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Country profile: Samoa
languages: Samoan, English
Head of state: Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi
Prime minister: Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi
The Independent State of Samoa
Samoa - Agriculture :
agriculture occupies 43% of the land area,
employs about 65% of the labor force, and makes
up about 50% of GDP. Most Samoans grow food
crops for home consumption and cash crops for
export. Village agriculture, in which the family
is the productive unit, involves the largest
areas of land, occupies the preponderance of the
labor force, and produces the major portion of
food and cash crops. Coconut products, cocoa,
taro, and bananas are produced for export, and
bananas, taro, and taamu are grown for local
sale. Village plantings are invariably mixed,
containing some or all of the following crops:
coconuts, cocoa, bananas, taro, taamu,
breadfruit, sugarcane, yams, manioc, and various
fruits. Plantation agriculture has been
controlled mainly by non-indigenous residents.
Exports of unprocessed copra have been largely
replaced by coconut oil, coconut cream, and
copra cake. Due to a decline in world prices,
coconut production fell to 95,000 tons in 1992.
In 1999, coconut production was estimated at
130,000 tons. Taro (coco yam) production in 1999
amounted to 37,000 tons. Taro production dropped
97% in 1993/94 due to leaf blight, and the
government is working on methods to control the
disease. Exports of cocoa have fallen in recent
years, thereby discouraging production. Since
1991, no production over 1,000 tons has been
reported. Banana exports fluctuate greatly from
year to year. Exports of agricultural products
in 2001 amounted to $5.1 million, while
agricultural imports totaled $17.7 million that
Lying at the crossroads of the North and South American continents and
the Atlantic and Pacific oceans Panama is of immense strategic importance.
This has made it a target for intervention by the US which in 1989 invaded Panama to depose a former ally Manuel Noriega and until 1999 controlled the Panama Canal.
Panama has the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon Basin and its jungle is home to an abundance of tropical plants animals and birds - some of them to be found nowhere else in the world.
However it is for a feat of engineering a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that Panama is famous. Every year hundreds of thousands of people make the eight-hour journey through the waterway and it generates a proportion of the country's GDP.
The Panama canal is a conduit for global cargo
Panama is widening the canal which is more than 90 years old and operating almost at full capacity to allow it to handle more and larger vessels. Work on the scheme which was approved in a referendum in 2006 began in September 2007.
Offshore finance manufacturing and a shipping registry generate jobs and tax revenues. Panama's services-based economy also benefits from the Colon free trade zone home to some 2000 companies and the second largest in the world. A free trade agreement with the US was reached in late 2006.
Bananas are the main cash crop but the trade has been hit by disease and is vulnerable to tariff changes in the European export market.
Panama faces the challenge of shaking off its reputation as a major transit point for US-bound drugs and illegal immigrants and as a haven for money-laundering.
It also needs to address social inequality. Elite families of European descent control most of Panama's wealth and power while about 40% of the population live below the poverty line.
The canal the natural attractions of its pristine forests and coastlines and a lively modern capital are fuelling a growing tourism industry.
Conservative supermarket magnate Ricardo Martinelli was elected to succeed Martin Torrijos with a landslide victory at the April 2009 presidential election.
Mr Martinelli's business credentials drew voters worried by slowing growth
Standing for the four-party opposition Alliance for Change Mr Martinelli gained 61% of vote against 37% for Balbina Herrera the candidate of the governing left-wing Democratic Revolutionary Party.
The result appeared to run counter a wider Latin American trend towards the left.
With Panama's recent rapid rate of economic growth slowing as a result of the global economic slump Mr Martinelli's business background attracted many voters fearful about job losses.
The previous government was blamed for rising crime and a surge in prices and Mr Martinelli tapped into feelings that little had been done to spread the wealth created in the economic boom to low-income Panamanians.
During the campaign he promised to promote free trade especially with the US Panama's biggest trading partner and to encourage foreign investment.
Among his proposals were a flat income tax of between 10% and 20% to draw investors to the country as well as an ambitious public works programme.
He also promised to forge ahead with a $5.25bn expansion plan for the Panama Canal the country's main engine for economic growth.
Mr Martinelli was born in 1952 in Panama City and has a degree from the University of Arkansas. Apart from owning the Super 99 supermarket chain he has interests in several other businesses including banks and agricultural firms.
He is the leader of the Democratic Change party founded in 1998 and unsuccessfully stood for president in 2004.