Oct 17, 2013

Changes at the Border, et.al

Recently heard it was getting more difficult to make the customary border runs to renew visas in Panama. On October 13th I took a drive out to Paso Canoas to find out for myself. Spoke with one of the exit border agents, who confirmed that they had received a mandate from on high requiring them to insist on a 24 hour out-of-country stay before allowing a visa renewal and return entrance into Panama. I did a little shopping, researched a few hotels,  and returned home.  

Today news was circulating that Chase and JP Morgan have both restricted money transfers out of the US, and have limited their daily withdrawal amounts for cash.  Looks like things are going to be getting tougher for expats all around, and perhaps could affect the decisions of people considering a move out of the US.  If I had to do it all over again, given the current social and financial climate both here and in the US, I'd probably not make the move. 

In the 5 years I've been in Panama, I've seen the sales tax raised to levels comparable to those in California---even exceeding it in certain product areas, such as cell phones and telecommunications.  I've seen the cost of domestic goods almost double.  My utilities bill has quadrupled  Granted, there's been increased usage living here year around, but still, I've seen a 50% cost increase for equal or decreased usage in just this last year.   The price of several food items has increased by 75% or more.

Crime has also been on the rise, especially in Panama City. I have 3 personal acquaintances who have either themselves or their family members been victims of physical violence and assault in the commission of robberies.  Two of the men were severely beaten, even after having complied with  the wishes of the assailants. 

All in all, the reasons I came down here in the first place---for the opportunity to live in a tropical country and enjoy a different culture and lifestyle---haven't changed. But the economic advantages I once hoped to enjoy have significantly narrowed. Many of the people who moved here around the same time I did,  have moved on---either to other countries,  or returned to their points of origin. Many others are contemplating relocation. I find myself once again vacillating.  Will I stay or will I go? This seems to be a recurrent theme at this point in my life....