Panama Economic Conditions
Economic conditions. – As for all the other Central American countries, agriculture is the most important economic activity, although the cultivated areas are very limited, because the workforce is scarce, the communication routes are scarce and the climatic-sanitary conditions make it difficult in many parts the exploitation of the soil, which, moreover, is generally very fertile. Cultivation is commonly carried out by quite primitive means, and the peasants are mostly content with producing what is strictly necessary for their needs. The banana cultivation, in first place of all, has spread mainly on the Atlantic side (at Lake Gatun, around San Blas, near the Colombian border, in the Bocas del Toro department). The plantations belong largely to theUnited Fruit Company ; bananas are exported (from one and a half to 2 million helmets per year, for a value that usually equates to 3/4 of the total exports) from the ports of Bocas del Toro, Almirante and Colón and almost totally directed in the United States.
Next, in importance, are the cocoa crops (which in some areas have replaced banana plantations, abandoned due to the raging of diseases), coconuts (Atlantic coast and coral islands facing the Gulf of San Blas; the nuts of this district are very famous), sugar cane (which is expanding; the largest plantations are located in the provinces of Coclé and Chiriquí; annual production of about 50,000 quintals), coffee (Chiriquí and Coclé; production satisfies most of the demand of the country), rice (coastal regions), maize, tobacco and cotton. Small rubber production. Forest exploitation is still not very significant, due to the difficulty of transport, and produces wood for construction and cabinet making (especially mahogany), medicinal drugs (sarsaparilla, copaive, ipecacuana). Livestock breeding is of secondary importance, but could suitably develop; and the skins provide a good amount for export. The only fishing to remember is that of pearls in the islands of las Perlas (Gulf of Panamá). Mother-of-pearl and tortoise shells are exported.
According to indexdotcom, mining exploration has so far been very superficial: however it can be said that useful minerals are not in short supply. Gold is extracted from the mines of Remance (province of Veragua), from the floods of El Mineral (id.) And from those of Sabalo (province of Darien). The Remance mines yield about 11 ounces of gold per ton. High manganese deposits exist in Mandingo Bay (Gulf of San Blas) and in the Boquerón valley near Nombre de Dios; the visible reserve is calculated at 150-200 thousand tons. In addition, silver, copper, iron and aluminum minerals are found here and there. Notable industries are only those dependent on agriculture: sugar factories, distilleries, tobacco factories; and those that manufacture everyday objects (soaps, candles, shoes, hats),
Communications and commerce. – The only important railway on the isthmus, the Panamá-Colón, 77 km long, runs in the territory of the Canal Zone; in the territory of the republic there are only a few trunks in the province of Chiriquí, around David, for a total of 150 km. Then there are 360 km. of industrial lines on plantations. The ordinary routes have 500 km. of development; In recent years, considerable progress has been made in this regard, opening up to traffic, inter alia, a good road between Panama and Chepo and another between Panama, Santiago and David (this one is under construction up to the Costa Rican border).
Panamá and Colón are stopover of the North American air navigation lines which, starting from Miami, go to South America (up to Santiago, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro), and are also connected to each other by a daily air service.
Most of the international traffic occurs by sea, through the two ports of Balboa and Cristobal, included in the Canal Zone (the two cities are suburbs of Panamá and Colón respectively). Remarkable is the movement of Bocas del Toro (Atlantic) and Puerto Armuelles (Pacific), banana exporters.
Trade is inactive, and imports far outstrip exports. In the years 1925-1929 the former (cottons, rice, cars, flours, footwear, etc.) had an average value of 16 million balboas (the balboa has the same value as the United States dollar) and the latter of only 4 million. millions. From 1929 onwards there was a strong contraction, due to the world crisis, and in 1933 the value of imports was only 9,296,000 balboas, and that of exports of 2,559,000 balboas (1,444,000 balboas given by bananas, 580,000 from cocoa, 141,000 from coconuts, 86,000 from skins, 42,000 from rubber, 11,000 from vegetable ivory, etc.).
50% of imports come from the United States, which is closely followed by Great Britain, Germany and France. The United States then absorbs almost all of the exports. There is very little commercial relations with Italy, which imports small quantities of wines, medicinal products, hats, marbles, fabrics and food preserves into Panama.