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Costa Rica: Economy#

Prior to the global economic crisis, Costa Rica enjoyed stable economic growth. The economy contracted in 2009 but resumed growth at about 4% per year in 2010-15. While traditional agricultural exports of bananas, coffee, sugar, and beef are still the backbone of commodity export trade, a variety of industrial and specialized agricultural products have broadened export trade in recent years. High value-added goods and services, including medical devices, have further bolstered exports. Tourism continues to bring in foreign exchange, as Costa Rica's impressive biodiversity makes it a key destination for ecotourism.

Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and relatively high education levels, as well as the incentives offered in the free-trade zones; Costa Rica has attracted one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment per capita in Latin America. The US-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) entered into force on 1 January 2009 after significant delays within the Costa Rican legislature. CAFTA-DR has increased foreign direct investment in key sectors of the economy, including the insurance and telecommunications sectors. However, poor infrastructure, high energy costs, bureaucracy, weak investor protection, and legal uncertainty due to the difficulty of enforcing contracts and overlapping and at times conflicting responsibilities between agencies, remain impediments to greater competitiveness.

Costa Rica’s economy also faces challenges due to a rising fiscal deficit, rising public debt, and relatively low levels of domestic revenue. Poverty has remained around 20-25% for nearly 20 years, and the strong social safety net that had been put into place by the government has eroded due to increased financial constraints on government expenditures. Unlike the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is not highly dependent on remittances, which in 2014 represented 1% of GDP. Immigration from Nicaragua has increasingly become a concern for the government. The estimated 300,000-500,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica, legally and illegally, are an important source of mostly unskilled labor, but also place heavy demands on the social welfare system.

Economic Facts#

GDP (purchasing power parity)$79.26 billion (2016 est.)
$76.02 billion (2015 est.)
$73.33 billion (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$57.69 billion (2015 est.)
GDP - real growth rate4.3% (2016 est.)
3.7% (2015 est.)
3% (2014 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$16,100 (2016 est.)
$15,700 (2015 est.)
$15,300 (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars
Gross national saving14.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
15.1% of GDP (2015 est.)
14.9% of GDP (2014 est.)
GDP - composition, by end usehousehold consumption: 62.3%
government consumption: 16.9%
investment in fixed capital: 22.2%
investment in inventories: 0.5%
exports of goods and services: 29.6%
imports of goods and services: -31.5% (2016 est.)
GDP - composition, by sector of originagriculture: 5.5%
industry: 18.6%
services: 75.9% (2016 est.)
Agriculture - productsbananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef, poultry, dairy; timber
Industriesmedical equipment, food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products
Industrial production growth rate4% (2016 est.)
Labor force2.295 million
note: official estimate; excludes Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica (2016 est.)
Labor force - by occupationagriculture: 14%
industry: 22%
services: 64% (2006 est.)
Unemployment rate9.3% (2016 est.)
9.4% (2015 est.)
Population below poverty line24.8% (2011 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage sharelowest 10%: 1.2%
highest 10%: 39.5% (2009 est.)
Distribution of family income - Gini index50.3 (2009)
45.9 (1997)
Budgetrevenues: $8.115 billion
expenditures: $11.31 billion (2016 est.)
Taxes and other revenues14.1% of GDP (2016 est.)
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)-5.5% of GDP (2016 est.)
Public debt62.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
60.2% of GDP (2015 est.)
Fiscal yearcalendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices)0.3% (2016 est.)
0.8% (2015 est.)
Central bank discount rate21.5% (31 December 2010)
23% (31 December 2009)
Commercial bank prime lending rate14.5% (31 December 2016 est.)
14.24% (31 December 2015 est.)
Stock of narrow money$5.946 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$5.273 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
Stock of broad money$21.55 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
$18 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
Stock of domestic credit$35.8 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$30.53 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares$2.015 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
$1.443 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$1.445 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
Current account balance-$2.57 billion (2016 est.)
-$2.093 billion (2015 est.)
Exports$9.824 billion (2016 est.)
$9.503 billion (2015 est.)
Exports - commoditiesbananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar; beef; seafood; electronic components, medical equipment
Exports - partnersUS 33.6%, China 6.2%, Mexico 4.6%, Nicaragua 4.3%, Netherlands 4.2%, Guatemala 4% (2015)
Imports$14.76 billion (2016 est.)
$14.38 billion (2015 est.)
Imports - commoditiesraw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum, construction materials
Imports - partnersUS 45.3%, China 9.8%, Mexico 7.1% (2015)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$7.96 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$7.834 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
Debt - external$24.91 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$23.18 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$31.86 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$28.75 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$3.354 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$3.154 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
Exchange ratesCosta Rican colones (CRC) per US dollar -
543.4 (2016 est.)
534.57 (2015 est.)
534.57 (2014 est.)
538.32 (2013 est.)
502.9 (2012 est.)