Areas of uncertainty.
These items and services are not such a straight comparison.
Education. Elite international private schools are more economical in Panama. No doubt. The savings are thousands of dollars yearly.
On the other hand, not everyone can afford to send their children to a top private school. So, parents seeking affordable high quality education alternatives, must turn elsewhere. Reputable public schools (free) in North American and Europe are numerous. In Panama, there are few.
As a result, parents in Panama in search of quality education are forced to fork up thousands of dollars yearly in order to send their children to adequate private schools. Few, if not any, quality public schools exist. While, in North America and Europe often times parents can have the option to send their often children to quality public schools.
Bottomline: Top tier education in Panama is more economically. But, otherwise quality education is not.
**** A number of dismal public schools in North America and Europe exist too.
Health Care. Health Care coverage and related services are undoubtedly cheaper in Panama. Hospital stays, doctor visits, and assist living, just to name a few.
However, there are many American seniors living in Panama. Seniors over 65 qualify for Medicare. Medicare is free. (Health Care in Canada and most of Europe is free for all ages.). US Medicare doesn’t cover in Panama. Thus, American seniors pay out-of-pocket for health care services while in Panama.
A common solution for American retirees living in Panama, is to only be covered by a catastrophic plan. They pay for doctor visits and living assistance out-of-pocket.
Bottomline: Panama wins in a straight comparison of Health Care cost. Yet, government programs and services in North American countries, at times, reduce people’s Health Care cost.
Credit Cards. Credit Cards are not yet as ubiquitous in Panama as in North American and Europe (“Yet” being the keyword). Companies tend not to have as high of rates for their customers. In the States, it seems, as long as you have a heartbeat, you’ll qualify for sometime of card.
Widespread adaptation of the plastic in North American and Europe has made credit card companies compete. Some even offering lavish rewards program. Ask the number of people who use their points for frequent flier miles.
Bottomline: The rates are higher in North America and Europe. But, the rewards programs are more generous, too.
States: Tennessee 9.4% (high), Pennsylvania 6.4% (low)
Panama: 7% (as of July 2010)