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Your questions: Central American healthcare, Swiss banking, Panama foreclosures, Belize

January 29, 2010
Boquete, Panama

It’s a beautiful day in the Panamanian highlands, and I’m taking the opportunity to explore the countryside for undervalued land deals.  The Chiriqui province of Panama, where I am now, is sort of like the Panamanian version of Texas– fiercely independent and proud… locals consider themselves to be citizens of Chiriqui first, and Panamanians second.

As we’ve discussed in previous letters, I have been sincerely exploring the idea of developing a subscribers-only sustainable community, and Chiriqui is on the short list of locations.

On that note, I really want to thank you for providing me with your feedback about the community concept; over 650 people have filled out the survey so far, and I’m convinced that the idea has tremendous merit. More to follow on that in the future– for now, let me get to some subscriber questions:

From Denise Dale: “Simon- I enjoyed your comparison between Panama & Costa Rica, but I felt you missed an important comparison:  the medical aspects of each country.  I, being 73 years young, would appreciate some statement regarding the medical facilities and medical personnel.  I do intend to move to Central America this year and may even renounce my current citizenship.”

Denise- Thanks for reminding us of such an important lesson… regardless of your situation in life– young, old, rich, poor, employed, jobless, etc., you can always expand your opportunities by looking overseas. Many US citizens are finding that the cost of healthcare is absolutely crippling, and you are sharp to consider opportunities south of the border.

In my opinion, *western* medical facilities and staff in Panama are unquestionably of higher quality than in Costa Rica– the hospitals are better equipped, the doctors are often US trained, and the costs are comparable to Costa Rica.

In regards to holistic and eastern medical practice, however, I would say that Costa Rica still edges out Panama, but this is a sector that is gaining quite quickly in Panama and I would estimate that within a few years it will surpass Costa Rica in its quality and breadth of service.

From Louis: “Simon, I noticed that the Swiss have halted their deal with U.S. authorities to turn over Americans with secret UBS bank accounts.  What do you think? Is this just a battle or has the whole war ended?”

Unfortunately, neither. It’s just a speed bump in the worldwide campaign to end financial privacy. I want to be very clear about this– you cannot rely on privacy with any financial institution in any jurisdiction, period… and do not expect that piling a complex array of bearer share companies and trustees will make the situation any better. It won’t.

Governments can obtain access to your bank and brokerage accounts, they will find out who the beneficial owners are, and they will absolutely demand their ‘share’ of the income. Rest assured, penalties from noncompliance will be severe.

The reasons for going offshore have nothing to do with hiding money, but rather planting multiple flags– diversifying away from a single jurisdiction. If you are a US citizen with all of your money in the US, you will really wish that you had moved some money to a foreign bank account once they impose capital controls.

If you’re tired of giving your hard-earned money to corrupt bureaucrats, and your goal is to cut down on taxes, there are much, much better ways of doing that without taking the risk of ending up in prison.

Use foreign bank accounts for what they’re best purpose: protecting your capital from regulatory, litigation, and administrative risks. If you want to cut down on your taxes and achieve a lucrative deferral benefit, consider what I have discussed in the past about proper offshore and retirement structuring. I will continue to revisit these topics in the future.

Clayton asks: “Hello Simon, I am a new member. Are there any articles on buying foreclosed property in Panama?”

No, I have not yet specifically addressed foreclosures in Panama.  Like most things in life, to get access to foreclosure deals in Panama you have to know someone, usually a senior bank executive. There are a handful of real estate agents in Panama that tout foreclosed condos, but most of the time the deals have been stepped on and marked up so many times they do not even resemble a bargain.

On that note, one of the troubles about Panama’s real estate market is the lack of integrity and competence among the majority of agents. I’ve been operating down here for about 7 years and have burned through hundreds who have shown me their true colors. That’s why I put together the Panama Black Paper, which provides a short list of agents here that I actually trust.

Next week I plan on organizing a call with one of my trusted Panamanian real estate contacts who will discuss the state of the market, foreclosures, and some of the best deals he is working on.   Initially, I will make the call available exclusively to everyone who purchased a Black Paper, and then to the rest of the community.  Stay tuned for more details about that.

