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Honduras

Economy

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Honduras is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Western Hemisphere. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. The country’s extreme dependence on the export of agricultural products with constantly fluctuating world prices has made the economy highly unstable. The government sought to diversify the economy during the 1990s by developing tourism, new agricultural exports, and manufacturing industries based on assembly of clothing and textiles for export. Despite some success in these areas, unemployment has remained high. Devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 delivered a major setback to the country’s development.

The gross domestic product (GDP), which measures the total value of goods and services produced, was $9.2 billion in 2006. Per capita GDP was $1,325.20 in 2006. The national budget in 2006 included $1,804 million in revenue and $1,939 million in expenditure.

Forestry and Fishing

Honduras once had abundant forests. As in much of Central America, the forests have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Poor, landless farmers cleared land to raise crops, cattle ranchers cleared vast tracts for grazing land, and loggers cut down trees for lumber. Most of the wood exported by Honduras is pine and other softwoods. A reforestation program has been hampered by rudimentary lumbering methods and poor transportation facilities. In 2006 roundwood production was 9.54 million cubic meters (337 million cubic feet).

Exports of shellfish, primarily shrimp and lobsters, grew in importance during the 1990s and early 2000s, with shrimp farming joining the country’s industries. The fish catch in 2005 of 48,580 metric tons was primarily shellfish.

Mining

Deposits of zinc, silver, and lead are mined in Honduras. Other resources reported, but largely unworked, include iron ore, coal, and tin. In 2004, 41,000 metric tons of zinc concentrate and 48 metric tons of silver were mined.

Manufacturing

Honduran industry has grown significantly since the mid-1950s. Traditional industries were based largely on the production of agricultural and forestry products, including cotton, sugar, beverages, and furniture and other wood products. Cement was another important product. Textiles grew in importance during the 1980s, and in the 1990s the assembly of goods for export became significant as a result of the Caribbean Basin Initiative. This United States initiative allows for the duty-free importation of clothing assembled from U.S. cloth. Factories also opened to assemble electronics, furniture, and metal goods. Most of the assembly industries were based near the coastal ports of San Pedro Sula and Puerto Cortes. The capital, Tegucigalpa, is also a center of industry.

Tourism

Tourism has grown in importance and provides the country with much-needed income. Most of the visitors to the country come from elsewhere in Central America or from the United States. The well-preserved ruins of the ancient Maya civilization at Copan are a leading tourist attraction. Palm-fringed beaches along the Caribbean coast draw vacationers who wish to relax. Others choose to visit mangrove swamps, cloud forests high in the mountains, or some of the country’s many national parks where they can observe wild life, especially the country’s colorful birds. The Bay Islands off the Caribbean coast of Honduras are ringed by coral reefs, which makes them popular for snorkeling.

Currency and Banking

The unit of currency in Honduras is the lempira, divided into 100 centavos (18.90 lempiras equal U.S.$1; 2006 average). The bank of issue is the Banco Central de Honduras. The government-controlled Municipal Bank and National Agricultural Development Bank provide credit for developmental projects.

Commerce and Trade

Bananas and coffee have traditionally been the leading Honduran exports by value, although in the early 2000s they were surpassed by export revenues from industries that assemble parts for electronic devices, furniture, and other goods. Other food exports, especially shellfish, contributed significantly. The United States is the principal trading partner of Honduras. El Salvador is another leading purchaser of Honduran exports. Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico are other sources for imports.

The total yearly value of exports in 2003 was $992 million. Since the mid-1970s imports have risen rapidly, reaching a value of $3.32 billion in 2003. Income from tourism helped balance the country’s trade deficit, as has money sent back to the country by Hondurans living abroad, especially in the United States.

Communications

Journalists in Honduras generally practice self-censorship to avoid offending government authorities or powerful media owners. Honduras has 7 daily newspapers. The country also has 410 radio receivers and 101 televisions for every 1,000 residents; there are 4 main television stations. Honduras had 69 telephone mainlines for every 1,000 people in 2005.

Labor

The total labor force of Honduras numbers 3.02 million, of which 39 percent are engaged in agriculture.

 
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