourist to navigate their way around, but it also helps the locals and the emergency services as well.

    23. The government needs to revisit it’s protectionist attitude towards foreign investment in the retail market place because it would create more local jobs and bring in more foreign investment. This is better than trying to entice big businesses seeking tax breaks and other incentives forcing the country to pay them to come to Panama. The money from small businesses will stay in Panama. Who knows where the multi national companies money is going to go. They have no loyality to no nation. Just look how they have abandoned the United States. Another difference between small local family owned businesses and the multi national companies.

    It also does not help trying to come up with as many strings and prohibitive fees to defeat the program before it ever can get started.

    24. The government needs to come to grips with the fact that Panama City is not the whole country. The rest of the country needs infrastructure. They would like to see their taxes an income from the canal reinvested in their areas as well.

    25. If the country wants to have their citizens take the reins in the future, the children need to become a priority. They need more hours in school. They need better facilities. The families do not need the added burden of the schools nickel and diming them to death. Government schools are so cheap they do not provide toilet paper, paper towels, or hot water to wash their hands. The public schools do not have air conditioned classrooms so the children can study in comfort. Decent playgrounds with grass not dirt, rocks, and weeds and play ground equipment for them to play at recess. They are only going to pass through this passage once. These are all of our children we are talking about.

    Addressing all of these issues helps bring in more international investments by showing the whole country has a higher quality of life and culture.

    Cliff Strait

  8. Cliff!

    Great post!

    Many of us in the past have stated it in so many different ways with the same result, NADA!

    Those who come here to Americanize Panama will loose period!

    Those who came here not to overwhelm Panama, but to live calmly & peacefully only want a fair honest shake, reasonably fair honest treatment, proper use of materials & merchandize, workmanship, construction that does not leak or fall apart the next day, for the majority of us that live here in Panama are on the small fixed incomes.

    Knowing and living among the Panamanians here in Panama City!

    I am appalled at how many Panamanians have gone to University in the USA and Europe, yet have not given a single thought to the Vast overwhelming difference of the Infrastructure here and it’s problems, how dilapidated, cheaply built, and the complete lack of Maintenance they accept on a daily basis!

    When I have stated that over 50% of the country of Panama does not have safe clean drinkable water on a daily basis, some areas it has turned from days to weeks, to months, to years.

    Over 50% of the school do not have useable electricity, clean safe clean drinkable water, clean safe useable toilets!

    Before Martinelli the Police actually walked the streets 24/7/365 and directed traffic at all the major intersections during Rush hours and other events in most all the cities of Panama.

    When you live under these abominable conditions at home and your school is your only safe habour(which is always filthy, dirty, and has no real redeeming moral, ethical, or social value) then what do you expect when all these modalities of living are treated as subliminal waste of time and effort by those living and growing up here in Panama.

    One can truly see why Panama is the way it is!

    Hopefully this new government can make and start Panama moving in the right direction!

    I will certainly not hold my breath or really expect any thing much! LOL!

    • First I would like to thank you for your comments and sharing your insights.

      Another mind set change I had to come to grips with, was to stop looking at things in a negative way. Rather look at those things I would take issue with as opportunities.

      Panama has so much to offer and so many opportunities for everyone.

      The two issues I see at hand are, the need for a government to allow for these opportunities to take hold and the Panamanians need to become a part of the solutions.

      Apathy is destructive.


  9. Panama! Land of fish, along with some coco and rice provides a great meal. Don’t look the gift horse in the mouth. It has given me a job, a wife, a family, friends, security, and now in retirement, tranquility. What other country could have provided more. All countries have problems, it’s how they solve them, that defines their success. From chiva to subway indicates the progress, slow at times but always moving forward. First world progress from hard working citizens, all imagrantes but the Indians. Shows that the make-up of the country citizens dose not matter, only their determination to prosper counts. From a borrowed money system to a world banking center in a banana republic represents the determination of its citizens to prosper and forge ahead into the future. What is next — on the agenda!

  10. I think a lot of people who came to Panama don’t like it here. Feel free to try the next country. Your complaints seem to apply to most countries. But then, you thought you came to paradise.

  11. I find it fascinating how there are always people who have little else to say than, “If you don’t like it here why not try the next country.” Who do they think they are to tell others, whom they don’t even know, to either stop having complaints/criticism or leave the country?

