Panama: skyscrapers and secrecy
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Panama's biggest banks Capital($m) Capital/asset (%) Assets ($m) Bladex 543 10.9 4980 Banco Nacional de Panama 506 14.5 3493 Banco General 143 8.8 1621 Banco del Istmo 121 9.1 1335 Pribanco 98 8.8 1118 Banco Continental 71 9.3 765 Caja de Ahorros 96 14.7 655 Bancomer 39 7.3 532 Bipan 39 10.1 387 Source: Superintendencia de Bancos Geography throws Panama in with Central America, but the country is different from its northern neighbours in several important respects (and technically speaking does not form part of Central America). First, it is a large offshore financial centre where banks can set up business easily, pay no income tax and are able to maintain client confidentiality. This means that although the suburbs of Panama City look little different from those of any Central American city with their low-rise housing, narrow streets and former US school buses painted with vivid designs, the centre of the city is packed with skyscrapers.

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