Let’s Talk Real Estate – July 2016
We recently had an unexpected opportunity to visit Panama, a country we only knew for the canal, Panama hats, the Van Halen song and recent tax invaders. What we found were ships of all types lining up to sail through the canal, a rain forest, and the perfect place to hide your millions!
Rain Forest—Our first surprise was the weather. Upon arriving we were met with stifling heat and massive thunder clouds above. It’s a rain forest, and the stifling heat is broken by two or three daily showers which cool down the temperature for a few minutes… but not for long. Panama is a very long and narrow isthmus separating the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, connecting South America with Central America. It truly is a jungle with dense vegetation and many types of monkeys and sloths swinging from trees. There are parts of the jungle that are so dense they couldn’t get a highway cut through it.
Canal—Flying into Panama City, you fly right over dozens of ships in the Pacific, anchored and waiting their turn to cross through the Panama Canal into the Caribbean Sea. The history is amazing—the French first tried to dig a canal from one side of the county to the other in 1881, similar to the way the French built the Suez Canal. But after years of engineering problems and thousands of workers dying of malaria, they gave up and left. In 1904 the United States took over the project, but this time with a different idea. They had the idea to damn the lake and flood it, thus creating a huge lake that was in-between both coasts. Once the lake was dammed and flooded, the canals to the lake from both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific could be made shorter. The total length of the canal is 48 miles between both oceans with a large part of it covered by the lake. There was only one problem, the lake is 85 feet higher than both oceans which meant locks had to be built on both sides of the lake. One lifts the ships 85 feet and one drops them 85 feet. We traveled through the locks in a large tourist boat. There are three locks on each side of the lake and once you enter the lock, you and the other ships are lifted 29 feet per lock. Once you have made it through the locks, you travel through a large canal until you reach the lake, cross it and reach the canal on the other side of the lake. It’s a simple concept but it’s impressive to see the canals lifting these massive ships. It opened in 1914, and more than 815,000 ships have since passed through the canal. The biggest user of the canal is China who is the largest producer of goods in the world.
Tax Haven—The biggest surprise of the entire trip was the number of high rises in Panama, mainly banks, and the massive scale of rich individuals from around the world who are hiding currency in them! Panama is the “Switzerland of the Americas” and one of the most desirable banking locations in the world. It has over 80 international banks and is among the world’s largest banking sectors. It’s easy to have a second residency for Americans and just requires a $5,000 deposit, a Panama Bank account, and an established economic tie with the country such as buying real estate or having a corporation. The best part of Panama banking is that they use the US Dollar for currency, so it’s safe and easy for us to count.
So the next time you feel like an adventure in a rain forest or crossing a country in a canal, or you’re looking to hide millions, Panama may be your place.