It's amazing what a break in transportation can do for growth, and Panama's economy, much like the buildings here in Panama city, is on it's way up. I found building and infrastructure projects to be widespread, from skyscraper and road construction to roadside garbage removal (something sorely needed in the rest of Central America). Though there were still pockets of poverty and the percentage living under the poverty line is still around %25 the past few years have seen a shrinking of income inequality, Panamas GINI index, which measures income distribution(0 being perfectly equal and 1 being perfectly unequal), has dropped from 56.1 in 2003 to a respectable,by Latin American standards, 51 in 2010. The real per capita GDP is $13,000 (the highest in central America)and the GDP has continued to grow even through the global economic downturn, at the moment it is about 8%, down a bit from the 10.1% of 2008 but still very robust. The outlook for the future here is bright indeed with the canal expansion project, started in 2007, due to be complete in just a couple of years, commerce will only be bolstered and it stands to reason that strong growth will continue.
Oh by the way, their economy is Dollar based.
The Canal, as seen from the seat of my BMW at 50MPH