IDB loan to assist Panamanian students

IDB loan will assist Panamanian children

Inter-American Development Bank News Release
June 7, 2012 – News Release

IDB loan for US$70 million to benefit more than 38,000 Panamanian students

The Inter-American Development Bank approved a loan for $70 million to provide innovative educational infrastructure to 47 communities in Panama that will benefit more than 38,000 students. The goal is to expand educational opportunities and encourage students in marginal and indigenous areas to complete basic education.

More than a third of Panamanians between the ages of 13 and 17 do not attend school. Coverage levels are especially low for the groups targeted by the program. For example, in the Ngäbe-Buglé and Guna Yala indigenous administrative regions, only 43 percent of youths attend secondary school.

The IDB financing will be used to expand and equip 20 primary schools to include grades seven to nine and construct two model schools that will have innovative facilities and will employ a new pedagogical and educational management approach. These investments are expected to result in the matriculation of 10,000 new students from preschool through secondary school.

In addition, the program will providing 47 schools with classrooms designed to facilitate learning. The basic curriculum will be updated to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century, and training and support will be extended to staff and faculty in school management, pedagogy, and curriculum content.

Only 62 percent of Panamanian schools have drinking water in Panama, compared with 77 percent for the Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole. Half have adequate sanitation, compared with 65 percent for the region

Studies indicate that the quality of a school’s physical environment directly affects both the motivation and behavior of teachers as well as learning, discipline, and attention levels of the students.

Schools benefiting from the program are located poor areas with high dropout rates in the provinces of Panamá, Coclé, Colón, Chiriquí, Los Santos, and the indigenous administrative areas of Ngäbe-Buglé and Guna Yala.

The financing was extended for a 25-year term with a grace period of four years and a variable interest rate based on LIBOR. Counterpart funding totals $10 million.

New release thanks to IDB website: http://www.iadb.org/en/news/news-releases/2012-06-07/panama-will-improve-school-infrastructure,10017.html

PANAMA – The long awaited Panama-Canada Free Trade agreement will be signed in Toronto Canada on May 14th said Panama’s Commerce and Industry Minister Roberto Henriquez. The countries completed the agreement early this year and the agreement would give Canada immediate access to Panama’s markets and services while Panama’s access is tied to a deadline. Both countries need to ratify the agreements in order to start up trade. We were told that before the end of 2010 they would be operational.

We are pleased to announce that the site ” The Best Beaches in the World” now covers Taboga Island and B&B Hotel Cerrito Tropical in both their English and Spanish sites. These sites describe many of the finest beach areas in Panama and offers information on other things to do as well. Drop by the site and check it out.



Fitch Upgrades Panama´s Investment Grade

Development: On 23 March the international credit ratings agency Fitch upgraded Panama from BB+ to BBB-.

Significance: The upgrade is a victory for the rightwing government of President Ricardo Martinelli, making Panama the fifth Latin American country to reach this category, alongside Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

It follows Martinelli’s recent tax reform which was aimed at increasing access to finance and reducing the cost of doing business in Panama. The reform, which takes effect in July, raises VAT from 5% to 7%, cuts income tax and reduces the corporate tax rate from 30% to 25%. That VAT increase move has been lambasted as regressive by unions and popular movements. As well as simplifying the tax code by abolishing over 30 duties, the reform cuts taxes on banks with assets of between US$100m and US$750m but raises taxes on those with assets of over US$750m.

Fitch singled out the tax reform as one of the reasons for the upgrade, along with Panama’s ability to weather the recent global financial crisis. The agency noted that despite the fact that Panama’s real annual GDP growth rate slowed to 2.4% in 2009, from 10.7% in 2008, it still had one of the highest growth rates in the region and amongst other BBB rated countries.

The upgrade could help Panama in its efforts to secure a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US, which has been ratified by Panama but is pending approval by the US congress. Panama’s lack of tax transparency has been a major concern for the US.

Panama has 22% of the World´s Ships Flying its Flag
Machine translated from the original article in La Prensa:

Wilfredo Jordán S.

