Costa Rica

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Country summary


San Jose


Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km

Government type

democratic republic


4,253,877 (July 2010 est.)[1]

Population growth

1.356% (2010 est.)[1]

Life expectancy

77.58 years[1]


7.8% (2009 est.)[1]

Index of Economic Freedom


Corruption Perceptions Index


Doing Business ranking


Although explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonizing Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, including: disease from mosquito-infested swamps, brutal heat, resistance by natives, and pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries. In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country's democratic development. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.[1]

On December 1, 1948, the President of Costa Rica, José Figueres Ferrer, abolished the military of Costa Rica after victory in the civil war in that year, and introduced it in Article 12 of the Costa Rican Constitution. Unlike its neighbors, Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica has not endured a civil war since 1948. It does, however, maintain a law enforcement force for internal security, but the country no longer has a permanent standing army. It prefers to devote its resources to education, ecotourism, culture, the protection of its primary resources and land conservation. It's Ministry of Public Security is charged with maintaining national security. Costa Rica is also the first country to have abolished its military.

Costa Rica's primary source of income are tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports. Costa Rica has 4,906 miles of paved high-ways and 17,395 miles of unpaved highways. The United States is Costa Rica's largest trading partner, accounting for 14 percent of its exports and 23 percent of its imports. Moreover, Costa Rica's relative stability and its high literacy rate encourages foreign companies to do business.

Costa Rica's success in creating a stable government, unlike other governments in the region, is attributed a number of factors: educational opportunities, a well-to-do middle class, low infant mortality rates and long life expectancy.

Economical characteristics

  • Currency: Costa Rican colón (ISO code: CRC)
  • Central bank discount rate: 25% (31 December 2008)[1]
  • Commercial banks lending rate: 15.83% (31 December 2008)[1]
  • Stock of money (M1): $4.209 billion (31 December 2008)[1]
  • Quasi money (with M1 makes M2): $3.143 billion (31 December 2008)[1]

Notable events:

  • Banking crisis: 1987, 1994-1997[5]
  • Public default: 1828-1840, 1874-1885, 1895-1897, 1901-1911, 1932-1952, 1962, 1981, 1983-1990, 1984-1985 (external)
  • Years in inflation: 5.3% (share of years 1838-2009 with annual inflation above 20 per cent per annum)[6]


Statistic / Year 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
GDP (million USD)[7] 15 797 15 946 16 404 16 844 17 518 18 596 19 965 22 526 26 267 29 664
Govt. debt (% of GDP)[8] 36.191 36.250 38.310
Govt. revenue (% of GDP)[9] 25.339
Govt. expenses (% of GDP)[10] 22.495
Debt to revenue (years)


Note: statistical data was rounded. Different sources may use different methodologies for their estimates. Debt to revenue is calculated by dividing the two variables from their original ('unrounded') values. It represents how long it would a government take to repay its entire debt if it used its whole revenue for this purpose.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 CIA - The World Factbook. "Costa Rica", from The World Factbook. Referenced 2010-09-30.
  2. Heritage Foundation. "Costa Rica", Economic Freedom Score. A lower ranking is better; but please be careful when comparing between different countries or years. Referenced 2010-09-30.
  3. Transparency International. "Costa Rica", Corruption Perceptions Index 2009. A lower ranking is better; but please note that the numbers cannot be compared between countries or years due to different methodology. Referenced 2010-09-30.
  4. Doing Business. "Costa Rica", Doing Business 2010 (part of The World Bank Group). A lower ranking is better; but please be careful when comparing between different countries or years. Referenced 2010-09-30.
  5. Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff. "This Time is Different", Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-14216-6, p. 358. (The list does not claim to be complete.) Referenced 2011-07-19.
  6. Carmen M. Reinhart. "This Time is Different Chartbook: Country Histories on Debt, Default, and Financial Crises" (pdf), March 3, 2010, p. 38. (The list does not claim to be complete.) Referenced 2011-07-19.
  7. World Bank. "Costa Rica: GDP", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-30.
  8. World Bank. "Costa Rica: government debt", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-30.
  9. World Bank. "Costa Rica: government revenue", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-30.
  10. World Bank. "Costa Rica: government expenses", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-30.