A week ago we celebrated the swan song of Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN) from eight long, really long years of owning the presidency, and with open arms we welcomed Luis Guillermo Solis as the surprise president elect of Costa Rica. Most importantly we lament to say farewell to ½ of Intel as well as all of the Bank of America operations center from Costa Rica.
By midweek the two top stories are the departures of both Intel and Bank of America. Each alone deserves headline news since they represent some 3,000 direct employees who will soon be without jobs on top of an already guesstimated 8.5% national unemployment rate. In addition, we must consider the loss of millions of dollars in direct revenue to the country and the loss of those businesses and workers who will close as a result of the Intel cutback and B of A departure such as in logistics, real estate, suppliers, telecom, IT, food, etc.
No matter how much this government and its associates do a turkey dance trying to circle the wagons; the departure of these two major companies gives Costa Rica another black eye. And according to news reports, a well deserved one at that.
The verbiage has been all very diplomatic and indeed almost apologetic by the two departing companies and the “What me worry?” attitude of the government. However, the reality is that Costa Rica is not sufficiently competitive to ward off other countries who are willing to work harder, cut better deals and offer a far more simplified way of doing business. (I was told that Vietnam, the newest Intel location, has offered that company an electric rate of eight U.S. cents KW/H while ICE/CNFL of Costa Rica is charging a “most favorite rate” of 98 U.S. cents KW/H.)
Over and over again we, I mean just about to the person, have complained about the massive amount of rules, regulations, government slowness on every level. The costs of operations, the exaggerated licensing by a multitude of agencies and the scratch my head syndrome as to why we have so much duplication of so many minor tasks that eat up money like a sawmill just makes it unattractive to live and do business.
With Intel packing its bags and B of A calling the moving van, I believe others who call Paradise “home” will now re-think and might also conclude Costa Rica is not all that attractive.
We have for far too many years sold to the world the same Costa Rica mantra; we are a nation of democracy, no military, a Nobel Laureate, a country of peace, ecology personified and year around spring time weather. However, what is not noted is we individuals pay dearly as does business in our electric bills, food, clothing, water, travel, housing and energy. (The essentials of life.)
My most profound hope is that the new president and the 57 person National Assembly will now understand the need to actually be competitive, translate that word into a plan of action and unload the many outdated agencies that simply make both business and life miserable. Each agency is a line-item cost and our only goal should be to create clients, sustainable foreign investments and a favorable global image that is compatible with the yet young 21st. century.