In 2004 there were 6061 ships registered by the Panama. Now, in agreement with the official registries, there are 8661 ships.

Between 2004 and what goes of 2009, Panama registered 2600 ships and about 40 million tons of gross registry, that means a growth of 41% in this period. At the closing of 2004, 6061 ships registered by Panama with 168 million tons of gross registry existed. At the moment the country has 8661 ships with 202,979,000 tons. These numbers represent 22% of the world-wide marine fleet, in comparison with the main competitors of Panama: Liberia, that has a registry of 2639 ships and Marshall Island, with a count with 1612. “We have like the Government, the commitment that the income from this institution gets to the people who need it”, the administrator of the AMP, Linares Robert commented. The approximated net income of the AMP by the registry of ships calculate in 80 million dollars a year. In 2004 this income was 52 million dollars and in 2008 it went up to around the 78 million dollars. In indirect income, it is calculated that the registry of ships generates more than 100 million dollars a year. If the smaller ships of 100 tons are included, Panama has more than thousand registries.

Ships Registered under the Panamanian Flag

Ships Registered under the Panamanian Flag

Helping Protect Our Earth, One Step at a Time.

Helping Protect Our Earth, One Step at a Time.

Thought provoking ideas from two men ahead of their time but with ideas not out of reach:

Rohit Talwar and Ian Pearson
An Authorized Repost on Destination Panama thanks to The Fast Future Bulletin July 2009

In this article we propose an alternative approach to tackling coastal erosion around the globe which would also cut carbon emissions and reduce plastic levels in landfill and waste dumps.

The latest nightmare environmental forecasts suggest that much of the UK coastline will be affected by severe erosion. Indeed, some parts of the Norfolk coast are already suffering dramatic erosion. The official policy is not to protect such areas, but to allow erosion, for various reasons. In areas where protection is needed, often, concrete blocks are dropped into the sea to absorb or deflect the wave energy.

A seemingly unrelated environmental problem is the disposal of plastic. Much is recycled now, but a lot still ends up in landfill sites or waste tips, which are filling up fast all over the world. Big concerns have also been raised over the potential for non-biodegradable plastic to remain in the environment for hundreds or thousands of years.

However with a bit of imagination, both of these problems could be tackled together. When plastic is recycled, it is gathered and compressed into cubes for easy handling and distribution. If these cubes were wrapped and weighted, they could be thrown into the sea instead of concrete blocks, solving several environmental problems at once. Concrete production consumes energy and produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, both of which would be averted. Raw material costs would be reduced since the plastic is waste and in plentiful supply. It would hang around in the sea for many years, and as the blocks accumulate, they would provide an artificial reef, before becoming a good base for reclaimed land, while reversing the erosion process. During this time, the plastic blocks would be locking up carbon, making the plastic ‘reef’ carbon negative, as compared to the carbon neutral recycling process. And of course, landfill would not fill up as fast.

A plastic reef could be used to effectively seal off a region of coastal sea, making it possible to use it as landfill for other kinds of waste without the danger of sea pollution. This would accelerate the creation of reclaimed land as well as creating more landfill capacity.

One major obstacle is that under EU law, it is currently illegal to dump plastic in the sea. At the same time, landfill is highly taxed. It would be very sensible to review both of these obstacles to make such solutions feasible, as there would be very substantial environmental benefits. It is ironic that laws designed to protect the environment are now the major obstacles to one environmental solution.

For more information please contact Rohit or Ian via these links:



Today the new Cinta Costera walkways along Ave. Balboa were packed with holiday goers (located on the Pacific Coast of Panama). This morning, hundreds of people walked, biked, jogged, played, skate boarded, roller bladed along the new walkways.

Today is the swearing in of the new Panamanian President Martinelli at the Atlapa Convention Center so it is a National Holiday in Panama (Canada Day as well- a holiday in Canada!).


Speaking at the Live and Invest in Panama Conference

Speaking at the Live and Invest in Panama Conference

I was invited to speak at the Live and Invest Overseas Conference a while back in Panama City. The Conference was very well organized by Kathleen Peddicord and Lief Simon; attendees flew in mainly from North America for from several days to several weeks to explore Panama.

