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Geography—note: strategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean

total: 78,200 sq km
land: 75,990 sq km
water: 2,210 sq km

Area—comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina

Coastline: 2,490 km

Climate: tropical; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)

Terrain: interior mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected, upland plains; coastal areas largely plains and rolling hills

Natural resources: copper, mahogany forests, shrimp

Environment—current issues: water pollution from agricultural runoff threatens fishery resources; deforestation of tropical rain forest; land degradation 

Population: 2,735,943 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 32% (male 446,001; female 428,532)
15-64 years: 62% (male 864,382; female 841,870)
65 years and over: 6% (male 74,529; female 80,629) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.56% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 21.99 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 5.14 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 24 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 74.47 years
male: 71.73 years
female: 77.31 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.57 children born/woman (1998 est.)

Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%

Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%

Languages: Spanish (official), English 14%
note: many Panamanians bilingual

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 90.8%
male: 91.4%
female: 90.2% (1995 est.) 

National capital: Panama

Independence: 3 November 1903 (from Colombia; became independent from Spain 28 November 1821)

National holiday: Independence Day, 3 November (1903)

Constitution: 11 October 1972; major reforms adopted April 1983

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Political parties and leaders:
governing coalition: Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Gerardo GONZALEZ; National Liberal Party (PLN), Raul ARANGO, founder; Popular Nationalist Party, Jorge FLORES
other parties: Solidarity Party (PS), Samuel LEWIS GALINDO; Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA), Guillermo FORD; Arnulfista Party (PA), Mireya MOSCOSO DE GRUBER; Christian Democratic Party (PDC), Ruben AROSEMENA; Papa Egoro Movement (MPE), Ruben BLADES; Civic Renewal Party (PRC), Carlos ABADIA; National Renovation Movement (MORENA), Pedro VALLARINO; Authentic Liberal Party (PLA); Labor Party (PALA); Independent Democratic Union (UDI) 

Economy—overview: Because of its key geographic location, Panama's economy is service-based, heavily weighted toward banking, commerce, and tourism. Since taking office in 1994, President PEREZ BALLADARES has advanced an economic reform program designed to liberalize the trade regime, attract foreign investment, privatize state-owned enterprises, institute fiscal reform, and encourage job creation through labor code reform. The government privatized its two remaining ports along the Panama Canal in 1997 and approved the sale of the railroad in early 1998. It also plans to sell other assets, including the electric company. Panama joined the World Trade Organization (WTrO) and approved a tariff reduction that will give the country the lowest average tariff rates in Latin America. A banking reform law was approved by the legislature in early 1998 and will take effect in June. After two years of near stagnation, the reforms are beginning to take root; GDP grew by 3.6% in 1997 and is expected to grow by more than 5% in 1998. The most important sectors driving growth have been the Panama Canal and the shipping and port activities. The Colon Free Zone also rebounded from a slow year in 1996.

GDP—real growth rate: 3.6% (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 8%
industry: 18%
services: 74% (1997 est.)

Agriculture—products: bananas, rice, corn, coffee, sugarcane, vegetables; livestock; fishing (shrimp)

total value: $592 million (f.o.b., 1997 est.)
commodities: bananas 43%, shrimp 11%, sugar 4%, clothing 5%, coffee 2%
partners: US 37%, EU, Central America and Caribbean

total value: $2.95 billion (c.i.f., 1997 est.)
commodities: capital goods 21%, crude oil 11%, foodstuffs 9%, consumer goods, chemicals
partners: US 48%, EU, Central America and Caribbean, Japan

Debt—external: $7.26 billion (1996 est.)

Currency: 1 balboa (B) = 100 centesimos 

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 733,019 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 502,731 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $78 million (1995); note—for police and security forces

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: NA%

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