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Economic Development of Central America Econ. 4200 - Spring 2004 – Dr. Taylor - page 150 / 153

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Much of Panama's economic success in the 1980s, however, was the result of a strong service sector associated with the presence of a large number of banks, the Panama Canal, and the Colon Free Zone. Agriculture and industry, on the other hand, usually experienced slow growth rates.

Because of U.S. control of the canal and the Canal Zone, this path between the seas continuously stoked the fires of Panamanian nationalism. The high standard of living and the privileges enjoyed by U.S. citizens residing in the Canal Zone contrasted sharply with the poverty of Panamanians.

President Omar Torrijos became a national hero in 1977 when he signed the Panama Canal Treaties with U.S. president Jimmy Carter. The treaties provided for full Panamanian control over the canal and its revenues by 1999.

Panamanian officials spoke optimistically of their plans for the bases they would soon inherit, citing universities, modem container ports, luxury resorts, and retirement communities. But there was much concern over the loss of an estimated $500 million that tens of thousands of American troops, civilians, and their dependents had long pumped into the Panamanian economy.

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