A seemingly endless array of skyscrapers stretch along the city coastline creating an imposing view. An outlook that would rival the best of the world cities. Connecting the waters edge to these most modern towers of real estate, is an inviting natural wide open expanse of lawns, gardens, trees, walkways and cycle paths. Almost unnoticeable between these prominent landscape features is a bustling multi lane expressway. This is Panama City. Capital of Panama, Central America. A small nation of just four million people. A country that connects the north with the south Americas.
From outward appearances, it almost seems at odds this city belongs to a country designated as third world. Curiously this definition originally came about during the cold war period. Those aligned with the US, first world. Those with the Ruskies, second world. All the rest, third world. By that definition, guess which country you’d never expect to be a third world country? Austria! Yes, God’s own garden, Austria. But clearly that definition has now evolved to refer more to developing countries.
I have however a simpler definition. I call it the Third World Footpath Index (TWF Index). It’s simply how easy it is to seamlessly walk the city footpaths, how huge the difference in footpath heights are as you cross from street to street. And more defining, the number of mini sinkhole like footpath hazards. Ones that create fear that one step wrong and you’d never be seen again!
So by this definition, Panama City starts from the coast as a leading first world class city, with the most modern infrastructure. This includes a subway line (with more to come) that far rivals what you find in the likes of New York. However, venture back beyond the skyline of sky high cost real estate and you’ll find yourself rapidly moving through the second world into areas with a high TWF Index. Unfortunately this reflects a city with one of the highest income disparities.
But it’s a city and country on the move. Growing as the central finance and transport hub for Central and South America. A country that attracts high numbers of foreign retirees as well as droves of backpackers who come to enjoy the huge natural diversity the country offers. And central to Panamanian’s pride in this progressive country, is the Panama Canal. An impressive engineering feat in its own right. Meet Carlos to tell you more…..
If you’re interested to find out more about the Panama Canal (the new canal was actually completed 2016): click here
And for more about Panama: click here