Costa Rica remains one of the safest and most attractive country for foreign investment in Latin America. The Costa Rican government, its ministries and financial institutions maintain a decidedly pro-U.S. and continental stance in regard to financial security and tax laws. The stated aim is to entice primarily high-tech corporations to take advantage of Central America's most educated, computer literate and disciplined workforce, along with the modern production infrastructure the country is currently creating. The economy is being transformed from its long-time dependence on coffee, bananas and cattle raising to one centered on microprocessor production and high-tech telecommunications services.
|This investment-friendly climate and government policy of making Costa Rica "the Silicon Valley of Latin America" has enticed commercial leaders such as Acer, Microsoft, GE, Abbot Laboratories, Continental Airways and Intel Corporation to make sizable investments here, both financially and physically, with major production and distribution facilities. Western Union has chosen Costa Rica to host its Latin American regional operations center. In 1998, for the first time ever, Costa Rica is poised to earn more from high technology exports than from coffee or bananas or even its lucrative, thriving tourism industry.
The World Bank has given Costa Rica an excellent bill of overall political and economic health. At its annual conference in El Salvador this year, the bank lauded the country as possessing "one of the most stable and robust" democracies in Latin America. It went on to praise the Costa Rica's "healthy economic growth rate" and "some of the best social indicators" on the continent.
Costa Rica is one of the most vocal supporters of continental free trade, and already has its own agreement with Mexico and other countries of the region. Costa Rica's numerous free trade zones and tax holiday opportunities are extremely enticing. They offer benefits such as exemption from import duties on raw materials, capital goods, parts and components; unrestricted profit repatriation; tax exemption on profits for eight years and a 50 percent exemption for the following four years.
A study done recently for the Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX) projects that by the year 2005, Costa Rica's export earnings will amount to $15.7-billion, about four times the current figure. Intel will be leading the way; its exports, from the three manufacturing facilities the processing giant is building here, are expected to reach an annual $3.5-billion by the year 2001.
High-tech companies will spur the export boom, while traditional exports, such as coffee and bananas, will fall in percentages of overall figures, but in terms of revenue, will continue to grow.
Costa Rica is building a competitive advantage for itself and the many high-tech companies who have chosen or are pondering the option to operate here. It is a country at a turning point in integrating itself into the modern world economy. Those doing business here will have the inside track.
The best way for potential investors to begin their search is to travel to Costa Rica and find out first-hand about the favorable business climate and opportunities. There are direct flights to San José from many cities in the United States and Canada. For all accommodations and tourism inside the country, there is no better service than Travel Web, which you can easily contact by phone at our toll-free number or on-line.
Among the more knowledgeable and helpful sources of information on investing and doing business in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), composed over 1,500 representatives from more than 330 multinational and local companies.
CINDE, the Costa Rica Investment and Development Board, has been officially commissioned by the government of Costa Rica to be the main promoter and advisor to foreign investors. CINDE is a private, non-profit organization that provides complete and updated information on the economy and the business environment in Costa Rica, and helps in the initial contact with potential investors. It has an office in New York to provide tailor-made services. PROCOMER, the Foreign Trade Promotion Institute, can help exporters understand relevant legislation, acquire export permits, seize the advantages of market opportunities and chart their way through related fields of endeavor. CADEXCO, the Costa Rican Exporters Chamber, provides information to entrepreneurs, private and public institutions on export procedures and requirements; trade barriers and how to overcome them; how to sell products abroad; information on export credit lines and export contracts, international prices, etc.
Costa Rica's Internet services are the most readily available and sophisticated in Central America. Informática Internacional, the country's longest-serving private sector Internet services company; is one of the leading providers of Internet services nationwide. Through its diverse client base and wide range of products and services, Informática has ways to improve any business, personal communications needs, or assist in the electronic marketing of products and services. Through Informática, corporations and individuals planning to settle in Costa Rica can acquire Internet domains and E-Mail addresses in the country even before making the actual physical movement.
All individuals and private companies, local or foreign, can own land and property in Costa Rica. Few restrictions apply, the most important being physical occupancy and a 50-meter limit from the beach on oceanfront property. Potential real estate investors, and their lawyers, must first go to the National Registry for a title search, to the Ministry of the Environment and Energy for an environmental impact study, the local municipality for zoning laws and building permits, and then perhaps to other ministries and institutions for pertinent information. There are some excellent Real Estate agents who can find you the property you want. In addition, pick up The Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica. It covers all aspects of living and investing in the country, and is required reading for anyone thinking of living full- or part-time here.
The government of Miguel Angel Rodríguez has assumed a constitutional and legislative commitment to deregulation and privatization through a national consensus process. Instead of simply selling off state owned companies and institutions to the private sector, Costa Rica has opted for a phased opening up of areas such as telecommunications. For example, ICE, the Costa Rica Institute of Electricity, which today holds a constitutional monopoly in the field, will not be sold - the various telecommunications services will be offered as concessions, and ICE will become just another player in this modern, competitive branch.
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