We’re on the list, we’re not on the list, we’re on the list…

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The media aren't mentioning it, but maybe you remember how a couple of years ago the evil French Republic had put us on a blacklist for being an offshore robbers den? Panamanians, that is, Martinelli & Co, immediately launched all kind of ideas for retaliation. Crazy American neo-Nazis demanded that the Canal be closed to French ships. Of course Panama lost in that conflict and we stayed on the blacklist of non-cooperating tax havens.

So far so good. But today we are in an almost identical situation with our neighbor Colombia. They too put Panama on a blacklist of uncooperative tax havens. Rich Colombians stash their money here and don't pay any taxes at home. The Colombian government doesn't like that and on top of that they want to be a member of the OECD, which is a sort of a high tax cartel. Why? Because financing your government's plans is easier when you are a member and behave.

So, Panamanians responded with the same vitriol as when they were under fire from France. The ever growing band of xenophobes demanded visa obligations for Colombian tourists, something they had wanted all along. Punishment for those coca pushers, that's what Panamanians wanted. Trouble with that is, Colombia is a much bigger economy than Panama, and our ailing Colon Free Zone can't afford trouble doing business with the Colombians - also because Venezuela doesn't pay its bills. Also, there is not really that much benefit for Panama to be a tax haven other than for a small clique of lawyers and dirty bankers who do the incorporations and the bean counting - Panama has never been able to translate its status as a fiscal paradise into higher GDP or better wealth distribution like, say, Luxembourg or Switzerland have. So, cooler heads prevailed and negotiated a solution.

Better said, it's not a solution, but more an agreement like, "let's talk about this again before we break up." The two countries are going to negotiate an information sharing treaty during the next 12 months. This indeed means that Panama gave in and will share financial information about Colombian funds in Panama with the Colombian tax authorities.

So what was all the screaming about then? That is because Panamanians fail at bridging the gap between their own perception of their country, the reality of how that country operates and the response to that from the outside world. In other words, Panamanians think they live in a paradise at the center of the universe, yet at the same time they run their country like a pirate's den and then they are surprised when others put them on a list of known pirate dens. That's really all there's to it.

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