As of December 1999, net international reserves equaled US$1.8 billion or roughly five months of imports. Having this hard currency buffer to work with, the Salvadoran Government undertook a monetary integration plan beginning January 1, 2001, by which the U.S. dollar became legal tender alongside the colon, and all formal accounting was undertaken in U.S. dollars. This way, the government has formally limited its possibility of implementing open market monetary policies to influence short term variables in the economy. Since 2004, the colon stopped circulating and is now never used in the country for any type of transaction; however some stores still have prices in both colones and U.S. dollars. In general, people were unhappy with the shift from the colon to the U.S. dollar, because wages are still the same but the price of everything increased. Some economists claim this rise in prices would have been caused by inflation regardless even had the shift not been made. Some economists also contend that now, according to Gresham's Law, a reversion to the colon would be disastrous to the economy.
Some banks however claim that they still do some transactions en colones, keeping this change from being unconstitutional. The change to the dollar also precipitated a trend toward lower interest rates in El Salvador, helping many to secure credit in order to buy a house or a car; over time, displeasure with the change has largely disappeared, though the issue resurfaces as a political tool when elections are on the horizon.
A challenge in El Salvador has been developing new growth sectors for a more diversified economy. As many other former colonies, for many years El Salvador was considered a monoexporter economy. This means, an economy that depended heavily on one type of export. During colonial times, the Spanish decided that El Salvador would produce and export indigo, but after the invention of synthetic dyes in the 19th century, Salvadoran authorities and the newly created modern state turned to coffee as the main export of the economy. Since the cultivation of coffee required the highest lands in the country, many of these lands were expropriated from indigenous reserves and given or sold cheaply to those that could cultivate coffee. The government provided little or no compensation to the indigenous peoples. On occasions this compensation implied merely the right to work for seasons in the newly created coffee farms and to be allowed to grow their own food. Such policies provided the basis of conflicts that would shape the political situation of El Salvador in the years to come.
For many decades, coffee was one of the only sources of foreign currency in the Salvadoran economy. The civil war in the 80's and the fall of international coffee prices in the 90's, pressured the Salvadoran government to diversify the economy. ARENA governments have followed policies that intend to develop other exporting industries in the country as textiles and sea products. Tourism is another industry Salvadoran authorities...