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Whale watching in Panama

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Panama: whale watcher’s paradise

by Robert E. Baker (posted on The Panama Perspective)

We recently saw several of the largest creatures of the deep — the majestic humpback whales who annually migrate between their feeding and breeding homes from as far away as the ice-capped shores of Alaska to the tropical waters of Panama and South America.

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 October 2011 17:34 Read more...
 

Panama Facts

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Republic of Panama

President: Ricardo Martinelli (2009)

Land area: 29,340 sq mi (75,991 sq km);total area: 30,193 sq mi (78,200 sq km)

Population (2009 est.): 3,360,474 (growth rate: 1.5%); birth rate: 20.1/1000; infant mortality rate: 12.7/1000; life expectancy: 77.2; density per sq mi: 111

Capital and largest city (2003 est.):Panama City, 1,053,500 (metro. area), 437,200 (city proper)

Other large cities: San Miguelito, 309,500; Colón, 44,400

Monetary units: balboa; U.S. dollar

Republic of Panama
Geography

The southernmost of the Central American nations, Panama is south of Costa Rica and north of Colombia. The Panama Canal bisects the isthmus at its narrowest and lowest point, allowing passage from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Panama is slightly smaller than South Carolina. It is marked by a chain of mountains in the west, moderate hills in the interior, and a low range on the east coast. There are extensive forests in the fertile Caribbean area.
Government

Constitutional democracy.
History

Explored by Columbus in 1502 and by Balboa in 1513, Panama was the principal shipping point to and from South and Central America in colonial days. In 1821, when Central America revolted against Spain, Panama joined Colombia, which had already declared its independence. For the next 82 years, Panama attempted unsuccessfully to break away from Colombia. Between 1850 and 1900 Panama had 40 administrations, 50 riots, 5 attempted secessions, and 13 U.S. interventions. After a U.S. proposal for canal rights over the narrow isthmus was rejected by Colombia, Panama proclaimed its independence with U.S. backing in 1903.

For canal rights in perpetuity, the U.S. paid Panama $10 million and agreed to pay $250,000 each year, which was increased to $430,000 in 1933 and to $1,930,000 in 1955. In exchange, the U.S. got the Canal Zone—a 10-mile-wide strip across the isthmus—and considerable influence in Panama's affairs. On Sept. 7, 1977, Gen. Omar Torrijos Herrera and President Jimmy Carter signed treaties giving Panama gradual control of the canal, phasing out U.S. military bases, and guaranteeing the canal's neutrality.

Nicolas Ardito Barletta, Panama's first directly elected president in 16 years, was inaugurated on Oct. 11, 1984, for a five-year term. He was a puppet of strongman Gen. Manuel Noriega, a former CIA operative and head of the secret police. Noriega replaced Barletta with vice president Eric Arturo Delvalle a year later. In 1988, Noriega was indicted in the U.S. for drug trafficking, but when Delvalle attempted to fire him, Noriega forced the national assembly to replace Delvalle with Manuel Solis Palma. In Dec. 1989, the assembly named Noriega “maximum leader” and declared the U.S. and Panama to be in a state of war. In Dec. 1989, 24,000 U.S. troops seized control of Panama City in an attempt to capture Noriega after a U.S. soldier was killed in Panama. On Jan. 3, 1990, Noriega surrendered himself to U.S. custody and was transported to Miami, where he was later convicted of drug trafficking. Guillermo Endara, who probably would have won an election suppressed earlier by Noriega, was installed as president.

On Dec. 31, 1999, the U.S. formally handed over control of the Panama Canal to Panama. Meanwhile, Colombian rebels and paramilitary forces have made periodic incursions into Panamanian territory, raising security concerns. Panama has also faced increased drug and arms smuggling.

In May 2004 presidential elections, Martín Torrijos Herrera, the son of former dictator Omar Torrijos, won 47.5% of the vote. He took office in September.

Panamanians approved a plan to expand the Panama Canal in 2006. It will likely double the canal's capacity and is expected to be completed by2015.

Defying the current Latin American trend for left-leaning governments, Panama elected millionaire businessman Ricardo Martinelli as its president on May 3, 2009. After a period of rapid economic growth, Panama had succumbed to the global recession. Trading on his personal record of success—and utilizing his fortune to get his message out—Martinelli promised to encourage foreign investment and help the poor.

From www.infoplease.com

 

Penonomé – “Best Value” Panama Lifestyle

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This article is a combination of an article in Retire Worldwide's newsletter and my own exeriences and knowledge. Roberto 

Penonomé is the folklore capital of Panama and currently offers some of the most attractive real estate investment opportunities in the country. Penonomé affords a peaceful country lifestyle at rock bottom prices. If you thought you missed the boat on Panama and can no longer afford a good life here, think again, Penonome might be your ticket.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 June 2010 16:02 Read more...
 