My subject this conference (I had spoken a number of times for previous International Living Conferences) was “Opening a Business in Panama – Our Experience”. We also set up an information table about Taboga Island and our B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical.

Conference Table for B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical

Conference Table for B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical

People often ask me, if not for financial gain, why do I speak publicly at these types of Expat / Investment conferences?
My answer is quite simply, I love the challenge of speaking to a large group, and the opportunity to speak about Taboga Island.


The New Cinta Costera in Panama City

The New Cinta Costera in Panama City

Check it out when you have time. A super new area to walk, run, or bike along Panama Bay (Pacific Ocean side of Panama). The traffic is much improved with a beautiful new bypass for Avenida Balboa in Panama City. Nicely designed and much needed additions to Panama City – more green space, more parking, and a bypass through Chorillo and Cinco de Mayo direct to Amador and the Bridge of the Americas, and reverse – direct to the highway to the Tocumen Airport (Corredor Sur).

Walkways and Bike Paths

Walkways and Bike Paths

Parking lots

Parking lots

New Recipe for YUCCA on the Food Page…

Cuban-Style Yuca Root With Citrus and Garlic, looks delish!

Restaurant Segundo Muelle in Panama City

Restaurant Segundo Muelle in Panama City

Loved It!

Excellent Peruvian restaurant in San Fransisco, Panama. We went recently, the service was top notch, the food delicious, elegantly presented, price for Panama City was mid to high depending on what you order, decor modern.

I won´t get into a flowery description of what we ate here because it was all delicious, you can get a better idea from the menu online, complete with photos. Dessert was fabulous, we devoured the “Crocante de Lucuma”.

I will attach the website which has the menu with prices, directions, photos, check it out here:


Location: Calle Crisantemos Nº 16 esquina con calle 68, corregimiento de San Francisco, Ciudad de Panamá.

Tel: (507) 3919234 Fax: (507) 3919235

Reserve via e-mail: sanfrancisco@segundomuelle.com

It is Mango Season in Panama again!
Check out the new Mango Pineapple Marmelade recipe under our food page (link is at the top of this page), as well as other delicious tropical recipes!

This posting is very interesting for those who wish to hike near Panama City; it was recently posted by Jerin on several of the Yahoo Panama Groups and he agreed to allow us to repost it. Thank you!

I have recently started exploring the areas around the city for things
to do in my limited free time. I love nature and the idea of being
away from it all, but I rarely have the time to get far away.
Although I have known about it since I moved here, I had not until
recently visited Soberania National Park. The park is only 20 minutes
from the city, yet you feel like you are worlds away. To get to the
main entrance of the park, take the road to Gamboa. Where you turn
left at Gamboa road, you will see the offices of the park. Here is a
map I made of the park and its trails:

Since I first went 3 weeks ago, I have been back every weekend. The trails are a
birdwatcher´s and nature lover´s paradise, and with the exception of
the Old Gamboa Road, all feature pristine rainforest. Here are some
great day trips you can make to the park.

Summit Zoo and Old Gamboa Road:
How to get there: At the entrance to the park, take a left on the
road to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. While driving, look for the
signs that say Parque Zoologica Summit. Depending on how many people
are there, you can either park on the right hand side of the road next
to the gate or on the left side parking lot across the street.
What to do: The summit zoo is an aging zoo that has a good
representation of the wildlife and fauna of Panama. The zoo does have
a few modern exhibits for the harpy eagle and jaguar. The zoo is set
up in a park like way, including a bamboo road. Admission is $1.
After seeing the zoo, cross the road and next to the parking lot you
will see a small road crossing the railroad tracks. Cross the tracks
and walk (or drive) about 100 meters until you come to a T. To the
left you will see a gate with a Policia Nacional sign on it. Yes, you
can walk past the gate, and you will be on the Old Gamboa Road. This
is the old road that went to Gamboa (duh). The first things you will
see on the trail are the Summit Ponds, and the trail cuts right
between the ponds. We spotted some caiman, owls, and agouti near the
ponds. After the ponds you walk through some impressive bamboo growths
and some overgrown military installations. You can walk past that all
the way to the end of the trail, but there really isn´t much to see.
I recommend walking about 45 minutes and then turning around.
Compared to the other trails on my list, this one is not that
exciting, but it is very easy and if you are already at the zoo it is
worth the side trip.

