Costa Rica - the economy
Until the beginning of the 1930s, coffee and bananas accounted for 90 % of foreign currency earnings. Although Costa Rica is still strongly characterised by agriculture, the share held by industry and electronics production (microchips, textiles, medical and pharmaceutical products) has increased strongly. Tourism is now the number one foreign currency earner in the country, and employs around 600,000 persons directly and indirectly, accounting for around 9 % of GDP.
Costa Rica is extremely interesting for foreign investors thanks to the excellent prospects of the Costa Rican and Central American market and a stable economic policy. The development of direct investments shows that Costa Rica is in the process of transformation from a purely agricultural to an industrial society. This is reflected amongst other things in the major investments by international companies that hope to realize the advantages of the region such as proximity to the markets of Latin America and a well-qualified labour force.
Agricultural products of the generally export-focused market economy are still very important for employment and exports. The last few years have also seen a diversification of the range of products in the agricultural sector. Coffee and bananas have been joined above all by pineapples, plants for the international flower market, melons and sugar. Foreign investments are very high thanks to political stability and the high educational standard. Since 1998, Intel has been producing microchips in Costa Rica and in 2000 accounted for over 27 % of all export revenue. Many foreign companies, in particular from the USA, are setting up operations in the free trade zone.
Internationally, Costa Rica is regarded as a model country in the field of nature protection. A good 27 % of the total area of the country is classified as nature protection zone.
Since the mid 1980s, greater use has been made of forestry in large parts of the country. In the meantime, 39 % of the area of the country has been reforested, with the share of plantations increasing. Since 1996, payments have been made to Costa Rica for the environmental services provided by forests and plantations.