Life’s a gas, medically speaking

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I’m laughing about it now, but it was pretty scary at the time.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 June 2010 16:13 Read more...
 

Tax withholding from Canadians living in Panama

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Here is a common question about tax withholding from Canadians living in Panama:

Dear Roberto,

Hello... sorry to bother you but I am so frustrated trying to get answers from Canada Revenue Agency. I am trying to find out about our income tax situation if we go south for the winter or make a permanent move.

I was told that there is a non-resident withholding tax on our pensions of 25%. That seems a bit ridiculous if we were permanent residents of Panama. Also, told that there is a form NR4 or 5 that allows you to request a reduction but no way to contact the people to give them a hypothetical situation and find out how much we would actually have to pay without being in Panama and filing this form AFTER we make the move.

Do you have any idea where I can find out the criteria they consider. My husband's pension is $2600 per month and mine is $920 CPP disability pension. Those are gross figures and losing 25% of that would really reduce our income.

Thanks again for your time, should you decide to respond.

Sincerely,
Debra C.

I asked a tax expert, Jordan Caplan of Soberman LLP to comment on this one. Here is his response:

 

Dear Rob,

In general, Part XIII of the Income Tax Act applies a 25% withholding tax on Canadian Pensions paid to non-residents. This can be reduced if Canada has a tax treaty with the country the non-resident resides in. Unfortunately Canada does not have a tax treaty with Panama.

The person asked a pretty specific question about being a non-resident of Canada. That means they would not be paying any tax in Canada other than the withholding of 25%. If they just go South for the winter and maintain Canadian residency, which means paying taxes in Canada there would be no additional withholding.

As always, this is of a general nature and I would caution anyone facing this situation to speak to their professional advisors to determine their facts and whether this applies to them.

Best regards,
______________________________________________________
Jordan Caplan C.A.
Partner, Assurance & Advisory
Soberman LLP, Chartered Accountants
T 416-963-7191
http://ca.linkedin.com/in/jordancaplan

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 21:05
 

Second Supermarket opens in Coronado

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There are now two major supermarkets open in Coronado Rey and Super 99 - a third, called Machetazo, is due to open this year.

For an article and photos on the new store see:

http://www.playacommunity.com/the-news/community-news/choice-has-arrived-in-coronado!!-super-99-opens!-201003302951/

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 21:05
 

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

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 Panama – a rising star with a major international film festival on its horizon

BY CRAIG WEINCEK

FILM FESTIVAL CHIEFS HENK VAN DER KOLK AND PITUKA ORTEGA HEILBRON.

WITH PANAMA RAPIDLY BECOMING AN INTERNATIONAL HUB DESTINATION, THE TIMING IS PERFECT FOR THE COUNTRY TO STEP INTO THE INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT, BY PRESENTING THE FIRST EVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL OF PANAMA. THE DATES FOR THIS BRAND-NEW, WEEK-LONG CULTURAL SHOWCASE ARE APRIL 26 TO MAY 2, 2012.

THE MOTTO OF THE FESTIVAL IS “COME FOR THE STARS…STAY FOR THE SUN.” HOTEL, FLIGHT AND FESTIVAL PACKAGES ARE CURRENTLY BEING NEGOTIATED.

PROMOTERS HENK VAN DER KOLK AND HIS SON-IN-LAW T. ROB BROWN PLAN TO BRING 50 FILMS FROM AROUND THE GLOBE. IT WILL ALSO PROVIDE A FORUM FOR LOCAL, REGIONAL AND SOUTH AMERICAN FILM MAKERS TO NETWORK AS WELL AS POSITION PANAMA AS A NEW FOCAL POINT OF THE WORLD’S FILM INDUSTRY.

VAN DER KOLK, WHO RESIDES FULL TIME IN PANAMA, IS ONE OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (TIFF), WHICH BEGAN IN 1976. IT GREW TO BE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENTS OF ITS KIND. TIFF BRINGS $170 MILLION A YEAR TO THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO, WITH NEARLY 500,000 PEOPLE GETTING A CHANCE TO SEE 300 FILMS OVER AN 11-DAY PERIOD.


CARMEN ALEMÁN, PITUKA HEILBRON AND HENK VAN DER KOLK.

