The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rearrange lives and industries. We will never go back to “normal” and we aren’t sure what the “new normal” will eventually be. There are signs of where things are going, and it is wise to look at the trends and attempt to make some sense of them. Two of the trends that most intrigue me is the change in how people are working remotely, and which countries are going to emerge strong after the pandemic.
I know we will not always be in quarantine because in a matter of months we will have developed some type of vaccine and learned better how to treat the virus with new treatments such as convalescent plasma. I read recently that COVID-19 will be a threat for some three to four years and then finally be eradicated like polio and smallpox.
We continue to fight COVID-19 in Panama and as of August 4 have reported 68,456 confirmed cases with 1,497 deaths. The government continues to be aggressive in terms of testing, contact tracing and limiting the activities of Panamanians. Scientists are working diligently in the same building where malaria was eradicated to find a vaccine for COVID-19. The rest of us obey, wait and consider where we’ll be by 2021.
What Is A TeleScribe?
Working habits will absolutely be one of the biggest changes after the virus. Recently I got a call from a woman who said she was a registered nurse working in a large medical facility in Boston and her husband was being transferred to Panama. After a few pleasantries about what it was like working on the front line in a COVID-19 hotspot, we began discussing when they might be able to make the transition to Panama. She was already prepared to sign a two-year lease without seeing the residential unit.
I had already braced myself knowing I would probably have to tell her she would not be able to work in Panama as a registered nurse (RN). Most medical positions are considered “protected” and only filled by Panamanians or individuals married to Panamanians. There are 25 such protected positions covering medical doctors, physical therapists, veterinarians, dentists and speech-language pathologists. Some non-medical protected positions are also considered protected such as lawyers, public accountants, social workers and even hairdressers.
“No problem,” she said quickly. “I’m not leaving my current employer. I will transition from being on the floor to taking a position as a TeleScribe.” TeleScribe? I rolled that around until she explained as COVID-19 raged in Boston, as much healthcare as possible moved to TeleHealth—or on-line.
The Healthcare Version Of Zoom
“I have been paired with a great doctor who does most of his work over on the healthcare version of Zoom. When I can, I like to tune in and listen to the discussion and make notes of everything from the diagnosis to the needed tests in real-time. When I can’t or just don’t want to be on-line when he is, he simply pushes a button, everything is recorded, automatically stored in the cloud so I can pull it out anytime and listen. I order the needed tests, schedule follow-up appointments and next steps. I even work with insurance and billing paperwork. This particular physician does about 50% of his work online and 50% in the operating room so it’s a full-time job just documenting the 50% he does on-line. I just need good internet,” she explained.
Expats have been making money for years while living in Panama, but the ability to function as a team member providing medical care in Boston was surprising. I considered older RNs who might prefer being at the computer in sunny Panama as opposed to standing and providing in-person care.
Since ex-pats don’t pay tax on income earned elsewhere, even if that person is physically in Panama, there is no double taxation which is a big plus for working remotely from Panama. With that thought, I began to consider just how many other professions could make the transition. Editors, project managers, graphic designers, architects, accountants, customer service representatives, virtual assistants and professional recruiters, just to name a few.
The Richest Country In Latin America
In addition to changing how we work; the virus is changing how we live and I have been pleased with several articles published recently indicating Panama will be one of the countries emerging from the pandemic stronger than most. We are already the “richest country” in Latin America according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) replacing Chile this year at the top spot. We only deal in US dollars so we cannot print and devalue money.
Bank of America Global Research recently wrote that “Panama is likely to emerge stronger from the crisis than the vast majority of LatAm peers. Growth prospects for the coming years are propitious, and the public debt ratio will remain at moderate levels compared to other emerging markets. The government has moved fast to cover its funding needs, in contrast with many LatAm countries that are struggling, and the fiscal deficit is unlikely to balloon to double-digit levels because of prudent expenditures management.”
