Costa Rica

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Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is a Central American success story: since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred its 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.


Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama

Geographic coordinates:

10 00 N, 84 00 W


total: 51,100 sq km
land: 50,660 sq km
water: 440 sq km
note: includes Isla del Coco

Land boundaries:

total: 639 km
border countries: Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km


1,290 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm


tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands


coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including over 100 volcanic cones, of which several are major volcanoes

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Cerro Chirripo 3,810 m

Natural resources:


Land use:

arable land: 4.4%
permanent crops: 5.87%
other: 89.73% (2005)

Irrigated land:

1,080 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season and landslides; active volcanoes

Environment - current issues:

deforestation and land use change, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching and agriculture; soil erosion; coastal marine pollution; fisheries protection; solid waste management; air pollution

Geography - note:

four volcanoes, two of them active, rise near the capital of San Jose in the center of the country; one of the volcanoes, Irazu, erupted destructively in 1963-65


4,075,261 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 28.3% (male 590,261/female 563,196)
15-64 years: 66% (male 1,359,750/female 1,329,346)
65 years and over: 5.7% (male 108,041/female 124,667) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 26.4 years
male: 26 years
female: 26.9 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.45% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

18.32 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

4.36 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

0.49 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 9.7 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 10.58 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 8.77 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 77.02 years
male: 74.43 years
female: 79.74 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

2.24 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.6% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

12,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

900 (2003 est.)


noun: Costa Rican(s)
adjective: Costa Rican

Ethnic groups:

white (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%


Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%


Spanish (official), English


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96%
male: 95.9%
female: 96.1% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of Costa Rica
conventional short form: Costa Rica
local long form: Republica de Costa Rica
local short form: Costa Rica

Government type:

democratic republic


San Jose

Administrative divisions:

7 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia); Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San Jose


15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 15 September (1821)


7 November 1949

Legal system:

based on Spanish civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Legislative branch:

unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (57 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 5 February 2006 (next to be held February 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PLN 25, PAC 18, PML 6, PUSC 4, other 4

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (22 justices are elected for eight-year terms by the Legislative Assembly)

Economy - overview:

Costa Rica's basically stable economy depends on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports. Poverty has been substantially reduced over the past 15 years, and a strong social safety net has been put into place. Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and high education levels, and tourism continues to bring in foreign exchange. Low prices for coffee and bananas have hurt the agricultural sector. The government continues to grapple with its large internal and external deficits and sizable internal debt. The reduction of inflation remains a difficult problem because of rises in the price of imports, labor market rigidities, and fiscal deficits. The country also needs to reform its tax system and its pattern of public expenditure. Costa Rica is the only signatory to the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that has not ratified it. CAFTA implementation would result in economic reforms and an improved investment climate.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$40.44 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$19.34 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

3.3% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$10,100 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 8.6%
industry: 28.3%
services: 63.1% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

1.82 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 20%
industry: 22%
services: 58% (1999 est.)

Unemployment rate:

6.6% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

18% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 1.1%
highest 10%: 36.8% (2002)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

46.5 (2000)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

13.8% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

18% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $2.722 billion
expenditures: $3.195 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Public debt:

56.2% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

coffee, pineapples, bananas, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef; timber


microprocessors, food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products

Industrial production growth rate:

2.6% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

7.726 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

7.12 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - exports:

115 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

50 million kWh (2003)

Oil - consumption:

40,000 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Current account balance:

-$1.179 billion (2005 est.)


$7.005 billion (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

coffee, bananas, sugar, pineapples; textiles, electronic components, medical equipment

Exports - partners:

US 46.9%, Netherlands 5.3%, Guatemala 4.4% (2004)


$9.69 billion (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum

Imports - partners:

US 46.1%, Japan 5.9%, Mexico 5.1%, Brazil 4.2% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$2.208 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$3.633 billion (30 June 2005 est.)

Currency (code):

Costa Rican colon (CRC)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

1,343,200 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

923,100 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: good domestic telephone service in terms of breadth of coverage; restricted cellular telephone service
domestic: point-to-point and point-to-multi-point microwave, fiber-optic, and coaxial cable link rural areas; Internet service is available
international: country code - 506; connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); two submarine cables (1999)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 65, FM 51, shortwave 19 (2002)

Television broadcast stations:

20 (plus 43 repeaters) (2002)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

12,578 (2005)

Internet users:

1 million (2005)


156 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 31
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 18
under 914 m: 9 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 125
914 to 1,523 m: 25
under 914 m: 100 (2005)


refined products 242 km (2004)


total: 278 km
narrow gauge: 278 km 1.067-m gauge (2004)


total: 35,889 km
paved: 8,075 km
unpaved: 27,814 km (2003)


730 km (seasonally navigable by small craft) (2005)

Merchant marine:

total: 2 ships (1000 GRT or over) 2,308 GRT/743 DWT
by type: passenger/cargo 2 (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Caldera, Puerto Limon

Military branches:

no regular military forces; Ministry of Public Security, Government, and Police

Disputes - international:

in September 2005, Costa Rica took its case before the ICJ to advocate the navigation, security, and commercial rights of Costa Rican vessels using the Río San Juan over which Nicaragua retains sovereignty

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

refugees (country of origin): 8,266 (Colombia) (2005)

Illicit drugs:

transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South America; illicit production of cannabis on small, scattered plots; domestic cocaine consumption, particularly crack cocaine, is rising