After 10 years of virtually limitless and highly visible power, Gen. Omar Torrijos has all but vanished from sight. Since his surprise decision last October to step down as Panama's head of state, ne has made no public appearances and granted no interviews.

A group of technocrats whose collective characteristic seems to be a lack of personality has replaced the free-wheeling, one-man government Torrijos ran from livingroom arm-chairs and hammocks strung in beachside retreats and jungle villages.

This is not to say that Torrijos, 49, no longer runs things in Panama. His hand-picked surrogate, President Aristides Royo, 38, is said to consult with "the general" on an almost daily basis by telephone, and visits him frequently.

"Torrijos appointed the person who knew him the best," a leading businessman said. "Royo would never do anything against what Torrijos thinks, and when he gets in a situation where he's in doubt as to what the general thinks, he checks with him."

Torrijos is still considered to be in direct control of much of the country's foreign policy, particularly decisions concerning Panama's position on the current political crisis in nearby Nicaragua.

But indications are that Torrijos, who still heads the Panamanian National Guard, has removed himself from day-to-day domestic issues. Of particular importance, informed sources say, it is the technocrats who are formulating policy designed to strengthen Panama's anemic economy.

Because Panama's economy is tied closely to the dollar, which it used as its own paper currency, an investment boom expected following U.S. ratification of the Panama Canal treaties last spring was slowed by dollar fluctuations.

At the same time, widespread strikes, including work stoppages by teachers and medical personnel demanding large pay increases, greeted the new Royo administration almost immediately.

While most sectors are now back at work following token increases, last year's strike are viewed as only a minor prelude to anticipated labor problems this year. Jan. 1 mrked the expiration of a two-year government freeze on raises and a prohibition on collective bargaining. Almost 250 labor contracts will come up for renegotiation with the government and in the private sector in the first six months of 1979.

Royo has worked hard toward developing private sector confidence in his government following initial expectations that he would take the country further to the left. Despite his long tenure at a leading corporation lawyer before beconing Torrijos' deucation minister, Royo was better known by opposition Panamanian conservatives as a member of what they described as a "Communist clique."

Yet, the first few months of his a administration have shown a decidedly pro-business slant. "I don't care what Royo says," the business leader said, "it's what he does that counts. His government have given every positive sign to business."

The Royo administration is changing approximately 22 housing laws that froze rents, made evictions virtually impossible and, according to the businessman, long ago put Panama's housing industry in a deep freeze.

Royo has reactivated long-dormant business consulting groups, and staffed an advisory businessman's commission with leading industrialists. The government has also given strong indications that it intends ot get out of the business world itself with the sale of a major state sugar mill and at least four government-run hotels.

In an effort to build his own popular following and establish himself as an independent leader, Royo has toured the country in appearances that Torrijos used to call "domestic patrols" designed to consult with the population.

Royo was also favorably received in a recent appearance before U.S. residents in the soon-to-be-dissolved Panama Canal Zone, a region where Torrijos long feared to tread.

In addition to changes in economic policy, the government has under-gone, at least on the surface, a political metamorphosis of major proportions.

In 1968, Torrijos' new "revolutionary" government pledged to wipe out the "evil" of political parties. They were declared illegal, their leaders and other government opponents were sent into exile, and the press was expropriated.

By 1972, a newly written constitution had eliminated the U.S.-modelled Congress and established a 505-member legislative body with little substantive power and membership, in effect, selected by the government. From that body, a legislative council was selected to formulate laws wanted by the executive.

Today, the exiles have come home and while the press is still over-whelmingly pro-government, leading opposition parties say they are waiting only to collect enough funds to open their own newspapers.

The legal status of the parties themselves was renewed in October, at the time of Royo's inauguration. In 1980 legislative elections, at least one-third of the 30-member legislative council are to be directly elected from party candidates. Direct election of the president, previously chosen by the 505 representatives, is scheduled for 1984.

The most curious political development, however, has been the government's formation of its own Democratic Revolutionary Party. The party is headed by former vice president Gerardo Gonzalez and former foreign minister Nicolas Gonzalez Revilla.

The Panamenista Party, whose president, Arnulfo Arias, was overthrown by Torrijos in 1968, says it has not yet decided whether it will collect the 30,000 signatures the new electoral law has set for participation in the 1980 legislative elections.

Political gossips speculate on whether Torrijos has stepped down for good or has future plans to run for president.

Political gossips speculate on whether Torrijos has stepped down for good or has future plans to run for president.

One informed political observer noted that "Torrijos now wants to write history," and one of the most stunning ways to do so would be to defeat the enormously popular Arias, who recently returned from 10 years of exile in Miami to be met by enormous crowds.

"To Torrijos," the observer predicted, "the ultimate historical test is whether he's more popular than Arnulfo Arias, and neither of them will wait until 1984."