In the past decade, the country made significant progress in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction, against the trend of the recent financial crisis and global recession, with growth rates higher than those of any other Central American country. In the near future, despite forecasts of slowdown in public investment for new works, the completion of major infrastructural projects under way, such as the extension of the Panama Canal and some transport projects, could generate additional activity.

Significant events in the year

2015 witnessed the continuation of activities on the main existing project, relating to the execution of a system of locks as part of the extension of the Panama Canal. Works carried out in 2015 amounted to US$1,007 million.

Expansion of the Panama Canal

In July 2009, the Grupo Unidos por el Canal Consortium - a consortium formed, apart from Salini Impregilo, by Sacyr Vallehermoso (Spain), Jan de Nul (Belgium), and the Panamanian company Constructora Urbana (Cusa) - was awarded the tender.

The Contract entails the execution of a new system of locks as part of the project for the extension of the Panama Canal. The value of the bid was US$3.2 billion; following the approval of contractual variants, the current value amounts to US$5 billion.

The project is one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken, concerning the construction of two new sets of locks, one on the Atlantic side and one on the Pacific side.

It will allow commercial traffic through the canal to increase and to meet growth in the maritime transport market, which is characterized by a trend toward the construction of vessels (so called Post Panamax) three times as large and much heavier than those which can currently pass through the existing locks.

In 2015, civil works were essentially completed, with the exception of buildings, and the first technical tests were carried out on the 16 gates.

The percentage of completion as of December 31, 2015 was 94.5%.

2016 outlook

Substantial completion of the work is scheduled for the first half of 2016.