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Costa Rica

Basic Information

Area: 51,100 km²

Calling code: +506

Population: 4,133,884

Official Language: Spanish, Mekatelyu

Time zone: (UTC-6), Local time: 21:52

Overview

Located in Central America and bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, the Republic of Costa Rica is probably the most stable country in the region. To the east of the country is the Caribbean Sea and to the west is the Pacific Ocean.

Costa Rica was discovered on Christopher Columbus's last voyage in 1492, but it was not until 10 years later that Columbus set foot on the countries shores and nearly another 60 years before Spain undertook a mission of conquest. Over the years it became clear that gold and precious jewels were scarce and those that stayed turned to agriculture and as with the Caribbean, Central and South American countries, European disease's brought by the Spaniards decimated the native population. Independence from Spain was gained in 1821 and shortly after Costa Rica became a democratic republic, with albeit a few minor hiccups and a six-week civil war in 1948, democracy has remained a constant to this day. In 1949 Costa Rica's military forces were abolished, thus ending the possibility of military coups, which have plagued many countries in the Americas and Caribbean.

The countries capital, San Jose lies almost in the geographical centre of Costa Rica and is home to around a third of Costa Rica's population, which according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Censos (INEC) was around 4.5 million in 2006.

Economy

Traditionally agriculture has been the mainstay of the economy, but in recent years technology and tourism have come to the fore, especially with the government looking to attract incoming foreign direct investment. As a place for foreign companies to set up branch operations and to invest, Costa Rica provides a wide range of tax incentives for incoming businesses; one such company to choose Costa Rica is the computer processor manufacturer Intel. Tourism has grown dramatically with eco-tourism being actively promoted to Europeans by the Ministry of Tourism and is now one of the cornerstones of economy.

Central and South American countries are often seen as having high levels of corruption, however the Transparency international's corruption perception index 2006 places Costa Rica in 55th place in a survey of 163 countries worldwide. While its score of 4.1 is not as high as some more developed countries, it is higher than almost all Central and South American nations and indeed better than several developed countries globally.

Standard Of Living

For the tourist Costa Rica has something for almost everyone rainforests, volcanoes and beaches all in a relatively compact country. Whether it is adventure, culture or relaxation it is catered for somewhere. For business people it is one of the safer places to invest in the region.

Whilst Costa Rica enjoys one of the highest GDP per capita in Latin America, poverty is still a cause for concern in some areas, the UN Development Program (UNDP) shows that 7.2 percent of the population live on less than $2 a day. Also the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated in their travel advice mid 2007, that crime against tourists had increased in recent years.

Infrastructure

Costa Rica has 4 airports designated as international, though Juan Santamaría International Airport is the main international airport connecting the country to North America and Europe. Juan Santamaría International Airport is located around 16 kilometres northwest from the centre of San Jose. Incoming tourists to Costa Rica average approximately 1.5 million per year. The Pan American highway, which officially connects Mexico to Argentina, runs through Costa Rica and its capital of San Jose. The country has a number of seaports with some of the main ones being, Limon and Moin on the Caribbean Sea and Caldera on the Pacific coast. According to the CIA World Factbook Costa Rica has a good domestic telephone service, but a restricted cellular telephone service and as of 2005 it had a million internet users.

Workforce

Probably one of the biggest benefits to Costa Rica not having military forces is that the savings made can be spent on other things such as education. The World Factbook states, "Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and high education levels". Education is both free and compulsory up to 16 or 17 years of age, resulting in Costa Rica having one of the highest levels of literacy in Central and South America. CINDE the Costa Rican Investment Board show that there are 4 public and 52 private universities in the country, providing a quality of education almost on par with many top universities around the world.

Figures published by INEC for 2006 put the workforce at just short of 2 million and unemployment at 6%.
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