2020 “The Lost Year
“The BofA report notes that 2020 will be a “lost year” but that may have created opportunities for individuals who are able to capitalize on opportunities presented during this difficult time. Forbes, the respected US financial journal just named Panama as one of the top five places to get “coronavirus real estate deals.” Joining Panama is Italy, Riviera Maya Mexico, Uruguay, and Medellín, Colombia.
“While the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating, it has also had a silver lining by creating real estate bargains around the globe at a time of unprecedented low-interest rates,” reported Forbes.
“Just like London, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong, Panama City has become a global center of finance and commerce. Plus it’s safe and stable—a rarity in a turbulent world. Panama’s robust economy weathered the 2008 crisis and Panama will withstand the current global crisis. Panama is one of those safe havens that sucks in resources when things in the world get volatile” Forbes reported on why it listed Panama as a top spot to invest on the globe.
Creative Financing and Low-Interest Rates
The Panamanian government has shown very creative ways to help business owners and citizens weather the COVID-19 storm. Low or no-interest loans are being discussed for business owners who have essentially been shut down. Programs are being put in place to help promote and develop tourism. The tax incentives on real estate are now back in play to spur sales and create jobs. Even developers are receiving incentives which they are passing along to individuals.
Casa Bianca is close to receiving an occupancy permit as soon as permits are once again being issued. We just need to flatten the COVID-19 curve. Casa Bianca is a new residential concept for Costa del Este, consisting of ten unique residences situated in three and four-level buildings with gardens, arches, roofs and balconies designed in a modern colonial style.
The developer is providing financing at 4% and will credit 100% of rent paid during the first year and percentages of rent paid during the second and third years toward the purchase price. Located minutes from TownCenter Mall and the new Johns Hopkins International Hospital, the units come with lots of amenities including internal patios, swimming pool, children’s pool, private parking, ballroom, bar-b-cue area and gymnasium.
The rental program and 4% developer financing is also available at a variety of projects including the ultra-luxurious Matise and lower-priced Parkside, both in Costa del Este. Casa Bonita, located next to the five-star Westin resort just 15-minutes from Panama City has building closeout specials and low developer financing.
Royal Palm, located directly on the Pacific Ocean, units start at $175,000 with developer financing. On some of the larger units, with wrap-around balconies and direct ocean views, owner financing can be arranged at less than one percent.
Retiring Baby Boomer Options
As 10,000 US-based Baby Boomers retire each day, many are looking for interesting and exciting places to enjoy free time. Generation Tower is a unique and innovative concept in Costa del Este Panama and designed specifically for investors working within the senior market.
Four floors of Generation Tower will be developed specifically for seniors 55 and older and will include an Independent Senior Living program. The remaining floors will be for short- and long-term rentals and with on-site property management.
Independent Senior Living residents will be provided a health insurance policy eliminating the worry of not being able to afford a policy or access Medicare in Panama. Medical professionals will monitor residents via technology and provide assistance 24/7. Units will be handicap accessible, include maintenance, a linen service, meal plan and transportation throughout Costa del Este. Specific cultural and golf outings will be offered along with exercise classes and seminars. Retail shops and restaurants are only steps away.
Amenities offered at Generation Tower include an infinity pool, Sky Bar, theater, gymnasium, jogging track, business center, social areas and a yoga studio. The residential tower will also function as a Condo Hotel with on-site property management. The units are priced beginning at $200,000, include the option of developer financing, without a pre-approval process and projected rental income of $1,400 a month. Down payments start at $60,000 for both the Independent Senior Living units and the Condo Hotel residences.
Keeping Panama’s Economy Strong
It is fun having these kinds of residential opportunities to offer individuals and investors who stay attuned to what is happening in the global markets worldwide. The Bank of America report noted “the Panamanian economy has been diversifying, with the entry into operations of Cobre Panama (large copper mine). Notably, last year mining contributed one full percentage point to GDP growth, from virtually zero in the previous years. We see this diversification of the country’s production matrix as very positive. Looking forward, we believe Panama will emerge with greater capacity to recover more quickly the production that was lost in 2020.”