Panama (Listeni/ˈpænəmɑː/ pan-ə-mah ; Spanish: Panamá [panaˈma]), officially the Republic of Panama (Spanish: República de Panamá [reˈpuβlika ðe panaˈma]), is the southernmost country of Central America and the whole of North America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital is Panama City.
Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela, named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When Gran Colombia dissolved in 1831, Panama and Nueva Granada remained joined. Nueva Granada later became the Republic of Colombia. With the backing of the United States, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the Panama Canal to be built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the United States to Panama by the end of the 20th century.
Revenue from canal tolls represents today a significant portion of Panama's GDP. Panama has the second largest economy in Central America and it is also the fastest growing economy and the largest per capita consumer in Central America. In 2013, Panama ranked 5th among Latin American countries in terms of the Human Development Index, and 59th in the world. Since 2010, Panama remains as the second most competitive economy in Latin America according to the Global Competitiveness Index from the World Economic Forum. Panama's jungle is home to an abundance of tropical plants, animals and birds – some of them to be found nowhere else in the world.
The balboa (sign: B/.; ISO 4217: PAB) is, along with the United States dollar, one of the official currencies of Panama. It is named in honor of the Spanish explorer / conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa. The balboa is subdivided into 100 centésimos.
In 1904, silver coins in denominations of 2½, 5, 10, 25, and 50 centésimos were introduced. These coins were weight-related to the 25 gram 50 centésimos, making the 2½ centésimos coin 1¼ grams. Its small size led to it being known as the "Panama pill" or the "Panama pearl". In 1907, copper-nickel ½ and 2½ centésimos coins were introduced, followed by copper-nickel 5 centésimos in 1929. In 1930, coins for 1⁄10, ¼, and ½ balboa were introduced, followed by 1 balboa in 1931, which were identical in size and composition to the corresponding U.S. coins. In 1935, bronze 1 centésimo coins were introduced, with 1¼ centésimo pieces minted in 1940.
In 1966, Panama followed the U.S. in changing the composition of their silver coins, with copper-nickel clad 1⁄10 and ¼ balboa, and .400 fineness ½ balboa. 1 balboa coins, at .900 fineness silver, were issued that year for the first time since 1947. In 1973, copper-nickel clad ½ balboa coins were introduced. 1973 also saw the revival of the 2½ centésimos coin, which had a size similar to that of the U.S. half dime, but these were discontinued two years later due to lack of popular demand. In 1983, 1 centésimo coins followed their U.S. counterpart by switching from copper to copper plated zinc. Further issues of the 1 balboa coins have been made since 1982 in copper-nickel without reducing the size.
Modern 1 and 5 centésimos and 1⁄10, ¼, and ½ balboa coins are the same weight, dimensions, and composition as the U.S. cent, nickel, dime, quarter, and half-dollar, respectively. In 2011, new 1 and 2 balboa bi-metal coins were issued
In addition to the circulating issues, commemorative coins with denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200, and 500 balboas have been issued.