Panama FDI grows 19 percent in first-half 2007

PANAMA CITY, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Foreign direct investment to Panama grew 19.4 percent in the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2006 to $598 million, the government said on Wednesday.

The banking sector and the Colon Free Trade Zone, one of the world’s biggest import-export parks, were the two biggest earners, attracting $137.8 million and $180.8 million respectively, the Comptroller General’s office said.

Foreign direct investment is one of the principal drivers of Panama’s booming economy, which according to the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) will have the highest growth rate in the region this year.

Panama is expected to post 8.5 percent growth this year, buoyed by a $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama canal, a growing real estate market and continued growth in the banking sector, the U.N. says.