What you need: Sunscreen, insect repellant , walking shoes. Shorts
are good for the zoo and should be OK for the Old Gamboa Road, but
long pants are always better.
Photos I took:


Plantation Road:

How to get there: At the entrance to the park, take a left towards
the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Drive for about 5 minutes and you will
see a sign that says Camino de Plantación 500 metres. This is also
the entrance to the Canopy Tower. Turn right at the entrance, and
then turn left to the entrance of the trail. There is space for
parking here. You will see signs with a history of the trail, and
also a sign that says entrance is $3. Nobody is ever there to take
the money, so don´t expect to pay it, even if you wanted to.
What to do: During the construction of the Canal a three mile
improved road was constructed from the town of Empire to the Las
Cascadas Plantation. This was the first paved road in the interior of
Panama. This trail is the remnant of the Plantation Road and along it
you may still find remnant Cocoa, Rubber Trees and Coffee Plants.
(according to the sign) Less than 400 meters into the trail, you will
see an amazing waterfall. The trail itself go for about 3.5 miles,
and is definitely worth the hike. Right after it passes the old
plantation, it ends at the Camino de Cruces. At this intersection is
a bamboo station which is a perfect spot to eat a sack lunch. After
you reach the end of the trail you can either return via the
Plantation Road, or turn right on the Camino de Cruces and follow it
to Madden Road. The Camino de Cruces (see below) is a very difficult
trail and should only be attempted by those who are well prepared and
experienced in hiking. The plantation road however, is a well defined
and an easy walk with a few moderate hills. We spotted some monkeys,
motmots, agouti, and iguanas. If anyone is interested in hiking this
or any of the trails and would like some help, please contact me,
6733-0657, and I will give you more information or guide you.
What you need: Good walking shoes, long pants, sunscreen (although
almost all of the trail is shaded by trees), insect repellant, and water.
Photos I took:


El Charco Trail:
How to get there: At the entrance to the park, take a left towards
the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Drive for about 7 minutes and look for
a sign that says Sendero El Charco, 500 metros. Turn right into the
parking area. You will see many signs and the entrance to the trail.
What to do: The El Charco trail is the shortest and most accessible
trail in the park. It is a very short (less than a mile) circular
trail with many bridges and educational signs along the way. With the
exception of a short uphill walk, the trail is flat and very easy to
walk. Near the entrance to the trail, a totally paved path leads down
to a waterfall with a swimming hole and covered picnic area. Here you
find restrooms and BBQ pits. Although the trail is short and flat,
you will see pristine rainforest and lots animals. We saw monkeys,
agouti, and an amazing large orange and blue bird that we couldn´t
identify or take a picture of as it flew across our path.
What you need: Walking shoes, insect repellant, picnic supplies, and
swimsuit. Shorts are OK for the trail, but long pants are always better.
Photos I took:


Camino de Cruces:
How to get there: At the entrance to the park, take a left towards
the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. You can either enter at the Plantation
Road (see above) and meet the trail at the bamboo station and walk the
last half towards Madden Road, or you can walk the whole section from
Cruce de Ventas. To reach Cruce de Ventas, follow the Gamboa road all
the way until just before the Chagres bridge. You will see a little
Marina on the right hand side before the bridge. Park your car there
and ask the men at the marina to take you to Cruce de Ventas. You
should not pay any more than $5 per person to get to the start of the
trail. If you use the marina at Gamboa Rainforest Resort, expect to
pay a lot more. It is best to take two cars, and park one at each end
of the trail. To get to the Madden Road entrance of the trail, go to
the entrance of the park, but keep going straight towards Chilibre.
Look for a sign that says Camino de Cruces, 500 metros. You can park
one car here to have when you get done with the trail. Another option
is to hike from Cruce de Ventas, and turn right at the bamboo station
onto the Plantation Road.
What to do: Be very careful, the Camino de Cruces is a very difficult
and long (6.5miles) hike. You should only attempt this trail if you
have lots of water and are prepared to climb over fallen trees, walk
across rivers, and do intense uphill walking. The Camino de Cruces
is the old road the Spanish used to carry gold from Panama City to the
Chagres River for transport to Portobello. A good history of the
trail is here:

