Costa Rica is not the “3rd World” country some might think
Most North Americans, when they think of Costa Rica, think “third-world country.” However, “first world”, “second world” and “third world” are really outdated terms. Although the term continues to be used colloquially to describe the poorest countries in the world, Costa Rica hardly fits the bill.
Costa Rica is considered a high developing country and is ranked 69 out of 188 in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index. As such, Costa Rica does have poverty levels higher than that of Newly Industrialized Nations (NICs): however, among Developing Countries, Costa Rica is one of the wealthiest (along with Panama, Argentina, Chile, and Vietnam) and Costa Rica has literacy rates higher than some NICs (eg: Mexico and Brazil).
While some Latin American countries struggle to maintain steady development, Costa Rica’s development is moving quickly ahead. Indicators such as life expectancy, literacy and GDP, universal measures of economic growth, show Costa Rica stands up well in comparison. Its health care programs are among the best in the world; making medical tourism another contributor to the nation’ economy. Life expectancy, as measured at birth, stands at 77 years because of emphasis on improvements to health care, contributing significantly to Tico quality of life.
Costa Rica continues to attract foreign investors, in part because of its environmental development policies, including a determination to become carbon neutral in the next five years. The New Economics Foundation ranks the country as the greenest and most eco-conscious in the world, even as it develops new energy production methods that reduce greenhouse emissions and protect the rich, biodiverse environment. Costa Rica is poised to become a global leader in sustainable development.
In fact, Costa Rica is a global leader in the environmental and sustainability policies that fuel its sustained economic growth. Costa Rica’s ecotourism industry fits neatly with its commitment to environmental protection. The sector helps many Ticos earn a living, injecting cash into local economies. It also helps preserve the nation’s parks, reserves, and some 5% of the world’s most biodiverse species.
The government protects more than 25% of Costa Rica’s public land and pays landowners to protect existing forests and to plant new trees on private land. An astonishing 95% of the country’s electric energy comes from renewable sources. Further, Costa Rica continues to invest in hydrogen-based technologies, encouraging partnerships and projects that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable development.
In 1994, the government launched its Office on Joint Implementation (OCIC), a partnership between the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Costa Rican Trade and Development Board to attract foreign investors in sustainable development programs compatible with national environmental development strategies. The partnership sets objectives, goals and guidelines for new project evaluation and endorsement recommendations. In addition, the National GHG Mitigation Program helped Costa Rica achieve certification and become the first country to sell Certified Emission Reductions as developed under the Kyoto Protocol.
Costa Rica has tripled its GDP during the last 25 years while doubling the size of its forests. As the government prepares its cap-and-trade program, Costa Rica has a grant from the World Bank for program design and implementation. Costa Rica leads by example, demonstrating a green economy is more than possible—hardly the traits of a third-world country.
If you’re thinking of investing in Costa Rica, there couldn’t be a better time than now, as this great little nation continues to grow and thrive.
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