Location: Central America, on the lowest part of the Isthmus of Panama that links North America and South America. The Caribbean and Pacific are to the north and south, respectively. Colombia is to the east and Costa Rica is to the west.
Capital: Panama City
Geographic coordinates: 7 10 N, 77 83 W
Area: 77,082 sq km (29,762 sq mi).
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina
Coastline: 2,800 km
Maritime claims: The country claims the seabed of the continental shelf, which has been defined by Panama to extend to the 500-meter submarine contour. In addition, a 1958 law asserts jurisdiction over 12 nautical miles from the coastlines, and in 1968 the government announced a claim to a 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
Climate: Tropical. Temperatures and humidity are uniformly high and there is little seasonal variation. On a typical dry-season day in the capital city, the early morning minimum may be 24°C and the afternoon maximum 29°C. The temperature seldom exceeds 32°C for more than a short time.
Temperatures on the Pacific side of the isthmus are somewhat lower than on the Caribbean. Temperatures are markedly cooler in the higher parts of the mountain ranges, and frosts occur in the Cordillera de Talamanca in western Panama.
Rainfall varies regionally from less than 1.3 to more than 3 meters per year. The rainy season is usually from April to December, but varies in length from seven to nine months.
Terrain: The dominant feature of the country's landform is the central spine of mountains and hills that forms the continental divide.
Nearly 500 rivers lace Panama's rugged landscape. Mostly unnavigable, many originate as swift highland streams, meander in valleys, and form coastal deltas. Forests dominate, interrupted in places by grasslands, scrub, and crops. Although nearly 40 percent of Panama is still wooded, deforestation is a continuing threat to the rain-drenched woodlands. Mangrove swamps occur along parts of both coasts, with banana plantations occupying deltas near Costa Rica. In many places, a multi-canopied rain forest abuts the swamp on one side of the country and extends to the lower reaches of slopes in the other.
Elevation extremes: The highest point in the country is the Volcan Baru (formerly known as the Volcan de Chiriqui), which rises to almost 3,500 meters.
Economy: Industry: International commerce, food processing, petroleum products, construction materials, clothing. Export crops: bananas, sugar, seafood, coffee. Food crops: rice, corn, beans.
Population: 2,431,000 (1992 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.9 percent
Birth rate/Death rate: The crude death rate was 5 persons per 1,000 in the mid-1980s, a decline of nearly 50 percent from the mid-1960s. The crude birth rate was 27 per 1,000, a drop of one-third during the same period.
Ethnic groups: The Spanish-speaking, Roman Catholic mestizo majority; the English-speaking, Protestant Antillean blacks; and tribal Indians.
Small numbers of Chinese, Jews, Arabs, Greeks, South Asians, Lebanese, West Europeans, and North Americans. There are a few retired United States citizens*mostly former Canal Zone officials*residing in Chiriqui.
Religion: Roman Catholic
Languages: Spanish, English
Gross Domestic Product (GDP): US$4.9 billion in 1985, more than US$2,000 per capita. Growth of GDP estimated at 2.8 percent for 1986, demonstrating some economic recovery following very low or negative growth as a result of recession after 1982.
Agriculture: About 9 percent of GDP in 1985. Crops represented just over 63 percent of value added in agriculture. Main crops*bananas, sugarcane, rice, corn, coffee, beans, tobacco, melons and flowers. Livestock (producing primarily red meat) accounted for nearly 30 percent of value added in agriculture; fishing (primarily shrimp), just over 4 percent; and forestry, nearly 3 percent. Largely self-sufficient in foods except wheat.
Industry: Nearly 18 percent of GDP in 1985, including primarily manufacturing and mining (over 9 percent of GDP), construction (nearly 5 percent of GDP), and energy (over 3 percent of GDP). Manufacturing consisted mainly of import substitution, consumer goods. A few larger plants, including oil refining, electric power, cement and sugar. Manufacturing concentrated near major cities.
Services: Over 73 percent of GDP in 1985. Sector included transportation, banking and other financial services, government services, wholesale and retail trade and other services.
Currency: Balboa equal to United States dollar. Balboas available only in coins. Dollars circulated as the only paper currency.
Ports: Fourteen ports, the most important Balboa (Pacific) and Cristóbal (Atlantic) at entrances to Panama Canal.
Railroads: Three separate, unconnected systems totalling 238 kilometers. Main line between Panama City and Colón (76 kilometers). Other two in west, originating in David and Almirante, respectively, and continuing across the Costa Rican border.
Roads: In 1984 about 9,535 kilometers, 32 percent asphalted. Principal axes are Pan-American Highway, running across Panama from Costa Rica toward Colombia, and Trans-isthmian Highway from Panama City to Colón.
Airports: Eight main fields, including one international airport: General Omar Torrijos International Airport, more commonly known as Tocumen International Airport, near Panama City.
Telecommunications: Well-developed internal and external systems.