    These comments are inconsiderate and selfish, because what they are really saying is, “don’t destroy my bubble. Don’t take away my pink glasses.” These are comments made out of fear that somewhere deep inside they might actually have to agree with the criticism or complaints. Because, get real: Everybody with half a brain knows that real estate here is ridiculously overpriced and shoddily built. Everybody knows that COPA is way too expensive. Everybody knows that necessary things don’t get done because politicians steal. Everybody knows that there is no energy policy geared towards sustainability. What you are asking us is to ignore all that because the truth makes you feel uncomfortable, or because you don’t want the boat to be rocked since you’re too busy trying to get in it.

    Here’s a thought: If you are indeed so comfortable with flaws and injustices that are so glaringly obvious to even casual observers; if all you really want is to live in your bubble, have your morning beer and ignore everything else, maybe it is YOU who should move somewhere else? Because, obviously it doesn’t matter to you how backwards or overpriced the place is where you live. After all, you can wear those pink glasses anywhere. And then you can leave it to the more thoughtful people who stay behind to voice their criticism and actually try to improve things for themselves and others here in Panama instead of selfishly enjoying a private Disney-fantasy. So how about it?

  12. Okke,

    Thank you for your eloquent description of apathy. Apathy has broken the bucks of many powerful nations. We are witnessing it in real time not only here in Panama but the USA.

    At least the majority of Panamanians have an excuse, they don’t know anything different, we from other countries do.

    Do not be fooled, many in power here know better too. They have had the luxury of travel, many educated in America, and Europe. Many lived and worked in America and Europe. Let us not forget, many of these same people in Panama’s ruling class are from a very privileged group. Their mind set is not much different than those in political positions and government bureaucrats in America. It is all about what is in it for themselves.

    We are in a unique position of being able to share where the pit falls are. Thus making this a better place for Panamanians and the expates.

    Many of us can learn from the locals about family and living life. Life 8is not all about making money.

    Political Analysis and Strait Shooter

  13. Seems a lot of people would like to invite big government into Panama. Strange indeed, because most problems here are caused by that same government: bad roads, bad education, bad healthcare, economic disparity… Trying the same thing over again while expecting different results is the closest definition of insanity. So how about a different approach?

    Look at the worlds’ most successful countries like Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Liechtenstein et cetera. What do they have in common? Low taxation and an open economy where capital, goods, services and people can freely move. If Panama where to enact a 10% flat tax rate and allow foreigners to work here, companies big and small would be lining up to invest in Panama, bring in those jobs, infrastructure and eduction opportunities that Panamanians need.

  14. Cliff, I know you and understand your experience in panama. Are you still in Bocas? Unlike so much negatives written. I succeeded since 2006, as of this writing, I cashed in one of my city apts in Panama city for a 200% return. I still have one other that I utilize for income. Panama is now stagnating. Still over built. Rumor has it, lots of cleaning of money going on. Panama was booming 2009-2016. This negativity was written 2 years prior to the noticeable slow down. Properties have not collapsed, however, when the 20 year exoneration ends, is when those owners in bad situations will dump their $2200 per meter apts in the years stated back to $800-$1050, excluding Punta pacifica. I started down sizing my operations in 2019, Good for me, To see in 2017-2018 panama cracking down on the illegals from venezula and colombia, meant they gave me the scoop to reduce my exposure to rentals of all forms. NO DEMAND TODAY IN ANY RENTALS IN THE CITY. I still live here, plan to continue to live here, hate the cars and motorcylces racing down ave balboa thur-fri-sat nights. Flipped the finger to a gringo as i, on a harley reving his bike to maximum noise as i crossed the street. So even gringos step to the level of the country and break the laws of common sense cause authorities close their eyes to peace and quite after 9pm. You live in latin american, by a park plan to be blasted out regular with noise that in law is illegal, but parties will go on. Habanos today is the place to go for cheap sex. Veneto is long gone, and the plan is, to be that way for years. Casco is slowly being developed. No tourists in sight, a few now and then, Restaurants are empty, So many i have seen come and go. Then another comes, 6 months later $50,000 invested, fire sale, and vacant space for the future. Today many vacancies in commercial and residential from room rentals hotel rooms, their is just no demand, But the skyline is beautiful, buildings that should have been completed in 2 1/2 years. take 5. I am seeing one on its 7th year. 200 workers should be on sight but their are only 25. That says alot. I am still waiting for more skeleton buildings for now, their are 3 within walking distance of me, the biggest 8 floors stopped in 2011, the last stopped in 2015. Time will bring evolution, when i got here, in 2004 i saw the 70s of america, today i see the 90s in the city. I know the interior has grown, I know their are more signage for the tourists, Evolution takes time. Corvid-19 today does not help. ?????????????????????? GOING FORWARD.

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