LatinNews Daily - 21 September 2023

In brief: Panama gov’t ups 2023 GDP growth forecast

*Panama’s economy & finance (MEF) minister, Héctor Alexander, has raised Panama’s GDP growth forecast for 2023 to “at least” 6% this year, up from 5% as forecast previously.  Panama’s economy grew 10.8% in 2022 and 15.8% in 2021, amid a bounce back following the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic which struck in 2020 and led the economy to contract 17.9% in 2020, on International Monetary Fund (IMF) data. Alexander said that the growth forecast for 2023 was the highest prior to the pandemic since 2014. According to a MEF press release, Alexander said that Panama’s monthly indicator of economic activity (IMAE) posted accumulated growth of 7.8% in the first half of 2023, driven by trade, construction, tourism, and banking, among other sectors. In the accumulated period for the first half of 2023, trade in the Colón Free Trade Zone (ZLC) was up 32.6%, new car sales were up 22.2%, the value of construction permits was up 66.1%, and the production of ready-mix concrete was up 20.8%. Alexander also said that economic growth is driving job creation and formal employment. He said that from September 2020 to April 2022 employment was up 13%, of which 92% was formal employment. The latest estimates from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac), released on 5 September, forecast Panama’s GDP will post the highest growth in Central America this year (5.1%). This is up from Costa Rica (3.8%), Guatemala (3.4%), Honduras (3.4%), Nicaragua (2.4%), and El Salvador (2.1%).

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