The Republic of Panama is home to 3.5 million people, a world famous canal and a modern financial sector that contributes to the country’s strong economic performance. At the same time, despite boasting the highest per capita income in Central America, rural poverty in Panama is quite high; in 2003, 54 percent of non-indigenous rural residents were poor, and 22 percent were extremely poor. Barriers to poverty alleviation include limited economic opportunities, a deteriorated natural resource base, an inequitable land tenure system, lack of access to microfinance and structural constraints that impede competition in the agriculture sector . Panama is classified as a developing country with a per capita income GDP of US $7155 (2009) .
Widespread poverty and inequality have negative spillover effects on the environment. Panama is considered to be one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, and more than 12 percent of Panama’s landmass is protected. Nonetheless, poverty pressures have driven many to exploit the natural resources of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor in harmful ways . In addition, deforestation is a growing concern, as forests cover 40 percent of Panama’s territory .
Panama ranks 14th among countries most exposed to multiple hazards based on land area. Panama has 15 percent of its total area exposed and 12.5 percent of its total population vulnerable to two or more hazards . In addition, Panama ranks 35th among countries with the highest percentage of total population considered at a relatively high mortality risk from multiple hazards. Climate change threatens to increase vulnerability of both human and ecological systems in Panama. The agriculture, water resources, forestry, coastal zone management and health sectors will be particularly impacted. More frequent and intense storms, floods, and droughts are causing huge economic losses and affecting the livelihoods of the poorest and most marginalized members of society in particular. Vulnerable areas include the San Blas Archipelago, coastal areas of Bocas del Toro, Colón, and western areas of Panama Province.
Selected Indicators for Impacts and Vulnerabilities