Despite the myriad of budget overruns and problems encountered during the construction of the US$5.4 billion Panama Canal Expansion, many hope the expanded canal will increase annual Canal revenue from US$2.6 billion to as much as US$16 billion (Fortune). This is especially true since Cosco Shipping Panama paid US$575,545 for its inaugural trip and Hong Kong-flagged MOL Benefactor (10,000 tea) paid US$829,468 — a US$1 million fee seems likely given the canal can handle higher capacity vessels. However, not only did the Expansion open two years late, it was inaugurated (26 June 2016) during a time when global commodities and shipping have taken a hit. Crawling global trade combined with potential safety and construction issues with the canal put the Canal’s revenue rates at risk.
On 5 May 2015, Vice President and Foreign Relations Minister Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC. In her remarks, Saint Malo emphasized two major themes: human development and transparency.
While she candidly acknowledged Panama’s history as an opaque and often corrupt steward of financial resources, she highlighted President Juan Carlos Varela’s determination to move quickly and decisively in a new direction. Regarding the so-called ‘Panama Papers,’ Saint Malo noted the publications referred to banks operating in 21 jurisdictions, none in Panama. She added that of the offshores revealed in the leak so far, 20 percent were registered in Panama, but 80 percent were registered elsewhere.