Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Panama IT Strengths and Weaknesses

Analysis: National IT Strengths and Weaknesses

The IT landscape of Panamá has undergone several important changes in the past five years. Although many significant advances have been made, improvements are still needed in many areas.


1. Well Developed Telecommunications Infrastructure: as a result of privatization in 1997, and de-regulation in 2003 the market has changed dramatically. Although there is still a single local service provider, Cable and Wireless, individuals can now choose from different service offerings for their national long distance, and international calling needs. Cable and Wireless has made significant investments in the telecommunications infrastructure since it entered the market in 1997.
2. Increased Government Involvement in ICT Sectors: this year, the government started the introduction of a set of initiatives that intend to improve the ICT landscape of Panamá. The Panamanian government has developed a comprehensive plan,, that incorporates information and telecommunications technology, focuses on social and economic development, and seeks to increase participation of the population in issues of national importance. The e-panama plan includes e-government, e-education, e-economy, e-health, and e-democracy. This will provide lasting benefits regarding education, infrastructure, and investment incentives.

3. Low Cost of Labor: the cost of labor is much less than in developed countries such as the United States. For example, the monthly salary for a worker in a call center is between $500-600 per month.
4. Incentives for ICT Investments in the Country: the government will soon be formally establishing the Panamá-Pacific Special Economic Area that will provide tax incentives and benefits for ITC companies. Also, special laws have been passed, such as the one regarding call centers, in order to provide incentives for international companies to set up their call centers in Panamá.
5. FDI: FDI figures have increased dramatically in 2003, after experiencing a significant decrease for 2002.


1. Lack of Trained Workforce: the workforce in Panamá is not trained in ITC specific areas. Also, the lack of individuals that have an advanced command of the English language is a weakness, since the government is trying to attract international companies in the ICT sector, such as call centers and help desks. The government is currently training about 3,000 individuals in advanced English in a time period of three months. This may continue in the future, especially as more companies establish themselves in the Panamá-Pacific Special Economic Area for ICT sector companies.

2. Low Computer and Internet Penetration Rates: Computing and Internet Diffusion are very low, especially when comparing them to countries like Costa Rica. Low computer and internet penetration rates may grow significantly after the initiatives are implemented.
3. No Domestic Production of Software and Hardware: currently, there is no significant domestic production of software or hardware in Panamá.
4. Legal Environment: there is a general perception of widespread corruption in the country. The legal system is not lacking in laws that protect the business community (such as copyrights and intellectual property), however the judicial system is slow and bureaucratic. Changes in this area are of vital importance if the country wants to be more appealing to international companies seeking to enter a Latin American market.

Source: Cecilia Stoute, INITEB site

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Attorney Discusses Restrictions on Bearer Shares

Attorney Alvaro Aguilar, partner at Lombardi Aguilar Group, said that Panama incorporators have in place know-your-customer laws which do not exist in the U.S. and European countries which deem the Isthmus as an “uncooperative” jurisdiction. Aguilar was recently interviewed on Omega Stereo about a recent study by Australian university professor Jason Sharman comparing Panama's due diligence system for incorporations with those of Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member states.

“Since the 1930s Panama has stood out as an international financial and logistical center, in the face of larger centers such as London and New York”, said Aguilar, who specializes in formation of corporations, trusts and foundations for business purposes. “The contradiction that more than half of the OECD members are allowed to have bearer shares, some with immobilization, has no other motive than to slowly erode the competitiveness of a financial center which has always been independent.”
Aguilar reminded listeners the circumstances under which the Panama corporate system originated in the 1930s. When totalitarian countries threatened Europe, Ships owned by Panama companies were leased by the then neutral US to assist the United Kingdom in its war effort. Other companies owned Panama-flag ships used to take Jewish refugees to the territory of Palestine. "Bearer shares of said companies were an element in choosing Panama for said operations" said Aguilar.  He mentioned several cases in Eastern Europe and Latin America of businessmen in currently using Panama companies with bearer shares to shelter from authoritarian regimes the personal assets they have earned.

According to the Sharman study, "available evidence strongly suggests that Panama is significantly more compliant with international beneficial ownership standards than many OECD countries, especially the United States". 20 out of 34 OECD countries allow bearer shares, and have not immobilised them, including important financial centers like the UK.   Panama is not a member of the OECD.  Aguilar also pointed out that the England and the U.S. state of Wyoming have business entities authorized by law to issue bearer scrip and bearer share warrants without being surrendered for immobilization.

A plan for immobilization of bearer shares of Panama companies has been opposed by the University of Panama School of Law and several local practitioners.

Mr. Aguilar is a graduate of Universidad Santa Maria la Antigua (LLB) and Washington College of Law at The American University (LLM) International Trade & Banking program. Previously he has been selected by the Central American business weekly CAPITAL FINANCIERO as one of the "40 under 40" acknowledging to his achievements as a young legal professional. He specializes in corporation law and trust & estates matters.