Along most
parts of the trail you can still see the cobblestone laid 500 years
ago by the 4,000 Indian slaves used to make the road. At the ruins of
Cruce de Ventas, there are many signs telling you of the history of
the town and trail. Once you get on the trail, follow the pink and
orange ribbons that mark the trail. At many points the trail splits
into its dry and wet season routes. Be careful as sometimes one of
the ways is blocked by impassable fallen trees. As a rule, I always
take the routes to the right. At some points the trail can get hard
to follow, so always be on the lookout for the pink and orange
ribbons. Look for the bamboo trail which is the halfway point and a
great area for resting and eating. This trail is difficult, yet very
rewarding. Please take great caution when hiking this route. Along
the trail, we spotted howler monkeys, iguanas, agouti, and many
amazing birds and flowers. If anyone is interested in hiking this or
any of the trails and would like some help, please contact me,
6733-0657, and I will give you more information or guide you.

What you need: Backpack, lots of water, sack lunch, waterproof hiking
boots, long sleeve shirt and long pants, insect repellant, and
sunscreen (although almost all of the trail is shaded by trees).

Photos I took:

Taboga Island, Playa Honda

Taboga Island, Playa Honda

03-07-2009 | ROB KIRCHER

Taboga, the garden paradise only a few kilometers offshore and less than an hour ferry away.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “So close, but yet so far away”; which by the way originated during the US Civil War between the States when bales of cotton would be stacked close together, so the enemy would face a seemingly impregnable barrier.

Well, that phrase couldn’t be any more accurate than describing quaint little Isla Taboga; which I’ve heard much about and finally visited a short time ago. To me, it was always an intriguing place, but unfortunately more than a taxi drive away. So therefore, it wasn’t a realistic destination that fit with my hectic schedule.

It wasn’t until I met a new friend of mine, Monarch, that the thought of traveling to the close but seemingly far away island became a real desire. As we were sitting last month in the Café Havana in Casco Antiguo enjoying one of the best mojitos on this planet, she enthusiastically introduced me to the finer aspects of the garden paradise only 20km offshore and less than an hour ferry away.

But, being a previous New Yorker with an engrained mentality that whatever someone needs should be attainable within a 5-block area of where they reside, the thought of traveling over an hour by boat just to see some pretty flowers was becoming a tough sell. And, oh by the way, that was just one way. Another hour would be needed for the return trip. My mind started to race. What if I get bored because there are not enough things to keep my interest? What if there are no quality restaurants? What if it rains? What if I miss the last ferry back and I have to stay the night? Will there be an available hotel room? What then? Should I make reservations just in case? No. The whole notion of visiting this seemingly far away island was becoming a big hassle.

Being the clever person she is and knowing how much I enjoy historical places such as Casco Viejo, Monarch ordered another round of mojitos and started to relieve my concerns by filling me in on the fascinating past of the scenic island? a place she was very passionate about.

Over the next half-hour I learned that Taboga was founded in the XVI Century by the Spaniard Sancho Clavija and that the island’s original name was “Aboga”, which means “an abundance of fish”. She also told me that Taboga is surrounded by several other islands, including Isla Taboguilla, Isla Urava, and Isla El Morro and that they were a small group of more than a thousand islands found within the Gulf of Panama. Then with a big smile Monarch began to enlighten me about the picturesque pueblo of San Pedro and how small eateries and shops line its main street and continue down some of its constricted paths too narrow for automobiles.

