Panamanian officials are optimistic about prospects for infrastructure development in the wake of the recently approved expansion of the Panama Canal. They include a number of projects tied to the expansion, and some secondary level jobs. 

Speakers at the Oct. 26 U.S.-Panama Business Council’s meeting, in Washington D.C., said a strong GDP and increasing foreign investment have set the stage for a construction boom. H.E. Alejandro Ferrer, minister of commerce and industry, said Panama needs a major investment in infrastructure over the next several years. Fred Berger, senior vice president of Louis Berger Group, East Orange, N.J., says, “secondary economic activities” will be generated by the expansion of the canal and a boom in vertical construction. Nearly 60 major condominium projects are now under way along Panama’s waterfront, he says.

But the most heralded project is the $5.25-billion expansion of the Panama Canal, which includes a third lane of traffic and three new locks, to double capacity. The Panama Canal Authority is setting up contracting procedures, finalizing environmental impact studies and working out financing through a graduated toll increases and a budget proposal to be presented to the legislative assembly next year, says Rodolfo Sabonge, director of corporate planning and marketing. “We hope to have the preliminary planning processes finished by the first quarter of 2007,” he says.

Also slated to begin in the near future are a $320-million, 150-MW hydroelectric project; a $600-million second container port along the Pacific coast; expansion of the existing Cristobel and Balboa ports; and converting the former Howard Air Force Base into a combination of airport and warehouses alongside commercial office buildings.

The Agency for the Special Economic Area of Panama-Pacific is in final stages of reviewing bids to develop 3,700 acres at the former base, says Administrator Gilberto Ferrari Pedreschi. Tuira Rorrijos, deputy director of Pacific Megaport, says the government now is prequalifying bidders for the megaport.