Key Facts Uruguay

by World Grain Staff
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Capital: Montevideo

Population: 3.4 million (July 2007 est.)

Religions: Roman Catholic 66%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, non-professing or other 31%

Location: Southern South America, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Argentina and Brazil

Government: Constitutional republic. Chief of state and head of government: President Tabare Vazquez Rosas (since, March 1, 2005)

Economy: Uruguay’s well-to-do economy is characterized by an export-oriented agricultural sector, a well-educated workforce and high levels of social spending. After averaging growth of 5% annually during 1996-98, the economy suffered a major downturn from 1999-2002, stemming largely from the spillover effects of the economic problems of its large neighbors, Argentina and Brazil. For instance, in 2001-02 Argentina made massive withdrawals of dollars deposited in Uruguayan banks, which led to a plunge in the Uruguayan peso and a massive rise in unemployment. Total GDP in these four years dropped by nearly 20%, with 2002 being the worst year due to the banking crisis. The unemployment rate rose to nearly 20% in 2002, inflation surged, and the burden of external debt doubled. Cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) helped stem the damage. Uruguay in 2007 improved its debt profile by paying off $1.1 billion in IMF debt and continues to follow the orthodox economic plan set by the Fund in 2005. The construction of a pulp mill in Fray Bentos, which represents the largest foreign direct investment in Uruguay’s history at $1.2 billion, came online in November 2007 and is expected to add 1.6% to GDP and boost already booming exports. The economy has grown strongly since 2004 as a result of high commodity prices for Uruguayan exports, a competitive peso, growth in the region and low international interest rates.

GDP per capita: $10,700 (PPP, 2007 est.); Inflation: 8.3% (2007 est.); unemployment 10.3% (2007 est.)

Currency: Uruguayan peso, 1 U.S. dollar equals 21.07 Uruguayan pesos (Feb. 20, 2008)

Exports: $5.139 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): meat, rice, leather products, wool, fish, dairy products

Imports: $5.378 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): machinery, chemicals, road vehicles, crude petroleum

Major crops/agricultural products: Rice, wheat, maize, barley; livestock, fish

Agriculture: 9.2% of GDP and 14% of the labor force

Internet: Code .uy; 279,114 hosts and 756,000 users

Source: CIA World Factbook