Lastly, Ken asks: “Simon, what are your thoughts on Belize?”

I wouldn’t go there. It’s pretty, but so are hundreds of other locations. Belize lacks the freedom that I’m looking for, and one needn’t look any further than their recent ‘amendment #6’ to the Belize Firearms Act.

This recent change to the law is about as draconian as it gets, threatening imprisonment without bail or trial for three months (and up to 5-years) just for being caught in the vicinity of an unregistered handgun. I won’t set foot in the country as long as this law is on the books.

That’s it for today, and I hope you have a great weekend.

Our goal is simple: To help you achieve personal liberty and financial prosperity no matter what happens.

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About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Captain

    Simon, do any ex-US real estate markets employ US-style mortgages? My understanding is that buying property anywhere else in the world involves putting down most or all of the purchase price in cash. Are you familiar with the financing options in other, desirable locales?


  • LatinLife

    Better stay away from The Chiriqui province if you want healthy food from your farm Simon.

    The whole bloody province has been terminaly tained with chemical pesticides.

    The water, soil air and soil has been effected.

    The US has banned food imports from that province for the MASSIVE amounts/kinds of pesticides they use.

    Heres a report from The Smithsonian in Panama. I know 3 scientists who work out of the Amador Unit.


    Hopes this helps.

    Also, it comes down the mountain from…

    Cero Punta, the toxic capital of Panama

    It is unfortunate that one of the most beautiful areas of the country is also one of the most toxic according to this article in La Prensa. ” “In Cerro Punta people bathe daily with pesticides, exposing themselves to risk predictions reserved” he said. Carranza concerns that when people use agrochemicals is exposed to large doses of these hazardous substances.”

    • http://rauschenbach.us Möpsi

      Interesting PDF about pesticides, but not the best material I have ever read. That article made a sensational reference to the US dumping agent orange in Panama in the 60’s and 70’s, but the half-life of that stuff is either 7 or 10 years, depending on what you read, and the soil eliminates it in a few decades, and people can eliminate it from their body in a year, the slow way (WITHOUT fasting), which means that particular problem is ancient history, and sort of off-topic. Even DDT has a half-life of around 14 days, if I recall, so the 40-year old empty cardboard drum I once had to handle was just as sterile as rocks on a virgin beach.

      Aside from the stirring up of your emotions, the main issue continues to be whether you are going to live next to ACTIVE spraying of poisons of any kind, including chlorine or fluoride gas coming out of your garden hose as you water your front lawn. This is a big issue everywhere, not just in Panama, but especially in the USA.

      Mixing a residential situation with agriculture can seem quaint, but whether the situation is going to be a rational one totally depends on whether the Ag is going to be some more modern insanity versus something a little more Roman and organic. Fortunately, in these circles, we have a few health nuts in our midst. But, even so, the vineyards in your backyard at La Est. de Cafayate are going to get sprayed, so this nutty world is still a “buyer beware” affair, and extensive due diligence will be in order.

    • http://rauschenbach.us Möpsi

      In case anyone is wondering what form of agriculture I could get behind, and what is the most “residential friendly”, I would surely say: grass farming. It is the most ancient method of farming, and produces the highest concentration of wealth production per area, since every square meter is capturing sunlight, compared with chemical monoculture farming which captures/produces only a mere fraction of the solar wealth, and causes all kinds of other problems, and is also ugly in comparison.

      A pastoral situation is the highest-possible yield, and can be absolutely chemical-free, with no money wasted on any chemical of any sort. Such a pasture could involve cows, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, hogs, or ducks, which could/should all be managed 100% odor-free. Such a situation could also involve horses, except that horses are an expense rather than an income, except on the rarest of occasions.

      Orchards are the perfect complement to pasture, because if you have fresh air, clean water, and clean fresh mineralized fruit for breakfast, then in my book you are wealthier than Bill Gates, who does not even have those things.

      Further reading: http://www.stockmangrassfarmer.net/, http://www.polyfacefarms.com/.

  • Betty Gray

    I am planning to do hydroponics and have several friends who have large hydroponic operations. In fact, greenhouses are desirable because of the large amount of rain. We do have passion fruit planted in the ground many miles from Cerro Punta and we have a good well with pure water that we irrigate from during the dry season. During
    rainy season, there is so much rain that we do not need to irrigate.
    I do not think the rain is contaminated.

