Paraguay has a market economy characterized by a large informal sector. Agriculture dominates the economy, but unequal land distribution has resulted in a large class of peasant farm laborers. A large portion of the population is uninvolved in the formal economy, instead existing as subsistence farmers. In recent years, the economy has grown as a result of increased agricultural exports, especially soybeans. Reforms in fiscal and monetary policy also have improved Paraguay’s economy. Inflation has dropped, and the currency has appreciated gradually. Nevertheless, urban unemployment and underemployment have been problems throughout Paraguay’s history. Paraguay has the economic advantages of a young population and vast hydroelectric power but has few very bad mineral resources, and political instability has undercut some of the economic advantages present. The government welcomes foreign investment. Paraguay is a middle-income country that changed rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of hydroelectric development, agricultural colonization, construction, and cash crop exports. Nevertheless, the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 1986 was approximately US$3.4 billion, or roughly US$1,000 per capita, ranking Paraguay only ahead of Bolivia among the Spanish-speaking countries of South America. Paraguay was the most agricultural economy of South America, and that sector influenced the performance of virtually every other sector of the economy.
Traditionally isolated and underpopulated, Paraguay was one of the last countries in Latin America to enjoy the region's rapid growth in the post-World War II period. Paraguay entered a phase of sustained economic growth in the late 1950s. Its economy grew at the fastest pace of all the Latin American countries during most of the 1970s as the Paraguayan-Brazilian project, the Itaipu Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric plant, was constructed. During that decade, cotton and soybeans came to dominate agriculture, mostly as a result of high export prices and agricultural colonization. Paraguay's economy also was characterized by a large underground sector, in which smuggling and contraband had become normal features by the 1970s.
The Paraguayan economic miracle of the 1970s came to a halt in 1982 because of the completion of construction at Itaipú, lower commodity prices for cotton and soybeans, and world recession. The economy recovered in 1984 and 1985, stagnated in 1986, and continued to expand in 1987 and 1988. Despite its rapid growth, the Paraguayan economy became increasingly dependent on soybeans and cotton for exports and overall economic dynamism. These two crops, however, remained subject to external price fluctuations and local weather conditions, both of which varied considerably.
Agriculture dominates Paraguay's entire economy. It has a market economy that is characterized by a large informal sector. The currency, (1Guarani PYG) equals 100 centimos. One American dollar equals PYG6155. Inflation fell drastically between 2003 and 2004. It fell from 14.2% to a 30 year low of 4.3%.
Via Bria Reynolds