Buy, Sell, Rent and Lease Real Estate in Panama.
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February 2012 - Issue 82
Buy, Sell, Rent and Lease Real Estate in Panama.
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Personal banking, Panamanian style
By Panama Offshore

Panama banks are economically strong and were not affected by the global economic crisis as banks around the world suffered losses. Panama has one of the most strict bank secrecy laws in the world. Foreigners can feel secure their bank accounts will be private. Newcomers will need several documents in order to open a personal bank account in Panama.

While some Panama banks may require different information they all want to know who their customers are and that the funds are from legal sources. By using a professional introduction by a law firm, you can increase your chances of being approved for a bank account. Choosing the right bank is important as some banks do not accept foreigners, some don’t offer online banking, multi-currency accounts, or debit cards. The law firm knows what each bank offers and will help choose a bank that will fit the client’s specific needs saving lots of time.

Once a bank is chosen, here are the general requirements:

  1. Passport copy including the photo and personal information pages and the Panama immigration entry stamp page.
  2. Copy of a second ID such as a driver’s license.
  3. Two financial reference letters from banks or investment brokerage firms in which the customer held accounts. These reference letters should be on original letterhead, dated within three months, addressed to the specific Panama bank, and signed by an officer of the bank or investment brokerage company.
  4. Two professional reference letters from lawyers, accountants, or financial consultants using the same format described above. Panama professionals will have greater weight than foreign ones.
  5. A copy of the last two years income tax returns.
  6. Fill out and sign the bank’s application form.
  7. A personal letter explaining the source of funds which will be deposited. This could include source of funds documents such as a copy of retirement or pension income, an annuity statement, or a letter from an employer. 
Once all of these documents have been collected, an interview with a bank officer is required. A law firm will provide professional bank introduction and a translator if the banker does not speak English (which is very common).

Bank interviews usually entail why the foreigner wants to open the account and an explanation of where and from what source future funds will be coming from.

A compliance officer will contact references to verify them before approving the account which may take anywhere from a few days up to a few months.

Expect a minimum initial deposit to open the account ranging from $500 to $100,000, depending on the bank, and which department of the bank will be used. Choosing to open an account with the Private Banking department of a bank makes the minimum much higher, but the service and benefits are greater. The initial deposit can be done by cash or U.S. Dollar check.

Panama banks have a variety of credit and debit cards offering different credit limits and fees. If the foreigner does not have established credit history in Panama, banks will ask for 125% to be deposited of the monthly maximum credit amount. There are silver, gold, platinum credit cards with options for air miles or points systems.

Debit cards will generally have the option of the “MasterCard”, “Visa”, or “Clave” system. The fees for using debit cards vary between banks.

Panama banks offer savings and checking accounts. Some banks provide a savings book which requires visiting a branch of the bank with the book to make deposits or withdrawals. Other banks eliminated the savings book and use online banking and just a deposit or withdrawal slip when banking in person.

Panama law firms offer a “bank account introduction and processing” service for foreigners which includes the law firm’s professional introduction to the bank, plus the law firm assists with completing all the forms and due diligence documents in advance, provides a professional reference letter, and assists through the process, including follow up with the bank until the account is approved.

The Beach Bar Dream in Panama…Come True
By Jessica Ramesch - International Living

"A hangover and a Bloody Mary, please," I hear someone say behind me.

It sounds like an odd request, until I learn that at Picasso Bar & Restaurant, "El Hangover" is a big, mean, meaty breakfast sandwich designed to cure the ills caused by the excesses of the night before.

Located in the Panamanian beach town of Coronado, the always happening Picasso is owned and run by British transplant Claire Ross.

Claire didn’t come to Panama intending to start a restaurant here, but while doing some consulting work in Panama City she found a town an hour’s drive away that has it all.

Claire was very clear on her list of priorities…and she wanted to check every box. She was looking for a place where she could ride her horse, walk her dogs, immerse herself in the local community, and live stress free. But she also wanted to have access to modern infrastructure and amenities.

Enter Coronado.

"A lot of people choose this beach town for its business opportunities and the excellent amenities," Claire says. "It kind of smacks you in the face, how convenient life is here."

Claire then began thinking about how to make a living in Panama. She had some experience in the restaurant business and the perfect property became available right on the town’s main drag.

She's been open just under a year, and the way she tells it, the key to her success is threefold: live music, great people, and a prime location.

Panamanians and expats frequent Picasso—from folks coming dripping wet from the beach or people stopping off while walking their dog (pooches are welcome) to families showing up with their kids in tow, all walks of life make their way here.

Customers are used to low prices seen often in this part of the world – so Claire charges just $1 for a beer during happy hour from 3.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.

Claire credits a large part of her success to her staff—who she says are wonderfully friendly and attentive, and who care about her and the business. "There are so many excellent people here, a great pool from which you can hire if you start a business," she says. And though she doesn’t require that her staff speak English, like many locals, they happen to speak it quite well.

She also found all the skilled labor she needed. "The construction crew were a godsend; we had one month to turn a house into a bar and restaurant, and with their help, we did it!"