    It is true that Cerro Punta uses too much pesticide, but it does not contaminate the whole province. There is a lot of organic farming.

    The rivers are monitored for agricultural chemicals and waste. Some in Chirichi are quite healthy.

  • Ted

    Not all the food in Chiriqui is polluted. There are many organic and hydroponic farms. I live in Boquete and buy organic produce at the market every week.

  • Lee

    Speaking of organics, I bought that guidebook you recommended a while back to restaurants in the States serving grassfed & organic food. Really useful.


    Hope you do the sustainable property thing in Panama, Simon. Going to go fill out the survey now.

  • http://www.lenain.eu Philippe

    Hi Simon,
    Being a “multi-flag” pionneer and ahving sterred out of taxes since 1991 (though on far Eastern shores), I greatly enjoy reading your daily newsletter. One thing though I find troubling is your note on “firearms Laws”, be it in Belize or elsewhere: what would be wrong for any Government to legislate strong laws about gun ownership? What does free gun owners walking around you add up to your sense of freedom? I have lived 12 years in Cambodia (1993 to 2004) and THE one most spectacular improvement regarding personal well-being (and freedom…) was progressive gun control.
    Keep on rallying good news and advice about freedom and well-being!

    • John

      To Phillipe
      Did you read Maxwell Hill’s comment on Jan. 21
      under Simon’s “Gun Laws in Panama”? (http://www.sovereignman.com/expat/gun-laws-in-panama/)

      • http://rauschenbach.us Möpsi

        John, regarding the quote called “A LITTLE GUN HISTORY”, and setting the gun control issue completely aside (to each his own), that list of massacres supposedly due to gun control is more than a little skewed. There are lots of factors that go into wars and massacres and famines, more than people just “voluntarily becoming helpless”, as the quote goes. Gun control can be argued for or against, on its strengths and weaknesses, in endless forums. But I do not give much credit to the fear mongering in those so-called statistics. My personal opinion is that they are hugely exaggerated, and lay claim to things that also happened for LOTS of other reasons, and to an arguable extent. A person who believes in Karma can accept this more easily — that the mere presence or absence of a gun is of less consequence than the other pressures on any given situation. A gun in everyone’s hand could not stop a volcano, and a volcano is the kind of magnitude of pressure I see in the USA situation, pushing towards restoring some sort of balance.

        That quote also says “there is no possible victory in defense”, and unless I am mistaken, that quote is asserting that people who can keep the peace are the losers! That quote also says “the purpose of fighting is to win”, even though the perpetual wars of the last century prove otherwise — that wars are chiefly for profit, and the more endless and unwinnable the war, the better, such as a war on terror, which has increased terror; or a war on drugs, which has increased drugs.

        Such writings are designed to get people worked up, and I’m sure it achieves that end. I dismiss any form of fear-peddling out of hand, because it disengages people from the rational argument. Furthermore, fear is a counter-productive mental state, and its invocation is usually designed to serve the very person that you would want want to protect your freedoms from.

  • Richard R DeSipio

    Simon: Always appreciate your daily input. Heading for Belize just the same. The law seems “draconian” to a point, however, not being a gun toter, that is something I can accept for now. Aside from the gun aspect, I and many others would be interested your comments on Belize. However, just like everything in life, first hand expierence and boots on the ground give you a better “feel” for a country, it’s people and how you maybe able to assimilate in that county and culture. Thanks

  • Sieg Pedde

    Someone forwarded the sovereignman.com website to me and I am thrilled to find such an interesting trove of information and a pirited debate with readers. As a developer in Chiriqui, I can attest to the beauty of the place and the friendly nature of the people. As an individual who is a bit apprehensive about what life in the United States and Canada will be like in a few years, finding places like Panama that are friendly and stable becomes pretty important.

  • HH Scott

    Simon, some time ago I heard very good things about the Netherlands. It was said to be a generally convenient, friendly and efficient place with a wonderful airport (Amsterdam) and lots of English speaking people. What about banking and storage facilities in the Netherlands? Do you have any thoughts about the Netherlands you can share?

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