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Is Panama City the new Dubai? Is Dubai the old Panama? The answer to both these questions is probably “shut the F up.” But there is a common and effervescent relationship between these two places and it goes beyond the fact that working class citizens in both cities consume large amounts of rice.
Panama might very well be the next Dubai.
In Dubai, a huge gale of development established what might be the most radical and consolidated growth of my lifetime. And so drawing comparisons with Panama’s recent growth isn’t all that unfair. As you might have guessed, the conundrum lies not in drawing the analogy but the light in which people like to consider it. And with this in mind, I conducted a small survey in the span of 45 minutes.
The subject: “Carlos” is of Indian descent, Panamanian nationality, and speaks perfect English, Spanish, and standard Hindi. He holds a medium level job with the Panamanian government, which requires him to travel with the Vice President on diplomatic missions as an attaché.
Answer: “Fuck dude, I think Panama is the next Dubai. I mean, look at our skyline and our towers. Our buildings are huge man. Next thing you know, we’ll be building one of those indoor ski slopes. I don’t know if you saw but we’re also getting one of those man-made archipelagos. We’re getting it dude! My dad just put down a deposit for a lot.”
The subject: Marvin, a taxi driver in Panama City who used to travel to Europe working in the beverage industry. He has never been to Dubai but says it is very modern and that women there must be hot with the “all those sheets covering their heads.”
Answer: “I would have to say yes, Panama is the Dubai of the Americas. It has all the international people and cultures. Dubai has oil and we have the Panama Canal. That and we almost had the tallest building in Latin America.” According to Marvin, Panama has better looking women and cheaper beer but it would benefit from some of those man made islands.
The subject: Mari, thirty-three, works in real estate and has actually been quoted in an international news publication stating excitedly, “Panama might very well be the next Dubai.”
Answer: Mari was the only one that seemed skeptical of my motives. At one point, she asked, “are you actually curious for my opinion or are you just going to be an asshole?” Mari may not be a development expert, but that doesn’t mean she’s not perceptive. “I can give you a number of reasons why Panama is the next Dubai. But mainly it is an international hub of commerce,” she said, which is true. I asked Mari if being compared to Dubai is a good thing or a bad thing and she said it was undoubtedly good. “Lofty goals,” she called it.
Whether Panama is the next Dubai is of far less importance than the aspiration with which it is compared. Do you think Dubai is a good model for Panama to follow?
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