(Adds detail on specific industry sectors)
By Lomi Kriel
PANAMA CITY, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Panama’s economy expanded 10.4 percent in November compared to the same month in 2011, on continued gains in construction, mining and the quarrying industry, the government’s statistics agency said on Thursday.
Growth in the tiny Central American nation has been bolstered by several large-scale and ongoing public infrastructure projects, like the $5.3 billion expansion of the Panama Canal and the construction of a $1.25 billion metro system, which is nearing completion.
Tourism has also spiked, boosting the hotel, restaurant and slot machine industry. The transportation and communications sectors fared well, spurred by increased container traffic through the canal and ports. Electricity and water services also expanded due to growth in hydroelectric energy.
Though the agricultural sector suffered through most of 2012, it continued to show slight gains in November, especially in cattle, pork and in fruit crops such as watermelon and pineapple.
Panama’s manufacturing sector saw increases in food processing and alcoholic beverages. But the manufacturing of metal, plastic, and chemical products once again waned, as did the fishing industry, mainly because of a decrease in the species of fish Panama typically exports.
Between January and November, the economy grew 9.7 percent compared with the same period in 2011.
Panama has enjoyed double-digit economic growth over the past few years, expanding 10.5 percent in 2011. The Economic Commission for Latin America estimates a 9.5 percent growth rate for 2012, making Panama one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies. (Reporting by Lomie Kriel; Editing by Nick Zieminski)