Landlocked Paraguay has a market economy distinguished by a large informal sector, featuring re-export of imported consumer goods to neighboring countries, as well as the activities of thousands of microenterprises and urban street vendors. Between 1970 and 2009 the country had the highest economic growth of South America, with an average rate of 7.2% per year and the prospect of 9% annual growth from 2010, being the highest in South America.
The country also boasts the third most important free commercial zone in the world: Ciudad del Este, trailing behind Miami and Hong Kong. A large percentage of the population, especially in rural areas, derives its living from agricultural activity, often on a subsistence basis. Because of the importance of the informal sector, accurate economic measures are difficult to obtain. On a per capita basis, real income has stagnated at 1980 levels. The economy grew rapidly between 2003 and 2008 as growing world demand for commodities combined with high prices and favorable weather to support Paraguay's commodity-based export expansion. Paraguay is the sixth largest soy producer in the world. Drought hit in 2008, reducing agricultural exports and slowing the economy even before the onset of the global recession.
In 2010, Paraguay experienced the greatest economic expansion of the zone and the highest of South America, with a GDP growth rate of 14.5% by the end of the year. The following year, Paraguay's growth rate remained a relatively high 6.4%;
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