Carlos Alvarado, presidential candidate of the ruling Partido Accion Cuidadana  – Citizens’ Action Party – PAC, spoke to Reuters during an interview in San Jose, March 26, 2018.

Carlos Alvarado, presidential candidate of the ruling Citizens’ Action Party (PAC), speaks during an interview with Reuters in San Jose, Costa Rica March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate.

Carlos Alvarado says he will slash the country’s growing fiscal deficit by half if he wins Sunday’s run-off election, a contest in which economic concerns have taken a back seat to a debate over gay marriage.

Carlos Alvarado, 38, trails in some polls behind Fabricio Alvarado – no relation –  while others show the pair running neck-and-neck.

Carlos Alvarado, who unlike his opponent supports gay marriage, told Reuters on Monday he aims to shrink the deficit from 6.2% to 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2022.

The deficit is set to grow by one percentage point next year, authorities and credit rating agencies have warned.

The current administration, where Carlos Alvarado was Minister of the Ministerio de Desarrollo Humano e Inclusión Social. (IMAS) – Human Development and Social Inclusion, was blocked by a divided Congress over the last four years from passing measures to create a Value-Added Tax (VAT), cut public salaries and tax capital gains.

Fitch downgraded Costa Rica’s rating from stable to negative in January, citing “institutional gridlock” that has thwarted fiscal reform and warning that more delays will raise risks to growth.

However, debt has now increased so much that parties previously opposed to tax reform may support it to avoid further economic malaise, Carlos Alvarado said.

“The competitive advantage I have is that time has run out,” he said in an interview at an organic market in the capital.

Lawmakers have been discussing a 13 percent VAT rate, more modest than an originally proposed 15 percent, but he said that was “not enough.”

His opponent Fabricio Alvarado has yet to present concrete proposals to stem the growing deficit and crime rate, instead focusing on opposition to gay marriage, sex education and abortion.

MAINTAIN FLOATING SYSTEM

Carlos Alvarado says he opposes the export sector’s demands to devalue the colon and wants to maintain the floating exchange rate while making central bank interventions more transparent.

But he pledged to support agricultural and industrial sectors by negotiating better terms for joining the Pacific Alliance trade pact with Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru.

In the fight against record crime, Carlos Alvarado rejected his rival’s “firm hand” stance, saying it would aggravate violence. He also criticized President Luis Guillermo Solis’ handling of corruption cases that have rocked the government.

He repeated his support for gay marriage, contrasting with his opponent who gained widespread support in the conservative country after rejecting an Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling to legalize same-sex unions.

“I did not hide my position for political gain. I was honest with citizens (even though it was unpopular),” Carlos Alvarado said.

However, the novelist and ex-rock singer’s anti-abortion stance highlights the limits to his progressive agenda.

Carlos Alvarado is proposing to develop specific regulations to better enforce a 50-year-old law allowing a pregnancy to be terminated only if the mother’s health is at risk. He said this will better protect women who are often unsure of their rights due to the stigma of abortion.

Article originally published by Reuters; editing by the Q. Read the original article.