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El Salvador: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in El Salvador

Business people are expected to wear suits. Although some local business people speak English, a good knowledge of Spanish is important. Business cards are essential. The best months for business visits are September to March, but avoid the Christmas and New Year period.

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1700.

Economy

A long-running civil war (1980-1992) caused a significant decline in El Salvador's agriculture-dependent economy, exacerbated by a fall in world coffee prices that only continued until 2004. Other economic sectors such as textiles and clothes manufacturing were able to expand and take up some of the slack, and in recent years the economy has come to rely heavily on the financial sector and service industries such as call centres. Agriculture is now just 11% of GDP with services accounting for 59%, and industry for the remaining 30%.

Dollarisation (the adoption of the US dollar as the country’s currency) began in 2001. Its merits are still hotly debated here, with opposition politicians continuing to call for a reversal.

Underemployment remains a serious problem, and remittances from Salvadorans working abroad are a vital source of income for many families. These have fallen substantially as a result of the global financial recession. The Central America-Dominican Republic-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) provides El Salvador preferential access to American markets, benefitting the textiles and clothing, and processed food sectors, but it also means that an increased proportion of the remittances that arrive from the USA soon find their way back into US-owned companies, rather than circulating in the local economy. El Salvador is a member of the Central American Common Market. After contracting in 2009, the economy experienced less than 1% growth in 2010. Inflation in 2009 was 0.4% rising to 1.2% in 2010.

GDP

US$21.21 billion (2010).

Main exports

Textiles, coffee, sugar, shrimp, medicines.

Main imports

Consumer goods, capital goods, raw materials, petroleum, food.

Main trading partners

USA, Honduras, Mexico and EU.

Keeping in Touch in El Salvador

Telephone

Phone numbers have eight digits, and no area codes. Get phonecards from corner kiosks to use payphones. Many travellers may find it easier to use VOIP calling from internet cafés or from their hotels, or to buy a local SIM card for their mobile phone (ensure your phone is network-unlocked before leaving home).

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone companies, though calls are likely to be costly. Coverage is variable.

Internet

Internet access is readily available in San Salvador and the main tourist destinations, at cyber cafes and hotels. Wi-Fi is less ubiquitous.

Media

Press freedom is guaranteed under El Salvador's constitution. Among the daily newspapers published in San Salvador are El Diario de Hoy, El Mundo and La Prensa Gráfica plus several provincial papers. Most TV stations are privately run. Cable TV is available across much of the country and carries a wide range of international channels including Teledos, Canal Seis and TV Doce. There are some 70 radio stations in the capital alone, most of these are also commercial run such as Radio YSKL, FM Globo, Femenina 102.5 and Radio Cadena Central. Radio El Salvador is a state-run station.

Post

Airmail to Europe takes up to two weeks. In San Salvador, the main branch is in Centro de Gobierno.

Post Office hours

Mon-Fri 0830-1600.

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