About this Tropico 5 guide
Welcome El Presidente! In Tropico 5 you start in the Colonial Era. Your money making options are limited but diverse!
Income per worker: People are an important resource in Tropico 5! You will always have a limited workforce, especially educated workers. Unfortunately each inhabitant requires you to invest in safety, healthcare, food, housing,etc. So the bigger your population gets, the bigger your expenditures to keep them happy. Therefore you better make sure that your workers are earning the most money they can!
ROI: The ROI stands for Return on Investment. Meaning the time it takes to earn back your initial investment. For example, if you spend 10.000 and receive 1000 each month it would take 10 months to cover your expenses. After the 10th month you start creating value
In Tropico 5 Penultimo has renamed farms to plantations. For detailed information about Plantations please checkout this article: Tropico 5 guide: the most profitable plantations
Plantations cost 2000 to construct and provide jobs to 8 illiterate Tropicans.
From this graph we can conclude that the Cotton plantation is the best moneymaker in Tropico 5. It will only take 7 months to retrieve your initial investment.
Ranches cost only 800 to construct and provide jobs for 4 Tropicans. All ranches produce a similar amount. Therefore the most expensive resource will be most profitable.
Pig farms produce only meat, which is expensive, and are therefore the best ranch type. The ROI of 3-5 months is amazing.
Keep in mind that Ranch quality degrades pretty quickly. Each year your ranch will be about 15% less effective. Therefore I recommend to only use ranches of the same type. After 2-3 years you can change all Pig ranches to Llama ranches (for free).
After researching The Shovel (Viva El Presidente!) you unlock the ability to construct mines.
In Tropico 5 mines have to be build on predefined mountain deposits. Usually you will only have access to Iron in the colonial age. The mine will take almost a year to break even. However the value created for each worker is rather high. It is even higher than the Lumber Mill! So if you have a mining deposit just build a mine on it!
In the Colonial era you are limited to the logging camp and, after research, the lumber mill.
Logging camps have a very impressive return on investment rate of only 4 months. Upgraded with reforestation the income per worker significantly drops. Since each logging camp has over 60.000 logs available I recommend not bothering with reforestation.
The Lumber mill looks like a nice way to move your economy into the next era. However with an ROI of 23 months this is debatable. If you are planning to stay in the Colonial era for a while then it is a smart investment. If you are close to moving to the next era then you are better off saving the 8640. The world war factories there perform much better.
Start your Tropico 5 game with a few logging camps and ranches. With their low ROI they will allow you to develop your economy quickly. Just remember that they are your stepping stone to a better economy and will be replaced by other buildings when their effectiveness drops.
Research the Shovel as soon as possible and construct Iron/Bauxite/Gold mines when you can. The lumber mill has the slowest Roi so I suggest you skip that one.
It is wise to build a cotton plantation or two when you can. They provide work for 8 Tropicans each, thereby boosting your population. You will need the higher population to get independent from the Crown.