General Information

Geography

The Republic of Costa Rica is located in Central America, bordering on the north with Nicaragua, on the east with the Caribbean Sea, on the southeast with Panama, and on the southwest and west with the Pacific Ocean. Its total area corresponds to 51.100 km2 – including Isla del Coco -, of which 51.060 km2 is land and 40 km2 water. The capital of the country is San José.

Costa Rica has a predominantly tropical and subtropical climate, with a dry season that runs from December to April and a rainy season that runs from May to November.

Economy

Foreign investors are attracted by the country’s political stability, high levels of education, as well as by the incentives offered in the Free Trade Zone (FTZ) Regime. Costa Rica has attracted one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment per capita in Latin America.

In 2018, Costa Rica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated at US$60.13 billion and its GDP per capita at the end of the year was US$12,017, higher than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean (US$9,023.05). According to data from the Central Bank of Costa Rica, economic growth, measured by real GDP variation, was 2.6% in 2018.

The country concentrates its GDP in the service sector with 73.9%, followed by the industrial sector with 21.2%, and the agricultural sector with 4.9%, with an unemployment rate of 11.3% for an economically active population of approximately 2.4 million people (2018, est.).

In terms of foreign trade, Costa Rica’s main import and export partner is the United States. The main Costa Rican products exported are medical devices, bananas, pineapples, food preparations, coffee, medicines, tires, among others. The main import products are raw materials, consumer goods, capital goods, fuels and lubricants, and construction materials.

By 2018, exports of goods from the Regime amounted to US$6,093.1 million, representing 52.15% of Costa Rica’s total value of goods exports. The United States, Belgium, Holland, Mexico, Guatemala, Japan and Panama appeared in that year as the main export destinations from the regime. Medical devices and food preparations are among the main products exported from the free trade zones.

Population and Society

According to estimates from the Costa Rica’s National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), by 2018, the population of Costa Rica corresponds to 5.003.673 inhabitants, of which approximately 48,60%  are men and 51,40% are women. Most of this population (about 43%) is concentrated in the 20 and 49 years old.

 A part of the population of Costa Rica is European descent (mainly Spanish). Caucasians and mestizos represent about 83,6% of the population; 6,7% are mulattos, 2,4% are indigenous,  and the African descents are approximately 1,1% (INEC, 2011 est.).

Roman Catholicism is the official state religion of the Republic and is practiced by more than half of the people in the country. According to estimates from the Center for Research and Political Studies of the University of Costa Rica (2018), the Catholic religion is practiced by approximately 52% of the population. However, freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution of Costa Rica, 22% of Costa Ricans are Protestants, 17% do not practice any religion, and the remaining percentage practice other religions.

During 2018 (est.), the Costa Rican population grew at a rate of 1,13%. In terms of urbanization, 72,57% of the total Costa Rican population lives in urban areas, with the central region having the largest number of dwellings and therefore occupied by 3.102.787 inhabitants (62% of the total population).

The average life expectancy at birth in Costa Rica is 80,03 years (2017 est.), one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere. The national health plan was established in the 1970s. Health services are concentrated in urban areas. A social security program has been in operation since 1942, with compulsory participation for all employees under the age of 65.

Spanish is the official language, and the teaching of English is being generalized in the country’s educational schemes. The literacy rate in the country corresponds to 97,8% (2015 est.) of the total population.

During 2018, the Government of Costa Rica allocated 12,9% of GDP to social investment, which represents almost half of its budget and is made up of education, social protection and health. Primary and secondary education are free, and attendance is compulsory for ages 6 to 13. The country invests about 8% of GDP in education.

Government

Costa Rica is a presidential republic divided into seven provinces: San José, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limón.

The country has three supreme powers: Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, and Judicial Branch.

The Executive Branch is headed by the President and two Vice-Presidents, each of whom is elected by direct popular vote for a period of four years. Voting is universal, secret and compulsory for all citizens over 18 years of age. The president is assisted by a cabinet of ministers appointed by him.

The Legislative Branch is constituted by an unicameral Legislative Assembly, with 57 members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies – corresponding to the Costa Rica’s seven provinces – by proportional representation vote. Members serve four-year terms.

The Judicial Branch, for its part, is constituted by a Supreme Court of Justice, as well as appellate courts, trial courts, first instance and justice of the peace courts. The Superior Electoral Tribunal is also part of this branch. The death penalty has been eliminated.

The main political groups in Costa Rica, represented in the Legislative Assembly, are the governing Citizen Action Party (PAC), the National Liberation Party (PLN), the Christian Social Unity Party (PUSC), the Broad Front Party (FA), the National Restoration Party (PRC), the National Integration Party (PIN), the Christian Social Republican Party (PRSC), among others.

Security

Costa Rica has no armed forces since 1948, when the army was abolished. The public security force is made up of 6 directorates with national competence and 12 directorates with regional competence, responsible for ensuring the security and exercise of the rights and freedoms of every human being located within Costa Rican territory. Currently, the police force is made up of more than 12.600 police officers.