“THIS OPPORTUNITY REMINDS ME OF CANADA, WHEN WE FIRST GOT STARTED,” VAN DER KOLK SAID. “EVERYONE HERE IS ACCUSTOMED TO AMERICAN FILMS, BLOCKBUSTERS MOSTLY, WITH OVER 90% BEING HOLLYWOOD PRODUCTS. BACK IN ’76, THE PRESS AND MOST OF THE FILM COMMUNITY HAD NO INTEREST IN A CANADIAN MOVIE INDUSTRY. SO WE HELD A FILM FESTIVAL TO BRING THE WORLD TO US.”

HE ADDED: “AT LEAST HALF OF OUR MOVIE GEMS WILL BE LATIN AMERICAN”.

FUNDRAISING CONTINUES FOR IFF PANAMA
MORE FUNDS ARE STILL BEING COLLECTED TO SUPPORT THE FESTIVAL. ARCO PROPERTIES IN CASCO VIEJORECENTLY SPONSORED A FUNDRAISING EVENT UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF KC HARDIN, WHO HOPES THAT SOME OF THE MOVIES WILL BE SHOWN IN CASCO VIEJO. A GOOD CROSS SECTION OF MOVIE FANS AND SUPPORTERS OF THE ARTS ATTENDED THE RECEPTION HELD ON THE BREEZY ROOFTOP TERRACE OF HOTEL LAS CLEMENTINAS OVERLOOKING THE CITY’S SKYLINE

FUNDRAISING: KC HARDIN, AMALIDA VIRZI DE MOTTA, CARLOS ALBERTO MOTTA AND JOSEPH MOHAN.

PICTURED ABOVE ARE…

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONSULT THE IFFPANAMA WEBSITE, WHICH IS DUE TO BE ONLINE SOON.

MOVIES SHOWN IN SPANISH WILL HAVE ENGLISH SUBTITLES AND VICE VERSA. WHILE MOST OF THE SCREENINGS WILL BE IN PANAMA CITY, THE PLANS ALSO INCLUDE OTHER PROVINCES, WITH AN ENTHUSIASTIC AUDIENCE ALREADY WAITING IN BOQUETE, THE LARGEST EXPAT CENTRE IN THE MOUNTAINS OF CHIRIQUÍ.


FUNDRAISING: KC HARDIN, AMALIDA VIRZI DE MOTTA, CARLOS ALBERTO MOTTA AND JOSEPH MOHAN.

Largest Panama arts endowment to date

PANAMANIAN FILMMAKER PITUKA ORTEGA HEILBRON WILL BE CO-DIRECTOR OF IFF PANAMA. A SUCCESSFUL PRODUCER, DIRECTOR AND WRITER OF BOTH FICTIONAL AND DOCUMENTARY FILM SINCE 1994, HEILBRON IS PROUD OF THE SUPPORT OF THE PANAMANIAN GOVERNMENT, WHICH HAS PROMISED OVER A MILLION DOLLARS, BY FAR THE LARGEST ENDOWMENT EVER FOR AN ARTS-RELATED PROJECT. UNPRECEDENTED SUPPORT IS ALSO COMING FROM THE PRIVATE SECTOR. COPA AIRLINES HAS PLEDGED A MILLION-DOLLAR CONTRIBUTION.

IFF PANAMA IS SUPPORTED BY AN ENTHUSIASTIC BOARD AND A GROUP OF CREATIVE ADVISORS INCLUDING LOCAL FILMMAKERS AND ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY REPRESENTATIVE SUCH AS ABNER BENAIM, LUIS PACHECO AND THE POPULAR SINGER/SONGWRITER/ACTOR, RUBEN BLADES, WHO PREVIOUSLY WAS MINISTER OF TOURISM AND UNDERSTANDS THE POTENTIAL IMPORTANCE OF THIS FESTIVAL AS A MEANS TO NOT ONLY PROMOTE TOURISM BUT FILM MAKING IN PANAMA.

Genesis for a film school

ONE OF THE LONG-TERM OBJECTIVES OF THE FESTIVAL IS THE CREATION OF A FILM SCHOOL TO TRAIN FUTURE INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS FROM PANAMA AND THE REGION. ANOTHER IS TO PROMOTE PANAMA AS A SCENIC, HISTORIC AND DIVERSE FILMING LOCATION.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 November 2011 01:27
 

Importing a car into Panama

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 This question just came in on importing vehicles to Panama. Roberto

 

Hello Rob and Yolanda, this is Natalie and Jeff, we have met a few times at Woodys. We are seeking some advise in hopes that you guys would have the answer?
 
Our GMC van has been in the country for three months now, and today were learned that we have to leave for 48 hours, were thought since we have the 6 month visa that our van did as well! We were very wrong.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 October 2011 04:37 Read more...
 