With my concern about finding adequate restaurants successfully satisfied, Monarch launched herself onto the main reason why Taboga is known as “The Island of Flowers” by reciting a list of floral species that are abundant throughout much of the island, such as lianas, bromeliads, orchids and ferns; along with a host of fruit trees that include nisperos, mameyes, nance, mango, tamarind and pineapple.

Finally, she appealed to my love of fishing and expounded upon the fact that Isla Taboga is world famous for its sport fishing and that the majority of its roughly 1000 inhabitants make their living from the sea. Some of the prized trophy fish caught off its shores are Amberjack, Pacific Sailfish, Black Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Cubera Snapper, Blue Marlin, Corvina and Roosterfish.
Then with a twinkle in her eye, Monarch added that the dazzling skyline of Panama City can be easily observed at night anywhere on the island and when there is a full moon the island lights up with a special air of romance. As things happen, it rained the day I visited the island, so I never got to experience what she described. However, blooming flowers were everywhere and the food was very tasty.

Rob Kircher is marketing and advertising specialist, writer and filmmaker

Carnival Queen

Carnival Queen

Carnival 2009 promises to be another exciting event on enchanting Taboga. Carnival is safe and fun on this little island of beaches, quaint candy-colored homes and lush green hilltops. So close to Panama City you can see it, but so far away in terms of hustle and bustle.

SCHEDULE: Friday February 20th will be a warming up to the year´s biggest party, Carnival. The celebration lasts from the 21 – 24 Feb 2009 and ends day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of lent. Lent in 2009 will start on Wednesday, the 25th of February and will continue for 46 days until Saturday, the 11th of April, the day before Easter which falls on April 12th this year.

Because of its excellent harbor, Isla Taboga was founded even before Panama City by the Spaniards, and prior to that there were numerous races represented on at least a transient basis: it was a favorite pirate port hosting such infamous pirates as Captains Morgan and Drake, and it is said that Asian and Pacific island fisherman would travel to Taboga after crossing the ocean in search of the big catch, or caught in a Pacific storm. Evidence of indigenous people can be found in several caves on the island. Its rich history gives it a depth and traditions that many communities don’t possess. Carnival, among several other holidays during the year is very important to this small island of less than 1000 inhabitants.

I have been told that Taboga Island hosted the first Carnival ever in Panama. Panama City and Las Tablas host the biggest, wildest events while Taboga is popular because it is much more laid back. The music pipes out until the wee hours of the morning so luckily our B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical is set far several streets away from the main drag.

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO: The festive spirit on Taboga seems to last for days. Music and dancing on the streets, and daily carnival parades. I cannot forget to mention the daily water fights… as passers by walk along the streets buckets of water are thrown, kids spray water from their pistols or throw water balloons, trucks pass by with more buckets! So expect to get wet. Many people come to simply get away from the city carnival to relax at the beach with their family and friends.

The different days of the carnival often have their own themes but Taboga is a small village so parades are in proportion and except for the costume changes, one is not greatly distinct from the other, but all are enjoyable and FULL of great photo ops. There are parades scheduled at day and night. Since Taboga is a laid back island visitors cannot rely on the schedules or starting times much. When it happens, it happens.

MUSIC ON THE STREETS: There will be a typical Panamanian folkloric band (a Murga) and that is always fun. A Murga has been compared to a Dixieland street band with followers… they often compete against each other… groups from Calle Arriba y Calle Abajo…basically up town and down town…with brass and drums; Murgas are often followed by a truck with water as well, hosing the party-goers.

CARNIVAL ON THE WATER: There is a tradition of people taking their boats in a parade around the island, always a cool way to spend some time and take a break from the street party!

THE GRAND FINALLY: As Ash Wednesday dawns, the celebrations draw to an end, with the symbolic burial of sardines at the beach (and many partygoers who are still in the festive mood, jump in the sea as well).

Look forward to latin dancing, cold beer, parades, and relaxing at the beach during Taboga Island Carnival.

For rooms during Carnival, contact B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical. Email: info@cerritotropicalpanama.com, Tel: 6489-0074