According to the CIA World Factbook, as of 2012 Panama had an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent. A food surplus was registered in August 2008. On the Human Development Index, Panama ranked 60th in 2015. In recent years, Panama's economy has experienced a boom, with growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) averaging over 10.4 percent in 2006–2008. Panama's economy has been among the fastest growing and best managed in Latin America. The Latin Business Chronicle predicted that Panama would be the fastest growing economy in Latin America during the five-year period from 2010–14, matching Brazil's 10 percent rate.
The prosperity enjoyed during the first two centuries (1540–1740) while contributing to colonial growth; the placing of extensive regional judicial authority (Real Audiencia) as part of its jurisdiction; and the pivotal role it played at the height of the Spanish Empire – the first modern global empire – helped define a distinctive sense of autonomy and of regional or national identity within Panama well before the rest of the colonies.
Two men linked to Fidentia, a South African asset management company that looted 1.2 billion rand from pension funds meant to provide for 46,000 widows and orphans of mineworkers, had accounts with Mossack Fonseca, which was willing to help hide the money even after South Africa made their names public. The former chief executive of Fidentia, J. Arthur Brown, was sentenced in 2014 to concurrent 15-year sentences. The FBI arrested one man, Steven Goodwin, in Los Angeles in 2008. Sent back to South Africa, Goodwin was sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud and money laundering. The other, Graham Maddock, was also later jailed in South Africa for fraud.
Tourism in Panama is rapidly growing. It has maintained its growth over the past five years due to government tax and price discounts to foreign guests and retirees. These economic incentives have caused Panama to be regarded as a relatively good place to retire. Real estate developers in Panama have increased the number of tourism destinations in the past five years because of interest in these visitor incentives.
As of the census of 2010, there were 36,484 people, 14,819 households, and 9,039 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,246.0/per square mile . There were 17,438 housing units at an average density of 530.7 per square mile (204.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 71.6% White, 22.0% African American, 0.5% Native American, 1.6% Asian, 0.1 Native Hawaiian and 2.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.1% of the population.
Art collectors Marina Ruiz-Picasso and Borja Thyssen have Mossack Fonseca companies. Thyssen's lawyer said his company was fully declared to tax authorities and Ruiz-Picasso declined comment. Other celebrities involved include Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who won an Oscar in 2003 for Habla con ella and with his brother Agustin created a company in 1991 called Glen Valley in the British Virgin Islands. Agustin responded saying he closed the company in 1994 and it paid all of its taxes.
Rami Makhlouf, a maternal cousin of Bashar Al-Assad, was worth an estimated $5 billion before the Syrian Civil War, and had control of 60% of the economy. He was subject to sanctions by the United States and the European Union, and controlled Syria's oil and telecommunications business. The US Treasury charged that Pangates, a company registered to him, supplied the Assad government with a thousand tonnes of aviation fuel. However, the Makhloufs were able to continue to operate via Panama shell companies, registered in the British Virgin Islands, and so not subject to US law – however, on May 9, 2011, the EU issued its own sanctions, and these were extended by an order in council to the British Virgin Islands in July 2011. Mossack Fonseca decided September 6 to resign from Makhlouf's companies. By then, Makhlouf had already cut ties with his bank. HSBC told the law firm that the Swiss authorities had frozen Makhlouf's accounts, and that "they have had no contact with the beneficial owner of this company since the last 3 months".
The PRD's Martin Torrijos won the presidency and a legislative majority in the National Assembly in 2004. Torrijos ran his campaign on a platform of, among other pledges, a "zero tolerance" for corruption, a problem endemic to the Moscoso and Perez Balladares administrations. After taking office, Torrijos passed a number of laws which made the government more transparent. He formed a National Anti-Corruption Council whose members represented the highest levels of government and civil society, labor organizations, and religious leadership. In addition, many of his closest Cabinet ministers were non-political technocrats known for their support for the Torrijos government's anti-corruption aims. Despite the Torrijos administration's public stance on corruption, many high-profile cases,[clarification needed] particularly involving political or business elites, were never acted upon.
Panama has a tropical climate. Temperatures are uniformly high—as is the relative humidity—and there is little seasonal variation. Diurnal ranges are low; on a typical dry-season day in the capital city, the early morning minimum may be 24 °C (75.2 °F) and the afternoon maximum 30 °C (86.0 °F). The temperature seldom exceeds 32 °C (89.6 °F) for more than a short time. Temperatures on the Pacific side of the isthmus are somewhat lower than on the Caribbean, and breezes tend to rise after dusk in most parts of the country. Temperatures are markedly cooler in the higher parts of the mountain ranges, and frosts occur in the Cordillera de Talamanca in western Panama.
Conservative supermarket magnate Ricardo Martinelli was elected to succeed Martin Torrijos with a landslide victory in the May 2009 presidential election. Martinelli's business credentials drew voters worried by slowing growth due to the 2008 financial crisis. Standing for the four-party opposition Alliance for Change, Martinelli gained 60 percent of the vote, against 37 percent for the candidate of the governing left-wing Democratic Revolutionary Party.
The Río Chepo, another source of hydroelectric power, is one of the more than 300 rivers emptying into the Pacific. These Pacific-oriented rivers are longer and slower-running than those on the Caribbean side. Their basins are also more extensive. One of the longest is the Río Tuira, which flows into the Golfo de San Miguel and is the nation's only river that is navigable by larger vessels.
Two great-grandchildren of the dictator Francisco Franco, Francisco and Juan José Franco Suelves set up registered societies in the British Virgin Islands through Mossack Fonseca. Juan José Franco opened Malini Investments in 1997, being director in 2012 and closed in 2013. He told the newspaper El Confidencial he was "absolutely ignorant". Francisco Franco Suelves, his older brother, also opened Vamfield Alliance Limited in 1997 as a director.
Steinmetz, who has a personal fortune of $6 billion, supplies diamonds to Tiffany and DeBeers and is Sierra Leone's largest private investor. Yet, according to a detailed report in The Namibian, his Octea subsidiary owes, among other debts, property taxes of $700,000 to the city of Koidu. These unpaid taxes are discounted, according to mayor Saa Emerson Lamina, because Octea promised a 5% profit−sharing agreement, and payment 1% of its annual profit to a community development fund, but it did not do this either.