Panama Geography and Population

Panama – Geography

Panama is characterized by mountain ranges that run east-west. To the west, the mountains are volcanic, a continuation of the Cordilleras. The highest point is the volcano Baru (3475 m) near the border with Costa Rica. The plateaus between the mountain ranges are fertile. In several places, the coastal lowlands towards the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean are quite narrow and intersected by numerous rivers and streams.

Panama has a tropical climate with only small seasonal variations. All months have above 25 °C on average, and most of the year the passat gives large amounts of precipitation; i gnsn. 3300 mm and mostly on the Caribbean side of the mountains. On the Pacific side, there is dry season from January to April. The humid-warm climate creates the conditions for a dense rainforest, which covers approximately half of the country. On the coastal plains there is savannah.


Ethnically, the population is dominated by mestizers, who make up approximately 70%; 14% are black and of mixed African-European descent, while there are smaller groups of whites, Indians and Asians. The blacks are partly English-speaking immigrants from the Antilles, and partly Spanish-speaking descendants of slaves from colonial times. The Indians live partly in reserves. The highest population densities are in the Panama Canal Zone (with 30,000 Americans, among others) and on the Pacific coast, while the eastern and western areas are very sparsely populated, just as a wide belt along the Caribbean coast is largely empty and completely without roads. About half of the population lives below the poverty line, and there are very large differences in living conditions between the residential areas of Panama City and Colón and the poor slums and underdeveloped lands. Population growth is declining, but by 1.8% per year still among the highest in the region. The lack of development in the countryside and the economic opportunities of the Channel Zone means that there is a constant migration to the larger cities here, which are experiencing unemployment, food shortages and social problems.

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Business and economics

The traffic through the canal provides significant employment in the service sector in addition to revenue for the Canal Company and the state. On the other hand, it means less that Panama, on paper, has the world’s largest merchant fleet: it is predominantly foreign ship owners who fly flags of convenience without much contact with the flag state. For many years, Panama’s economy has been poorly managed, and a reform program of privatization and tight fiscal policy was not launched until after 1990.

Agriculture employs approximately a quarter of the workforce, but contributes only 10% of GDP. Despite the country’s prosperity, large quantities of food must be imported every year. Only 7% of the area is cultivated, and the land is extremely unevenly distributed with large plantations and a large majority of low-productivity small farms. The main agricultural areas are in Chirique to the west, near Costa Rica. Rice, corn, beans and fruit are grown for the domestic market and bananas, coffee, cocoa and sugar are exported. Earlier, the military government tried to let Panama play a role in the world sugar market, and investments were made in new plantings and sugar mills. The success failed when the mills were too inefficient and the price of sugar fell, and things went completely wrong when the United States introduced trade sanctions against the regime in the 1980’s. Now some of the sugar is used to make rum.

On the Pacific coast there are many cattle farms, both large farms and family farms. The operation is tormenting the land, and rainforest is constantly being cleared for grazing areas. Local and foreign environmental organizations are working to introduce sustainable use of the forest.


is poorly developed. Lack of raw materials, a weak domestic market and lack of capital are the main reasons. In Panama City and Colón, however, there is the manufacture of consumer goods for the domestic market in addition to any petrochemical industry, and in Colón, an area is designated as a free zone. With its strategically favorable location, the free zone is a significant success, which is expected to grow further when Latin American countries relax trade rules.

The main exports are bananas and fresh shrimp from fish and aquaculture. Until now, the country’s tourism was completely concentrated in a few tourist centers in the canal zone and in e.g. The Pearl Islands off the Pacific coast, but with the gradual withdrawal of the Americans in the 1990’s, new uses have been found for former military areas, not least with tourism in mind. Examples include that the military base at Fort Amador on the Pacific side has been transformed into a tourist center, while new ports for cruise ships have been opened at both ends of the canal. With a steadily growing number of visitors, tourism has thus been one of the poor country’s most important industries and largest investment areas since the late 1990’s. However, much of the country still has a very poorly developed infrastructure and large areas are inaccessible.Darien to Colombia, a completion of the Pan-American Highway.

Panama – language

Official language is Spanish. In addition, Creole English is spoken by over 10% of the population. Eight Native American languages ​​have been preserved, including guaymí (approximately 130,000, 1990) and kuna (approximately 60,000, 2000). Chinese are used by a small ethnic minority. For culture and traditions of Panama, please check calculatorinc.

Panama – religion

More than 90% of the population belong to the Roman Catholic Church; the majority of the rest are Protestants. State and church are separated. Among the Indians, there are often mixed forms of Christianity and indigenous religion.