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Panama: Monetary Policy
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Role of Government > Monetary Policy

MONETARY POLICY


Panama's monetary system is unique. United States dollar notes serve as the paper currency and are legal tender in Panama. The local currency is the balboa, which, since its creation in 1904, has remained tied to and equal to the United States dollar. Panama issues only coins corresponding in size and metallic content to United States coins. No foreign exchange restrictions existed in Panama in the mid-1980s.

With no need for a bank to issue and protect the paper currency, Panama did not have a central bank. The National Bank of Panama (Banco Nacional de Panamá -- BNP), a state-owned commercial bank, was responsible for nonmonetary aspects of central banking. The BNP was assisted by the National Banking Commission, which was created along with the country's International Financial Center, and was charged with licensing and supervising banks. In 1985 the level of M1 (currency and demand deposits) was US$410 million, while M2 (M1 plus time deposits) was US$1.95 billion.

In a sense, Panama could not have a monetary policy, because it lacked the instruments to implement such a policy, such as money creation and exchange-rate manipulation. In effect, Panama's money supply was determined by the balance of payments, by movements in interest rates, and by the United States, which controlled the number of dollars available for the country's international transactions.

Panama's monetary system has benefited the country in numerous ways. The country has enjoyed almost automatic monetary and price stability. International transactions have been facilitated by the use of the United States dollar. No short-term transfer problems are associated with the balance of payments. The foreign exchange constraint felt by most developing countries has been obviated by the dollars circulating in the economy and the ability to borrow.

In the late 1980s, the financial system consisted largely of banking. Panamanian businesses relied relatively little on public stock or bond issues. No formal stock exchange existed; supervised, independent brokers handled the limited trading in regulated financial certificates, stocks, and bonds. In addition, some insurance companies, savings and loan associations, and unregulated consumer-finance companies were formed. The country's social security fund invested in government bonds and various development projects.

Data as of December 1987




Last Updated: December 1987


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Panama was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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