This is coming from Panama – Coronado on the Pacific Coast to be exact. We are here for 12 days. An interesting country – some very lovely spots and the people have been universally friendly so far! Lots of expats here – both Canadian and US. They have their own currency, the Balboa – but it is on a par with US currency so both are used interchangeably. Their driving habits rival those of Montreal – glad we are using professional, private transportation.
The expanded canal is the most amazing feat of construction in the world and they are justifiably proud of the work in progress and the eventual result. Apparently will add $6 Billion (over operating costs) to the Panamanian economy each year!
With that said, there are many deficiencies in services that we take for granted. Some of the more interesting gaps is there is no proper ambulance service, and they do not have any paramedics! You phone a private Ambulance, they locate a doctor who is available and then they come and get you – wait times up to 6 hours – yes hours – all are privately operated – cost for pickup ranges from about $300 to over $600 – CASH only – and they stop at a cash machine for you! No postal system as we know it. There is a strange courier/package system that some people use where mail is sent to PO Boxes in Miami, Florida – and sent here by air freight. No bills are mailed – everything is a cash transaction from cell phones to satellite TV to gas – cheap – $.898 per litre for diesel and about $.92 for regular gas.
Lots of stores but overall quality is “dollar-store” level – including groceries and fresh veggies and meat. Fruit is great quality as is the local seafood – the prawns and bass in particular. Meat is a huge disappointment to someone used to high quality everything. Chicken and turkeys are good – the rest – ?????
Residential water service is an interesting mix of on and off. All residences have water storage – where we are staying – 700 gallons (US) – which lasts about 2 days for the 4 of us here – wasteful aren’t we!
So what is the point of all this? First, Canadians are blessed with unbelievable wealth (and I am not talking money) and public and private services that have no equivalents here (or in many other parts of the world of course); second we don’t acknowledge that wealth even to ourselves; third as a group, Canadians have developed a very unhealthy sense of entitlement without appreciation for that which we have and fourth, we have universal access to medical and a social welfare/social services net (no, it is NOT perfect) – Panamanians have none of these.
Now they do have some advantages: there is no personal income tax; property taxes are very low; they have some low-quality grocery products that are price-frozen for low-income people; and the climate is very pleasant, with the exception of the high humidity.
My blogging colleague, Becky Wong, CFP, has done a few excellent blogs on the topic of entitlement in Canada. I am adding another voice to her message. A great many Canadians do not seem to be grateful for all that we have – most clamour for more and more but loathe paying the cost – let the Governments (all 3, or 4 levels if you include the new First Nations bureaucracy).
The ONLY source of Government and First Nations’ revenue is you and I – the people. Let us not forget this key point.
Corporations have never paid any taxes – they are merely conduits down to the people and this has nothing to do with politics either – they are simply hired tax collectors – another branch of Government taxation. This concept applies to property taxes and every other type of taxation. The idea is to hide these extra taxes from us poor taxpayers – not citizens either as Daphne Bramham of the Vancouver Sun tried to make out. Hi Daphne – many non-citizens pay more taxes than many citizens and there are more citizens who do not pay taxes than taxpayers – time to come in from the cold!
Rather than demanding or expecting more or thinking we are entitled to more, let’s think about GIVING more for a change – to paraphrase John F. Kennedy: “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Shouldn’t we be a country of givers rather than takers?