Bus travel from Panama City to David

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Here is a question regarding bus travel to David. I sent this to Del V., a Canadian who bought a house in Las Lajas, about 30 minutes from David:

Hello from La Luz, New Mexico, Roberto, we will be coming to Panama, in September for a visit, we are looking for a place to retire and all that we have heard about Panama, has been great. i am so hoping we could meet when we are in Boquete or David, we will be in David, on Sept. 10,11,12, 13 and 14, hopefully enough time to meet up with you, we will also be in Boquete, on Sept.15,16,17, and 18. looking forward to meeting you. do you happen to have the telephone number for the bus service that runs from Panama City to David? We have been unable to find it. Thanks, Carol

 

Dear Roberto

No telephone # to speak of, and no need to make a reservation unless you are traveling on a holiday. The National Bus Terminal is in Allbrook,next to the Allbrook Mall.

The buses run on the hour during the day from what Inunderstand and the trip cost is approx. $15.00 one way to David.


The buses are air conditioned and generally direct unless noted otherwise - and a taxi from the airport to the bus terminal is about 30 bucks.

Del V.

Editors Note: If you want to get together, stop in Santa Clara on your way to David - Santa Clara is 1 hour 15 minutes from Panama City - David is another 5 hours away, Boquete is another 45 minutes further up into the mountains past David. I am not in David that often. BTW you picked my birthday to visit! (Sept. 15th)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 20:57
 

Scary buying in a foreign country

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My friends are about to close their house deal in Panama, and shared with me that it is very scary buying in a foreign country.

It is always scary when your dreams come true - BUT - as my former business partner Brian always said "It is never as bad as you worry it will be, and never as good as you hope"

Panama is a great country, but there are thorns in paradise; did the guide books tell you about; Vampire Bats? Scorpions? Crocodiles? Vipers? Boa Constrictors? Poisonous frogs? Spiders? Fire Ants? Leaf eating ants? Termites? Poisonous centipedes? Mosquitos (not anywhere near as bad as Ontario, Canada).

Since 2007, the only thing my wife and I have encountered were sand fleas, mosquitos and sunburns (and the occasional "sun stroke" brought on by over-consumption of wine). Oh, and ants. I have an on-going battle with ants, termites and all kinds of "hormegas". See my article:  Paradise Worth Fighting For.

The most dangerous animal of all in Panama is the "expatasaurus" - the broke expat. This animal is to be avoided at all costs.

In truth, the most dangerous thing in Panama is your own false expectations - thinking things will be as you expect them to be IE: That the judges dispense justice (and not ruling according to who pays the most), that the lawyer you hired is actually looking out for you, and that the Canadian you just met won't cheat a fellow Canadian. Don't assume anything will be like it was back home.

Ask questions, and check your assumptions at the door.

In fairness, in addition to the scary stuff, I should also mention there are more different species of birds in Panama than all of Canada and the United States combined. They have monkeys - all kinds of monkeys, parrots, over 1,500 different kinds orchids (there is even an orchid museum/gardens in El Valle), and seven indigenous tribes that own and control their own lands - you can go and stay overnight with them, where they live as they did 600 years ago. (See the article on the Kuna Indians on the Front Page)

There are mountains, jungles, and two oceans only 50 miles apart. You can swim in the Caribbean and in the Pacific on the same day - it is only an hour away.

They have a dessert, rainforests, cloud forests, a volcano (extinct), and a 1.3 million cosmopolitan city that looks more like Miami than a third world country. Panama City has great restaurants, shopping, dancing and night-life. Hardly third-world. 

There are quaint fishing villages and charming farming communities (Panama has won more awards for coffee in the last three years than any other country in the world), and world-class deep sea fishing (more records have been set here than anywhere else in the world) and the people are genuinely nice - they don''t hurry or work too hard, and their family is more important to them than your dollar.

It is one of the easiest countries to immigrate to, and to start a business in. It has the best retiree benefits of any country that I have researched - and I have researched many of them, including all of North and Central America.

That said, Panama is not perfect, but it is pretty good. Come and see for yourself. Roberto

Last Updated on Saturday, 15 May 2010 13:36
 

Fun Facts about Panama

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 This post is from the Panama Travel and Real Estate News March 2010 Issue.

Panama Fast Facts: Did You Know?

  • Panama has the 2nd largest number of offshore-registered companies after Hong Kong.
  • Panama has the smallest population in Central America.
  • Panama had their first female president in 1999 - Mireya Moscoso.
  • Panama is in the same time zone as New York and Washington DC.
  • In 1990, Panama's army was abolished and the Panamanian Public Forces were created for police purposes.

FOR OTHER INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT PANAMA, SEE 101 Exciting Things to do in Panama! ON THIS WEBSITE.

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 February 2013 18:04
 

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