Climate change means different things to different countries, but for Panama it potentially opens up a strategic rival to its canal for maritime trade to travel instead by way of the northwest passage linking the Pacific and the Atlantic.

To forestall a competitive threat that could be decades away from taking significant trade away from the central American country, Panama has started investing more in its infrastructure and becoming more innovative.

The lodestar in its plans is another entrepôt nation beside valuable commercial sea lanes, Singapore, which has taken its gross domestic product from $25bn to more than $300bn since 1980 by refining for export raw materials using its port, investing in its population’s competitiveness and building a sovereign wealth fund to take stakes in the country’s businesses and others overseas.

Frank de Lima, Panama’s minister of economy and finance, said: "The Singapore model of building growth around our competitive…

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