The population (3,289,000 residents According to estimates of 1998) now increases (second half of the nineties) at a moderate rate, between 5 and 6 per year ‰; the population considered urban represents over 90 % of the total (1998), mainly due to the effect of the capital, Montevideo, whose metropolitan area housed 1. 378. 700 pop. at the 1996 census, that is 42 % of the entire Uruguayan population.
The territorial structure of the Uruguay it always maintains a clear dichotomy between the ‘center’ and the ‘periphery’: the metropolitan region of Montevideo is by far the most densely populated area, the decision-making and functional engine, the fulcrum of the secondary and tertiary economy; the rest of the country, on the other hand, is sparsely populated and urbanized, mainly destined for extensive animal husbandry, a strong voice of the economy. A more in-depth territorial reading allows, however, to identify three axes of development, which substantially coincide with the three sides of the Uruguayan territorial ‘triangle’. The southern axis stands out, between the Río de la Plata and Punta del Este, since it hinges on Montevideo, with its port and the international airport of Carrasco, which are affected by the gravitational and functional attraction of Buenos Aires, opposite the Río de la Plata. This stretch of coast is the area of greatest dynamism because it hinges on two other nodes of territorial development: to the west, the Río de la Plata region is home to rational and highly productive agriculture, while, to the east, that of Punta del Este is the privileged theater of tourism. The other two axes coincide with the border regions of the Argentine and Brazilian sides, both at the center of development projects in cooperation with Argentina and Brazil. They are areas of transition, crossroads of commercial flows and of traffic that are not always legal, the headquarters of urban centers that have risen to straddle the border lines, the so-called double cities. Therefore, the real economic ‘periphery’ coincides with the4 ÷ 5 residents / km ² since the estancias, the large farms of extensive livestock, dominate. This dualism strongly marks the urban framework of the country: on the one hand there is Montevideo, on the other there are small towns that do not reach 100. 000 residents, mainly arranged along the aforementioned axes, such as Salto, Paysandú and Rivera. For Uruguay 2011, please check internetsailors.com.
The Uruguay it is trying, with difficulty, to get back on top of the decades-long economic crisis that has made its past role as ‘Switzerland of South America’ vanish. GDP per residents ($ 6,180 in 1998) is the highest in South America after Argentina, but the main economic problem remains the need for diversification with respect to the primary, fundamental but hypertrophic activity. The semi-wild breeding, impressive compared to the size of the country, in 1998 numbered 17,800. 000 sheep and 10. 475. 000 cattle; cereal farming is the second largest rural activity in terms of size and economic importance.
The path of diversification has led the country to invest in industry which, despite some recent developments in the energy, steel and mechanical sectors, remains substantially linked to the agri-food sector. Even within the agricultural sector, attempts are being made to create alternatives to the prevailing livestock sector, with the spread of cereal crops and fruit trees, as in the case of irrigated rice growing, developed in the South-East, and citrus growing, spread in the regions of Paysandú and Bella Vista. Among the industrial plants stand out the oil-bearing ones (sunflower, flax, peanuts) and soy, flanked by sugar beet and tobacco. Hydroelectricity has excellent potential, which already provides 70% of the requirement. Tourism, which can count on over two million visitors a year, mainly from Argentina and Brazil, is undoubtedly one of the sectors richest in potential for the future. The Uruguay in 1994 it had 8 protected natural areas, extending out of 32. 000 ha, and of a ‘biosphere reserve’, extending over 200. 000 ha.
The main challenge that awaits the Uruguay it consists of the response that will be given to the need for major structural reforms, which will have to make the national economy more dynamic and competitive, continuing to pursue the path of diversification and rebalancing regional disparities. The Uruguay it will benefit from the territorial contiguity of Brazil and Argentina, trying to preserve its own individuality between these two large neighboring states, which are its main trading partners, followed by the USA and the major EU countries. The importance of these ‘neighbors’ in the economic structure was strengthened with the founding of MERCOSUR (Mercado Común del Sur), the common market that brings together Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and the Uruguay,. In addition to trade links, common management and enhancement projects for cross-border regions are underway between the countries concerned, which, however, are very slow to take off.