Republic of Panama/Panama
The Republic of Panama (short form is Panama) was originally explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century. In 1821, Panama broke with Spain joined the Republic of Gran Colombia, a union of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. In 1830, this union dissolved and Panama remained part of Colombia. In 1903, Panama seceded from Colombia, signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and provided US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure known as the Panama Canal Zone. The Panama Canal was constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and completed in 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by 2000. The transfer was complete in 1999.
Panama’s current population hovers around 3,500,000 and while Spanish is the primary language, many Panamanians also speak English. Panama is governed by a constitutional democracy with Panama City being the capital. There are a total of nine provinces and three indigenous territories in Panama.
Panama's dollar-based economy relies on a well-developed services sector that accounts for more than three-quarters of GDP. Services include operating the Panama Canal, logistics, banking, the Colon Free Zone, insurance, container ports, flagship registry and tourism. Economic growth will be bolstered by the Panama Canal expansion project scheduled for completion in 2014. This expansion project will double the Canal's capacity, allowing ships currently too large to accommodate to traverse the canal. Panama also plans to construct a metro system in Panama City, and completion is also scheduled for 2104.