Bob’s Take on Panama & Latin America

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I know that many who read and follow this blog are folks who are interested and thinking of possibly moving to Panama and adopting an expat lifestyle.  Yes, many are from the United States and Panama, but just looking at those who have visited this month alone, people have visited this Web site from Germany, the United Kingdom, South Africa, India, Australia, China, France, China, Japan, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Spain, Netherlands, Ukraine, Puerto Rica, Dominican Republic, Denmark, Malaysia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Czech Republic, Turkey,  New Zealand, Mexico, Colombia, Portugal, Jamaica, Poland, Belgium, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Egypt, Slovakia, Lithuania, Benin, Greece, Albania, Russia, Taiwan, Cambodia, Austria, Trinidad & Tobago, Ireland, Norway, Congo-Kinshasa, Finland, Cyprus, Argentina, Ecuador, South Korea and Croatia.  And the month isn’t over yet!  I’ve travelled quite a bit, lectured on 300 different ports worldwide, and done two trips around the world, but I have to confess there are a few of these countries about which I’ve never heard.

Some are looking to escape. And let’s face it there is a lot of craziness out there, and no one country has a monopoly on governmental stupidity!  So if there is any comfort, you are not alone Others are looking for opportunity, some for adventure, and some to start a new life.   Whatever: all our welcome!  Panama offers a very welcoming “Friendly Nations Visa.” welcoming not just tourist visitors, but people wish to reside in Panama and make it their home.

So, if you are thinking about Panama there is a lot to consider.  A whole lot more than just checking out some flashy Web sites and, dare I say it, blogs.  The person whose opinion I respect most is Bob Adams who lives in Panama City and has a Web site called Retirement Wave and posts valuable YouTube videos on retirement and Panama.  The videos aren’t slick, just a knowledgeable friend sharing good advice.  Anyone who is thinking of moving to Panama should follow Retirement Wave.

1200px-latin_america_28orthographic_projection29.svg_So, “Why Bob?” Let him explain. “My name is Robert Adams, but everyone calls me Bob. I’ve spent nearly all of the five decades of my adult life (I am 74) working globally in more than 40 nations in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. I have worked for non-profit humanitarian agencies, the “foreign aid” programs of the UN and the US, and several international business firms.  I’ve taken an active role in global affairs and done my best to promote ideas that I hope will ease the development of this new “global community” that is forming around us,

Here’s Bob’s most recent assessment, not just of Panama, but of Latin America in general.  It is well worth reading and I’d encourage you to follow him on Retirement Wave.

Friends,

Since I sent the last newsletter announcing the Report on Panama in June (if you did not get a copy, a link will be provided at the end of this letter), the elections are over, the new administration is in office, and  we now prepare for November’s “patriotic days” which celebrate independence from Spain in 1821 and from Colombia in 1903.

As I explained in the June report, Panama is passing through a “growth recession” where the national “macro” economy continues to grow, although at a slower level than in past years, while the “micro” economy at street level is stagnant or sliding.

This results from a variety of factors that are not long-term and will reverse, but together have caused us some pain, as well as the traditional Panamanian tendency to reduce spending when the economy is slow which creates a negative feedback loop that just makes it all more difficult – income and jobs go down, sales go down, more jobs are lost, incomes fall a little more, sales go down, and so on.

This happens in other societies and, while annoying, is normal behavior that will reverse as major projects like the convention center, second airport terminal, the cruise port, and other projects are operating and business begins to grow again.  I think this administration is really going to push hard on this and it will be a relief to everyone.

In this regard, I want to share two thoughts.  First, the new administration’s first task was to do a complete audit of the government’s financial situation.  Finding things that clearly needed to change, they sat down and took care of it.  There will be time for finger-pointing and angry comments over who was responsible for letting the situation get to this point and the results could have been weeks of anger and shouting.

Instead, the new administration put together an emergency plan to get past this and other parties and institutions joined together to do what had to be done to straighten things out.  It was quick, thorough, impressive, and something I have not seen happen in one of the “advanced” societies in many years.  Panama had a problem.  Panama took care of it.  Well done. It is one of the reasons why Panama is among the very few Latin American nations to be considered “investment grade” internationally.

So we now have an “austerity budget” and everyone is busy explaining why their agency or project needs more funding.  In other words, it is a democracy.

Meanwhile, hold onto your hats, we have Nicaragua continuing to be in a social, political, and financial mess but is too small for most other nations to care, our Central American neighbors have plenty of serious problems and some have a desperate migration situation, Venezuela continues to amaze everyone by getting worse, and then worse, and then worse, Colombia has to deal with a return of cartel activity and must care for what is now probably closer to two million Venezuelan refugees, especially since Ecuador almost fell apart and is not welcoming them, while Bolivia is in the middle of a dangerous controversy over the honesty of its recent election, Brazil is dealing with multiple political problems and continued tension over the state of the Amazon basin, Argentina continues to be sharply divided socially and on the verge of another destabilizing shift politically, and if all that was not enough, poor Chile explodes into violence that I last heard has reached at least 19 dead and hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to public and private institutions.

Trust me on this.  Panamanians are very much aware of all this.  I think it is fair to say they will settle for a “growth recession

‘This is not first time Panama has been an island of relative peace and security in a sea of troubled nations, but the “sea” may be the worst it has been in decades.  Panama had its difficult times in the 20th century, but in the 21st century, they are focused on a brighter future, not the illusion of a brighter past.  I have often said after 50+ years working all over the world in development, nations that focus on the future, have one.  Those who do not…well, I’m happy I live in Panama.

Here at Retirement Wave, some of you have reached out in recent weeks under our Metro Match program for help in finding properties either for sale or for rent.  Again, this is discussed in more detail in the June Report from Panama, all 22 pages of it, and reflects the severely depressed real estate market currently in Panama.

Metro Match is a very simple and free program to help those who are looking for a purchase or a rental and want to benefit from this buyer’s market in the Panama City metropolitan area.  I have never seen anything this good for buyers in more than a decade.

But it helps to have a professional to work with you and I use a very few licensed real estate agents known to me on the basis of direct experience to be good and honest at what they do.  They have already helped two RW members to purchase homes and are in mid-process with a third.  They have helped or are helping six of you find rentals.

I have allowed this to happen gradually and without any serious promotion.  If you have signed up with some of the “international” sites out there, you know how intense their promotion can be!  Well, I have no intention of pushing it like they do, I have nothing to sell you, but I have been watching it carefully in these early weeks as a test and it has been working very well, so I will mention it more often.

There is no charge to you.  The agent gets his or her commission from the owner as happens everywhere else.  My role is to help you connect with the right agent for your needs and be available if there are any problems.  Otherwise, you make the decisions.

And always remember, there are plenty of agents here in Panama City, so it does not matter to me whether you come to us or not.  I just want you to know that we are here to simplify your life and give you a running start when you arrive looking for a residence to buy or rent.

That’s enough for this letter.  New members and those who did not download a copy of the Report from Panama I sent out four months ago can easily download one by clicking here.  If you do have any problem, just write me and I can email you a copy.

Finally, I hope those of you most interested in Panama as a potential home will take a moment to subscribe to my YouTube channel.  I post my very informal videos there far more often than I write, I answer a lot of questions that come up, and I try to provide useful information.  There is no obligation if you do subscribe and “unsubscribing” is very simple.

If you do hit the Subscribe button, take a moment to “ring” the little bell beside it.  Doing that means that you will be notified of any new video and not miss any.  These notifications are super-simple and can be turned off at any time too, but most of my YouTube subscribers prefer them.

Thank you so much for your friendship and your interest in Panama!  I hope you have the chance to visit us soon!

Bob