Forgotten World (170): Uruguay

Uruguay has a small population of just 3.4 million, mostly of European origin, half of whom live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area. The country has traditionally been better off than many other countries in South America, and is known for its advanced education and social security systems and liberal laws governing social issues such as divorce. It was among the first nations in Latin America to establish a welfare state, maintained through relatively high taxes on industry. The system, which had increasingly strained state finances, was reformed in the 1990s.
Colonial towns, beach resorts and a year-round mild climate have contributed to a growing tourist industry. The economy has also benefited from offshore banking. But a dependence on livestock and related exports has left Uruguay vulnerable to ups and downs in world commodity prices. Recessions in Brazil and Argentina – its main export markets and sources of tourists – propelled the country into economic crisis in 2002.


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