Home

Costa Rica vs. Nicaragua

Economy

Costa RicaNicaragua
Economy - overviewSince 2010, Costa Rica has enjoyed strong and stable economic growth - 4.3% in 2016. Exports of bananas, coffee, sugar, and beef are the backbone of its commodity exports. Various industrial and processed agricultural products have broadened exports in recent years, as have high value-added goods, including medical devices. Costa Rica's impressive biodiversity also makes it a key destination for ecotourism.

Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and relatively high education levels, as well as the incentives offered in the free-trade zones; Costa Rica has attracted one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment per capita in Latin America. The US-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which became effective for Costa Rica in 2009, helped increase foreign direct investment in key sectors of the economy, including insurance and telecommunication. However, poor infrastructure, high energy costs, a complex bureaucracy, weak investor protection, and uncertainty of contract enforcement impede greater investment.

Costa Rica’s economy also faces challenges due to a rising fiscal deficit, rising public debt, and relatively low levels of domestic revenue. Poverty has remained around 20-25% for nearly 20 years, and the government’s strong social safety net has eroded due to increased constraints on its expenditures. Costa Rica’s credit rating was downgraded from stable to negative in 2015, upping pressure on lending rates - which could hurt small business, on the budget deficit - which could hurt infrastructure development, and on the rate of return on investment - which could soften foreign direct investment (FDI). Unlike the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is not highly dependent on remittances - which represented just 0.7% of GDP in 2015, but instead relies on FDI - which accounted for 4% of GDP.
Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, has widespread underemployment and poverty. GDP growth of 4.5% in 2017 was insufficient to make a significant difference. Textiles and agriculture combined account for nearly 50% of Nicaragua's exports. Beef, coffee, and gold are Nicaragua’s top three export commodities.

The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement has been in effect since April 2006 and has expanded export opportunities for many Nicaraguan agricultural and manufactured goods.

