Panama’s economy grew by 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019, meeting the expectations of economists who expect the country’s GDP to expand by 4 to 5 percent in the year ahead.
The fourth quarter represented the largest increase of the year for Panama, which finished 2019 with a 3 percent growth, according to Panama’s National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC). The fourth-quarter number represented the continuation of an upward trend that experts believe will continue for the next few years, fueled by several projects.
The recent results were attributable to the first output of the Cobre Panama mining operation, one of the largest copper mines in the world. The massive mining project is expected to pump billions of dollars into the Panama economy, creating a long term driver for local business.
But other sectors also reported strong growth. The transport, storage and communications category registered an annual increase of 6.8 percent, primarily due to the increase in tolls and ship services from the Panama Canal, La Prensa reports. The port system rose 7.7 percent, while general cargo was up 11.4 percent and bulk cargo revenue was up 16.7 percent.
The result was also notable in the context of the slowdown in China, struggles in Europe and a sluggish economy throughout the region. While many expected Panama’s economic numbers to slump in the wake of the completion of the Panama Canal expansion, the economy has remained resilient.
In addition to Cobre Panama, the economy is growing due to strong fundamentals, backed by a wide variety of large infrastructure projects, including the expansion of the Panama metro and a new bridge over the Panama Canal.
As we reported last month, Moody’s top analytical firm is still bullish on Panama. The rating service labels the country as “stable” and predicts a 4 to 4.5 percent expansion this year, which is in line with the forecasts of most international agencies.