Crash Course in Costa Rican Economics

Today our Plus3 Costa Rica group attended a guest lecture by Dr. Juan Diego Sánchez Sánchez, a specialist on the Costa Rican economy and history. He presented an abridged version of the history of the Costa Rican economy and brief  introduction into economics. During this lecture, we were presented with the “what”, “how” and “when” and then were told to connect the economic side of Costa Rica with the culture side using the “why”.

  • Why are the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) such a big influence on Costa Rican culture?

Costa Rica is a leader in Latin America in the number of Free Trade Agreements they have signed with other countries. A FTA between two countries reduces the import quotas and taxes in order to increase trade between the two countries. This is evident in Costa Rican culture. Just taking a stroll around the local  shopping mall, I noticed there were many foreign stores and in the supermarket there are many foreign brands of everyday items. Despite the influx of foreign companies in Costa Rica, small businesses are still extremely popular and do well economically. Ticos are extremely fond of stopping by the local soda (small food stand) for lunch then stopping by the market stalls to grab fixings for dinner. In an economy heavily influenced by foreign companies, local businesses still prosper and remain popular.

  • Why are International Human Rights Treaties so important to Costa Rican government and people in general?

In addition to being a leader in FTAs, Costa Rica is also a leader in International Human Rights Treaties. I believe this stems from Ticos generally friendly personalities and deep religious roots. The country has a deep-seeded history of religion being a dominating aspect in people’s lives. This deep religious belief prompts kindness to all people which plays a part in the signing of International Human Rights Treaties. Unlike many of the “why” questions, there was no exception or contradiction evident in Costa Rican culture. People here are extremely friendly and always willing to help where they no matter if you are a local or just a visiting student who looks lost. This friendly and kind attitude towards people prompts advances in human rights issues involving Costa Rica.

  • Why did coffee prompt one of the most prosperous decades in the 1990s and does it still have the same hold on the economy today?

In the 1990s, Costa Rica experienced one its most prosperous decades of the century. The economy grew as did the middle class. This prosperity was spurred on in large part by the coffee trade. At the time, coffee was a major export and business in Costa Rica. The added value approach was taken with the coffee trade. Plantations began roasting and processing their own crops. They then sent the processed product abroad and for the first time put their brand on the product. This led to the prosperity of the 1990s. Now coffee is still a big crop of the economy, however, it does not have the same hold that it did in the 1990s. Many people moved to the cities and have service jobs away from the plantations. The technology sector is growing and many are working toward degrees to get higher paying jobs which aren’t on the large coffee plantations. Despite this, coffee is still a major cash crop in the Costa Rican economy and Ticos are proud of their coffee.



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