Panama Economic Outlook
Annual economic growth likely halved in Q4 from Q3, mainly due to a dwindling post-Covid-19 base effect. Year-on-year growth in tourist arrivals eased to 74.0% in Q4 from 108% in Q3. In addition, Panama Canal activity was dampened by ebbing global trade—the volume of cargo contracted year-on-year in October for the first time since April—as well as the rerouting of U.S. LNG to Europe instead of Asia. More positively, growth in total fuel consumption, a proxy for economic activity, accelerated to 9.3% year on year in October, while softer inflation in the quarter likely supported private consumption. Meanwhile, longstanding concession negotiations regarding the Cobre copper mine came to an end on 8 March. The government will receive a minimum of USD 375 million annually for the next 20 years—a tenfold increase from the previous agreement.
Inflation rose to 2.7% in January (December: 2.1%) due to increased price pressures for housing and utilities amid a start-of-year adjustment in bills. In 2023, inflation should remain low by regional standards thanks to dollarization. However, dynamic domestic demand and the removal of fuel subsidies—currently set for 1 April—are upside risks.