Openly, I have no evidence except “intuition” to justify my position. However, I believe that most American and Canadian expats who live and invest in Costa Rica are seduced and logical thinking is mostly absent until they run out of money or patience.
The 90 day perpetual tourist or semi-resident is a risk taker and if the truth be known adds little to the society in the sense of economics and community. They are tourists by definition, on a limited budget and need to hide from authorities as they take on burger flipping jobs and surfboard rentals at the beach. That is not to say they lack value, only that they take away rather than contribute income. This is nothing new; most nations are faced with the same dilemma, especially Mexico.
The 90 day wonders, so to speak, take jobs away from the locals but attract tourists which in turn provide more jobs. After all it is difficult to employ a Tico with dreadlocks, sun bleached hair who is a surfer that speaks English, right?
Then, on the other hand the less romantic life of a 90 day tourist is a job in customer service, a sales organization that walks on the dark side of illegal employment which hurts Costa Ricans who need jobs.
Sport books are prime examples but so are the most familiar names in so called “customer service” which advertise on Craigslist which promise fame and fortune to sell everything from gold futures to erectile dysfunction pills at ½ price directly imported from India.
A young person who is bilingual tends to head for these jobs because they pay more than the minimum wage and are “cool”, in a social sense. It is almost like a fraternity of one person passing along a better work deal to the other while all lack any sort of employee loyalty.
How many young people are sucked out of the critical bi-lingual job market remains an unknown. But enough to scare off EVERY political party. Customer service and even sales is one thing, but non-tax paying sport books are mid-term losers no matter how much money they might contribute to Costa Rican political parties.
Consider, all of these customer service organizations, be they sales or actually focused on customer satisfaction do not pay Costa Rican taxes. Central America’s largest office complex is Forum 1 closely followed by SARET in or near Heredia. They are each celebrated guests of the government and do not pay corporate, real estate nor income taxes. They are exempt and that is what attracted them here in the first place. Fortunately the better ones pay the employee portion into the public health care system (Caja); some do not.
Not to mention these firms are paying deeply discounted prices on utilities such as electricity while avoiding our national telephone company humongous bills, ICE, because they employ VoIP or (Voice over Internet Protocol.)
While the government would very much like to impose some sort of tax on casinos, call centers and the infamous sport book operations, these companies (a) provide the most non-agricultural employment in Costa Rica and (b) are heavy contributors to politicians, their causes and campaigns.
We have a large bilingual (English-Spanish) population, mostly made up of youth in their twenties. They win their first job in customer service and/or sports book, get paid every other week a sum greater than what might be provided by national enterprise, are grind into the ground with calls and metrics but most of all they lack the valuable, the most valuable education which will pull CR up to a respectable level, if not a developed country status.
In short, the tools and the ingredients are there to improve tourism experiences, to work in travel, to be a part of larger companies such as Walmart, Intel, HP, etc., but the educational level is being prostituted to quick no brain and no future money.
As to the future: very limited except jumping from center to center which now seems without end, but also without future. These young people are being left behind for lack of education, lack of specific skills and yielding to the temptation of the “now” instead of tomorrow.