In 2013, the government granted a 50-year concession with the option for an additional 50 years to a newly formed Chinese-run company to finance and build an inter-oceanic canal and related projects, at an estimated cost of $50 billion. The canal construction has not started.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$85.2 billion (2017 est.)
$82.08 billion (2016 est.)
$78.68 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
$36.22 billion (2017 est.)
$34.66 billion (2016 est.)
$33.11 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
GDP - real growth rate3.8% (2017 est.)
4.3% (2016 est.)
4.7% (2015 est.)
4.5% (2017 est.)
4.7% (2016 est.)
4.9% (2015 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$17,200 (2017 est.)
$16,700 (2016 est.)
$16,200 (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
$5,800 (2017 est.)
$5,600 (2016 est.)
$5,400 (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
GDP - composition by sectoragriculture: 5.5%
industry: 21%
services: 73.5% (2017 est.)
agriculture: 15.5%
industry: 24.4%
services: 50.8% (2017 est.)
Population below poverty line21.7% (2014 est.)
29.6% (2015 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage sharelowest 10%: 1.5%
highest 10%: 36.9% (2014 est.)
lowest 10%: 1.8%
highest 10%: 47.1% (2014)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)1.7% (2017 est.)
0% (2016 est.)
4% (2017 est.)
3.5% (2016 est.)
Labor force2.229 million
note: official estimate; excludes Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica (2017 est.)
3.046 million (2017 est.)
Labor force - by occupationagriculture: 14%
industry: 22%
services: 64% (2006 est.)
agriculture: 31%
industry: 18%
services: 50% (2011 est.)
Unemployment rate8.1% (2017 est.)
9.3% (2016 est.)
6.5% (2017 est.)
6.2% (2016 est.)
note: underemployment was 46.5% in 2008
Distribution of family income - Gini index48.5 (2014)
49.2 (2013)
47.1 (2014)
45.8 (2009)
Budgetrevenues: $8.262 billion
expenditures: $11.34 billion (2017 est.)
revenues: $3.8 billion
expenditures: $4.074 billion (2017 est.)
Industriesmedical equipment, food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products
food processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, knit and woven apparel, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, wood, electric wire harness manufacturing, mining
Industrial production growth rate4.4% (2017 est.)
5.4% (2017 est.)
Agriculture - productsbananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef, poultry, dairy; timber
coffee, bananas, sugarcane, rice, corn, tobacco, cotton, sesame, soya, beans, beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products, shrimp, lobsters, peanuts
Exports$10.55 billion (2017 est.)
$10.15 billion (2016 est.)
$3.611 billion (2017 est.)
$3.772 billion (2016 est.)
Exports - commoditiesbananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar; beef; seafood; electronic components, medical equipment
coffee, beef, gold, sugar, peanuts, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, cigars, automobile wiring harnesses, textiles, apparel
Exports - partnersUS 41%, Netherlands 5.8%, Panama 5.7%, Belgium 5.4%, Nicaragua 5.2%, Guatemala 5.2% (2016)
US 51.5%, Mexico 13.8%, El Salvador 6%, Venezuela 5.9% (2016)
Imports$15.55 billion (2017 est.)
$14.66 billion (2016 est.)
$6.426 billion (2017 est.)
$6.384 billion (2016 est.)
Imports - commoditiesraw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum, construction materials
consumer goods, machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products
Imports - partnersUS 37.1%, China 13.5%, Mexico 6.9% (2016)
US 19.7%, China 12.9%, Mexico 9.7%, Costa Rica 7.8%, Guatemala 6.5%, Netherlands Antilles 5.7%, El Salvador 4.8% (2016)
Debt - external$25.83 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$24.3 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$11.36 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$10.87 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Exchange ratesCosta Rican colones (CRC) per US dollar -
573.5 (2017 est.)
544.74 (2016 est.)
544.74 (2015 est.)
534.57 (2014 est.)
538.32 (2013 est.)
cordobas (NIO) per US dollar -
30.11 (2017 est.)
28.678 (2016 est.)
28.678 (2015 est.)
27.257 (2014 est.)
26.01 (2013 est.)
Fiscal yearcalendar year
calendar year
Public debt66.2% of GDP (2017 est.)
62.7% of GDP (2016 est.)
46% of GDP (2017 est.)
45.2% of GDP (2016 est.)
note: official data; data cover general government debt, and includes debt instruments issued (or owned) by Government entities other than the treasury; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities, as well as intra-governmental debt; intra-governmental debt consists of treasury borrowings from surpluses in the social funds, such as retirement, medical care, and unemployment, debt instruments for the social funds are not sold at public auctions; Nicaragua rebased its GDP figures in 2012, which reduced the figures for debt as a percentage of GDP
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$7.523 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$7.574 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$2.521 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$2.448 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Current Account Balance-$2.291 billion (2017 est.)
-$1.88 billion (2016 est.)
-$1.154 billion (2017 est.)
-$1.133 billion (2016 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate)$58.91 billion (2016 est.)
$13.69 billion (2016 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares$2.015 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
$1.443 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$1.445 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$1.568 billion (31 December 2016)
$1.209 billion (31 December 2015)
$995 million (31 December 2014)
Central bank discount rate3.5% (31 December 2016 est.)
21.5% (31 December 2010)
3% (31 December 2010)
Commercial bank prime lending rate11.8% (31 December 2017 est.)
11.64% (31 December 2016 est.)
12.2% (31 December 2017 est.)
11.44% (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of domestic credit$34.3 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$33.43 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$6.39 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$6.159 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of narrow money$5.765 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$5.536 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$1.161 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.043 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of broad money$22.52 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$21.85 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$1.602 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.445 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Taxes and other revenues14% of GDP (2017 est.)
27.8% of GDP (2017 est.)
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)-5.2% of GDP (2017 est.)
-2% of GDP (2017 est.)
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24total: 23.3%
male: 18.8%
female: 31.7% (2016 est.)
total: 11.9%
male: 9.8%
female: 15.6% (2010 est.)
GDP - composition, by end usehousehold consumption: 63.6%
government consumption: 17.2%
investment in fixed capital: 19.3%
investment in inventories: 0.4%
exports of goods and services: 32.9%
imports of goods and services: -33.3% (2017 est.)
household consumption: 70.8%
government consumption: 15.3%
investment in fixed capital: 29.8%
investment in inventories: 1.7%
exports of goods and services: 40.3%
imports of goods and services: -56.2% (2017 est.)
Gross national saving16.2% of GDP (2017 est.)
16.5% of GDP (2016 est.)
15.9% of GDP (2015 est.)
22.7% of GDP (2017 est.)
22.7% of GDP (2016 est.)
23.6% of GDP (2015 est.)

Source: CIA Factbook