According to the World Bank, Costa Rica's GDP per capita is US$12,874 PPP (as of 2013); however, this developing country still faces lack of maintenance and new investment in infrastructure, a poverty rate estimated to be 23%, a 7.8% unemployment rate (2012 est.), and a trade deficit of 5.2%. For thefiscal year 2007, the country showed a government surplus. Economic growth in 2008 diminished to a 3% increase in the face of the global recession (down from 7% and 9% growth in the prior two years).
Costa Rica's inflation rate was an estimated 4.5% in 2012. On October 16, 2006, a new currency exchange system was introduced, allowing the value of theCRC colón to float between two bands as done previously by Chile. This policy's objective was to allow the Central Bank to be able to better tackle inflation and discourage the use of U.S. dollars. However, as of August 2009, the value of the colón against the dollar has decreased to 86% of its late-2006 value (see commonly available forex trading charts). The unit of currency is the colón, and as of April 2014, it trades around 550 to the US$, and about 760 colones to the euro.
The central government offers tax exemptions for those willing to invest in the country. Several global high-tech corporations have already started developing in the area and are exporting goods, including Intel, GlaxoSmithKline, and Procter & Gamble. In 2006, Intel's microprocessor facility alone was responsible for 20% of Costa Rican exports and 4.9% of its GDP. Trade with Southeast Asia and Russia boomed during 2004 and 2005, and the country obtained fullAsia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) membership in 2007 after becoming an observer in 2004. The Financial Times Intelligence Unit awarded Costa Rica as "Caribbean and Central American Country of the Future 2011/12" for its success in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) as first in the region in terms of FDI project numbers since 2003.
Pharmaceuticals, financial outsourcing, software development, and ecotourism have become the prime industries in Costa Rica's economy. High levels of education among its residents make the country an attractive investing location. Since 1999, tourism earns more foreign exchange than the combined exports of the country's three main cash crops: bananas, pineapples and coffee. Coffee production has played a key role in Costa Rica's history and economy, and by 2006, was the third cash crop export.
The largest coffee growing areas are in the provinces of San José, Alajuela, Heredia, Puntarenas, and Cartago. Costa Rica is famous for its gourmet coffee beans, with Costa Rican Tarrazú among the finest arabica coffee beans in the world used for making espresso coffee, together with Jamaican Blue Mountain, Guatemalan Antigua and Ethiopian Sidamo.
Costa Rica's location provides access to American markets as it has the same time zone as the central part of the United States and direct ocean access to Europe and Asia. In a countrywide referendum on October 5, 2007, Costa Rican voters narrowly backed a free trade agreement, with 51.6% of "Yes" votes.
Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the Central American region, with 2.2 million foreign visitors in 2011, followed by Panama with almost 1.5 million visitors. International tourist receipts rose to US$2.4 billion in 2012, and the lead country of origin was the United States with 864,340 tourists, followed by Nicaragua with 474,011 visitors, and Canada with 136,261. In 2005, tourism contributed 8.1% of the country's GNP, and represented 13.3% of direct and indirect employment. Tourism now earns more foreign exchange than bananas and coffee combined.
A pioneer of ecotourism, Costa Rica draws many tourists to its extensive national parks and protected areas. In the 2011 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, Costa Rica ranked 44th in the world and second among Latin American countries after Mexico. In the "natural resources" subindex, Costa Rica ranks sixth worldwide in the natural resources pillar, but 104th in terms of cultural resources. Costa Rica ranks third of sixty countries covered in the 2014 Global Green Economy Index. In the sustainable tourism category, Costa Rica is ranked first.
Costa Rica has also developed a system of payments for environmental services. Similarly, Costa Rica has a tax on water pollution to penalize businesses and homeowners that dump sewage, agricultural chemicals, and other pollutants into waterways. In May 2007, the Costa Rican government announced its intentions to become 100% carbon neutral by 2021. As of 2012, Costa Rica produces more than 90% of its electricity through renewable sources.
In 1996, the Forest Law was enacted to provide direct financial incentives to landowners for the provision of environmental services. This helped reorient the forestry sector away from commercial timber production and the resulting deforestation, and helped create awareness of the services it provides for the economy and society (i.e., carbon fixation, hydrological services such as producing fresh drinking water, biodiversity protection, and provision of scenic beauty).