Claire adds that reputable Panamanian professionals are the cornerstone to any good business in Coronado. Her lawyer, she says, has been a lifesaver. "She’ll drive up on a Sunday, have lunch and get me to sign some papers, and not charge me extra. And she has endless patience; I have a lot of questions."

Boquete takes the lead with Blues
By Lourdes Quijada - Newsroom Panama

Boquete, fast becoming a must-visit festival center in Panama has taken the lead in bringing Blues to the Isthmus.

And there’s nothing like a blues tune to chase away the blues. Ask my husband who during his recent stay in hospital managed to gripe away with the T-Bone Walker blues classic Call it Stormy Monday (which is the day he ended up in ICU). The lyrics continue, “ Tuesday’s just as bad, Wednesday’s worse…” if you get my meaning. When he felt better he even brought up onto his laptop a late 50’s recording of Guy Mitchell singing “I’ve never felt more like singin’ the blues.” Now I know he’s getting better.

Everybody knows the Danilo Perez’ annual Jazz Festival in Panama City which next year will move it’s final concert from Casco Viejo to the City of Knowledge, but tiny Boquete has had an annual Jazz Festival for the last five years and plans next month to steal a march on it’s famed cousin.

As Jazz lovers will know Jazz, is the baby that grew out of blues, and Boquete is bringing daddy and baby together in March.

There’s an annual Blues Festival in Costa Rica. There have been large Blues concerts in Colombia and Ecuador. There’s a huge Blues scene in Brazil with festivals that attract tens of thousands of people, there are annual Blues Festivals on various Caribbean islands... and now Panama.

Blues is almost unknown here. There may be some people who know some of the big names in the Blues like B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal...but beyond that there’s very little knowledge of this unique, and genuinely American music...

The Blues has been around long before Jazz evolved out of it. The Blues has spread from the cotton fields of Mississippi to Chicago, all over the USA, and from there all over the world. You can hear the Blues, and attend Blues Festivals almost everywhere, from North America to South America, Europe, the Near East, Australia, and Asia. Blues Festivals in Japan always attract huge crowds of Blues-crazy fans.

In Panama you can hear and enjoy everything from salsa, and merengue, to heavy metal ... but no Blues!. On March 1-4, all of that will change whenThe Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival Foundation will present the country‘ first open-air Jazz & Blues Festival in Panama with world-class Blues artists from the US and Europe in addition to top-notch Jazz musicians from Panama, the US and Europe.

World-class Jazz and Blues on the slopes of Volcan Baru in the valley of rainbows and eternal spring.

Here’s the line up

Blues:Mitch Woods (US), Johnny Sansone (US), Andy Egert (CH) with Bob Stroger (US), Sharrie Williams&The Wiseguys (US), Ron Hacker (US).

Jazz: Carlos Ubarte quartet with Idania Dowman (PA), Saskia Laroo (NL) with Salsa Bop, The Smoking Time Jazz Club (US), Betty Bryant (US), Rigoberto Coba Big Band (PA)

A special concert with Jazz lady Betty Bryant and friends will take place at the BCP theatre in Boquete on Thursday evening, March 1

There will be a FREE opening show for the general public in Boquete central park on Friday, March 2 followed by parties at local restaurants and hotels in Boquete and then a two dayopen-air festival in the Valle Escondido amphitheatre on March 3 & 4.

Festival tickets can be booked online and tickets are sold locally at Mailboxes ETC. in Boquete.. Tickets for the open air March 3 and 4, ticket; $20 adult, $ 5 students and minors. 2 day festival pass: $30 adults, $7.50 students and minors

Ticket price for the Betty Bryant concert on, March 1.: $ 13.

Forbes tells the world why Panama is so "in"
By The Visitor Panama

In the travel section of a recent edition of Forbes magazine, writer Carolin Patek asked why Panama should be your next trip. Rightly so - The New York Times just ranked the isthmus as #1, touting the bustling economy, a wild destination called Bocas del Toro and the expansion of the Canal.

Forbes took the angle of how Panama's strategic global position at the crossroads of the Americas is attracting an unexpected amount of foreign investment considering the tough economic times, driven ahead by the $5.25 billion dollar expansion of the Canal. The article states that Panama City as a result is becoming an "energetic and modern metropolis" with lots of luxury options for first-class travelers.

The article also covered the record-breaking investment made to build Latin America's tallest building, Trump Ocean Club, which opened last year in the Punta Pacifica neighborhood and the upcoming opening of the Waldorf Astoria near Calle Uruguay.

The Frank Gehry designed Biomuseo, currently under construction in Amador and set to open in early 2013, got a mention too which included a reference to the visit to the site that was made by famous American actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie a few years ago.

True to the form of the current spin machine on Panama, this Forbes article couldn't wrap up without dropping some dining recommendations in the Old Quarter, Di Vino Enoteca and Manolo Caracol restaurant in Casco Viejo.

Panama City ranked as one of the least expensive cities

Panama City was recently ranked among the 10 least expensive cities in the world. The survey, which is conducted twice a year, compares hundreds of prices across 160 products and services, including food, household supplies, transport, utilities, and schooling.

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