Panama signs $2.3 billion in loans for canal work

The Panama Canal Authority has signed a group of loans totaling $2.3 billion to finance the expansion of the waterway. Panamanian President Martin Torrijos called the loans a sign of confidence in the management of the canal, which was handed over by the United States in 1999. Lenders include the International Finance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Andean, European and Japanese development banks. Canal administration head Alberto Aleman signed the loan contracts at a ceremony on Tuesday. The canal authority needs $5.3 billion to widen the 80-kilometer canal by 2014. It will fund the rest from ship tolls. The canal, opened in 1914, is too narrow for today's larger freighters.