About Lombardi Aguilar Group  

Lombardi Aguilar Group is a partnership of consultants created as an alternative for clients worldwide who seek fast, innovative and effective solutions to their legal problems. The firm currently provides services to individual and corporate clients in Panama as well in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Its partners maintain a commitment with professional ethics and social responsibility by participating in the board of directors of groups such as the Panama Bar Association, the Alliance Francaise, the German and the American Chambers of Commerce (AMCHAM) of Panama, and the Association of Chinese-Panamanian Professionals (APROCHIPA).  
The firm centers its law practice in private client services and asset protection (Private Interest Foundations, Trusts), business structures (Offshore Corporations), tax planning, real estate and e-commerce. It also advices in areas of Law such as Corporate, Commercial, Intellectual Property, Maritime, Tax, Environmental and Immigration Law as well as related litigation.
For more information, contact +507 6638-8707   +507 396-5080, e-mail info (at), or see: Lombardi Aguilar Group

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Panama banking center has 93 active banks

Panama has 93 licensed banks, of which 14 are representative offices not allowed to receive deposits.   This leaves 2 government-owned banks and 48 full-service general license banks open to the general public. An additional 29 banks have international license banks which can receive deposits only from non-Panamanians.

General License


2. BAC International Bank Inc

3. Balboa Bank & Trust Corp

4. Banco Aliado, S.A

5. Banco Azteca (Panamá), S.A

6. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (Panamá), S.A. (BBVA)

7. Banco Bolivariano (Panamá), S.A.

8. Banco Citibank (Panamá,) S.A

9. Banco Davivienda (Panamá), S.A

10. Banco Delta, S.A (BMF)

11. Banco de Bogotá (Panamá), S.A

12. BANISI, S.A.

13. Banco G & T Continental (Panamá), S.A. (B.M.F)

14. Banco General, S.A.

15. Banco Internacional de Costa Rica, S.A (BICSA)

16. Banco Lafise Panamá, S.A.

17. Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior, S.A. *

18. Banco La Hipotecaria, S.A

19. Bancolombia, S.A.

20. Banco Panamá, S.A

21. Banco Panameño de la Vivienda, S.A. (BANVIVIENDA)

22. Banco Pichincha Panamá, S.A.

23. Banco Prival, S. A. (en español) - Prival Bank (en inglés)

24. Banco Trasatlántico, S.A.

25. Banco Universal, S.A.

26. Banesco, S.A.

27. Bank Leumi Le-Israel, B.M.

28. Bank of China Limited

29. BCT Bank International, S.A.

30. Capital Bank, Inc

31. Citibank, N.A.

32. Credicorp Bank, S.A.

33. FPB Bank Inc.

34. Global Bank Corporation

35. HSBC Bank (Panamá), S.A. *

36. Korea Exchange Bank, Ltd.

37. Mega International Commercial Bank Co. Ltd.

38. Mercantil Bank (Panamá), S.A.

39. Metrobank, S.A.

40. MiBanco, S.A. B.M.F

41. MMG Bank Corporation

42. Multibank, Inc.

43. Produbank (Panamá), S.A

44. St. Georges Bank & Company, Inc.

45. The Bank of Nova Scotia (SCOTIABANK)

46. The Bank of Nova Scotia (Panamá), S.A.

47. Towerbank International, Inc.

48. Uni Bank & Trust, Inc

* Relevant Changes
** Awaiting notice of approval

(c) Reproduction prohibited

International License

1. Andbanc (Panamá), S.A.

2. Atlantic Security Bank

3. Austrobank Overseas (Panamá), S.A.

4. BAC Bank, Inc.

5. Banca Privada D'Andorra (Panamá), S.A.

6. Banco Credit Andorra (Panamá), S.A.

7. Banco Corficolombiana (Panamá), S.A.

8. Banco de Bogotá, S.A.

9. Banco de Crédito del Perú

10. Banco de la Nación Argentina

11. Banco de Occidente (Panamá), S.A.

12. Banco del Pacífico (Panamá), S.A.

13. Banco Ficohsa (Panamá), S.A.

14. Banco Internacional de Perú, S.A.A – Interbank

15. Banco Santander (Panamá), S.A.

16. Bancolombia (Panamá), S.A

17. BHD International Bank (Panamá), S.A.

18. Inteligo Bank, Ltd.

19.Banco Colpatria Multibanca Colpatria, S.A., Sucursal Panamá

20. ES Bank (Panamá), S.A.

21. First Central International Bank

22. GNB Sudameris Bank, S.A.

23. GTC Bank, Inc.

24. Helm Bank (Panamá), S.A.

25. International Union Bank

26. PKB Banca Privada (Panamá) S.A.

27. Popular Bank Ltd., Inc.

28. Scotiabank Perú, S.A.A. Sucursal Panamá

29. TAG Bank, S.A.

* Relevant Changes
** Awaiting notice of approval

For procedures to open a bank account, see also