PANAMA CITY Dec 27 The growth of Panama's
vibrant economy eased slightly in October, weakened by slower
traffic through the Central American nation's trademark canal
and ports, official data showed on Friday.
Economic activity increased 8.26 percent in October compared
with the same month last year, figures from the government's
statistics office showed. That was a slowdown from September,
when the economy expanded by 9.29 percent. Growth that month had
originally been reported at 8.15 percent.
In a statement, the office said container traffic and
activity in the Panama canal had decreased while the
construction, mining, tourism and air transport industries
continued to grow.
The office did not quantify the developments.
The finance ministry projects Panama's $33 billion economy
will expand 8.5 percent this year.
Though the economy is stepping back from the double digit
growth Panama has posted in four of the past six years, it is
still one of the fastest-growing in the region.
The growth is spurred by massive infrastructure spending,
including the ongoing $5.3 billion expansion of the Panama
canal, which began in 2007, and the $1.8 billion construction of
Central America's first metro rail system.
Minera Panama, a subsidiary of Canada's First Quantum
Minerals Ltd is also building a $6.2 billion copper mine
on the Atlantic coast, expected to become one of the world's
biggest open-pit copper developments.
But traffic through the canal and ports has slumped, weighed
down by the global slowdown in trade.
A six-month delay in the opening of the expanded canal has
persuaded shippers to use alternative routes where they can
carry goods more cheaply on bigger ships.
The economy has also been dampened by a dispute with two of
Panama's biggest trading partners, Colombia and Venezuela, which
has disrupted the Colon Free Trade Zone, the world's largest
duty-free area after Hong Kong.