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Panama’s Colón City Renaissance. The province of Colón on the Atlantic coast of Panama is going through a revival. Juan Carlos Varela’s government has implemented ambitious plans to boost its economy by creating a new Freeport, sanctioning legislation to jump-start the Free Zone and investing around $600 million in the renovation of Colón City.
Colón City Integral Renovation Plan has the following main objectives: to promote economic growth and public investment; to boost the logistic maritime and air transport services and to develop the maritime-port city concept; to design a social plan and build housing for the poorest sector of society.
The Colón Urban Renovation is being carried out by the Nuevo Colón Consortium (formed by Odebrecht Engineering and CUSA) and will build 5,000 apartments of which 1,000 will be especially adapted for people with disabilities and the elderly. This new part of the city will be located in Altos de los Lagos, Cristobal, and will have a seven hectare marine boulevard, sports fields, parking, new green areas, children’s playgrounds, bicycle paths and educational and medical centers among its facilities.
The Colón Free Zone has experienced a series of setbacks due to problems with its principal markets: Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil. The government is trying to revive the ailing free zone and for that reason Law 8 of 2016 was sanctioned. The zone was reorganized and now is an autonomous state institution whose main directive is to exercise private custody, exploitation, and administration of the areas of Free International Trade, as well as the real estate located in these areas to achieve greater investment to benefit Panama as a country.
The amended law aims to boost the commercial, economic and touristic life of the Atlantic area, with additional benefits such as the taxes to be applied to businesses. In addition, with the new reform, a one-stop window has been created in order to receive and process immigration visas, work permits, as well as administrative and tax petitions, aiming to make the process more efficient and faster.
Multinationals such as the Chinese technological giant, Huawei, established a distribution center in the Colón Free Zone a year ago and other companies have shown interest in opening business there, attracted by the multimodal platform that it offers: roads, ports and airport.
Also, Colón City was given a Freeport status. In this territory products and merchandise can be imported without having to pay any taxes or Customs duties. The Free Zone will sell in bulk, while in the Free Port tourists can buy retail. Residents and Panamanians will also be able to, buy tax exempt merchandise totaling $2,000 in a year.
Colón 2000 port now is the homeport of Pullmantur, which will increase the number of cruise ships departing from this terminal. Copa Airlines has plans to utilize the Enrique A. Jimenez International Airport to bring passengers to Pullmantur vessels.
The construction of the third bridge over the Canal will give access to some of the most beautiful places of the province, where tourist potential has not been fully exploited. Hotels, hostels and restaurants are opening all over Costa Arriba, an area full of beaches, virgin tropical forests and history.
Colón is coming back to life, a fascinating place where you can shop, sunbathe, follow the Conquistadores steps or explore. The options are infinite, you only need to arrive.