The economic recession of 2009 in Costa Rica greatly affected consumer prices, as evidenced by the year’s final inflation figures released this week.
According to the National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC), the year-end inflation rate of 4.05 percent was the lowest recorded increase in consumer prices since 1971.
The inflation rate dropped nearly 10 percent since the end of 2008, when the year-end figure stood at 13.9 percent.
Though consumer prices were relatively stagnant throughout the year, Costa Rica saw its largest 2009 inflation percentage increase in December, when prices rose an average of 1.02 percent. December was the first month of 2009 that inflation increased more than 1 percent.
During the month, the biggest price variations were in food and non-alcoholic drinks, which rose 1.9 percent, entertainment and culture, which increased 1.62 percent, and transportation, which went up 1.33 percent. The higher prices in December were attributed to the increased activity of consumers during the holiday season, as well as higher gasoline and taxi prices approved by the Public Services Regulatory Authority at the beginning of the month.
For the year, the largest increases in consumer prices were seen in the cost of rent and living expenses, at 11.88 percent, and education, which rose 11.21 percent.
Living expenses increased during the year due to hikes in the cost of electricity, rent and water, while education prices went up due to the higher costs associated with secondary and higher education.
The cost of transportation, which was the driving force of the inflation rate in 2008, rose only 2.25 percent for the year.
According to a study released by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) this week, the worldwide demand for crude oil is projected to increase about 1 percent in 2010, meaning gasoline prices may not show significant increases during the year.
At a year-end presentation in December, Central Bank President Francisco de Paula Gutiérrez said he expects the inflation rate to rise to 6 to 8 percent in 2010.