(QCOSTARICA BLOG) Both Expats and Locals (Ticos) passionately argue or debate about everything possible. As I have said before, “Politics, not soccer is the national sport.”
However, a consensus says both groups seem to agree that (a) the government institutions and bureaucracy do not or have never planned for the future. Anything beyond the end of their collective nose is too much to think about, and (2) “maintenance” of resources is a dirty word never to be uttered for fear of more accountability. (Also an ugly word.)
The classic example for those who do not know is the National Stadium which was built with Chinese money, Chinese labor and Chinese product imports (Duty free of course). The great State of Costa Rica never thought about maintaining the structure. For months, there was no budget for this dreaded function. Only after completion someone spoke up and we finally found a an emergency maintenance budget dedicated to a literally free stadium.
In short the multitude of institutions and government direct bureaucracies think about “now” and not “tomorrow”.
The same with roads!
Our roads, all over the country which in addition to hosting large trucks for export/import also must support an amazing amount of cars and buses. When there is a “hueco” (Hole) and there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, they are filled with cold asphalt which even the most naive is aware that the repair will last one good rain and it is back to inspecting the shock absorbers of the car and worst, slowing traffic to a crawl. Using cold asphalt saves jobs, not vehicles.
Even tourism, which built this country from a green garden into a green income source thinks of today and has never given thought about the future. The result is hundreds, “yes,” hundreds of believers in Costa Rica’s potential came, saw, then invested and now are broke.
Correct, the “All Inclusive” resorts with large marketing budgets survive while the tourist has no idea what this country is about. After a week in the sun, it is back home and with accolades that they have been to the fine beaches and jungles of Costa Rica.
Well, even that has slowed down considerably.
1) We are too expensive. The fourth most expensive country in all of Latin America
2) In a word, our infrastructure “sucks” despite years and years of warning.
3) There are only reflexive, ad hoc plans to maintain roads, drinkable water and safety.
4) There are other choices for the traveler.
The Country cannot agree on a budget and the words within the Legislative Assembly (Congress) are pure “mumbo jumbo” in any language. We face new taxes, what are they? Who knows and who would invest in this country not knowing? So because the tax plan along with the budget have never been maintained, direct foreign investment is down over 20% so far this year.
Commerce is at a low point! Is there relief in sight? Not really because it is too easy to place blame on Intel or the 2008 recession. Think forward? no way!
What are the massive bureaucracies to do? They run the country and their only goal is to obtain a larger budget. Doing “things” is not on the agenda.
We cry crocodile tears and the bureaucrats have little if any concern.
The infamous road to nowhere cost us $30+ million in losses and it is nothing more than a dirt path that we call La Trocha. Despite being at least 4 years old there has not been one criminal charge against the construction companies who literally stole that money. The road remains a dirt because nobody in government, or not one ministry nor institution thought about paving it.
Investigating, in itself, has become a cottage industry for Costa Rica.
Replacing ICE as the least productive bureaucracy is the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social or better known as the Caja. Everyone who lives here must, by law, pay into the Caja insurance plan. Many do not and many companies, including the national government are dramatically late in payments.
We hire, but do not plan for the ancillary costs which have historically eaten productivity.
Probably third on the list of words never to use when in Costa Rica is “productivity.”
Because the Caja has been around since 1947 and has never, ever, kept up with the basic needs of its paid-in insurance clients, the population growth nor the trends in modern medicine. The institution has morphed into being incompetent to many and, in fact, just as corrupt as those others we love to hate such as ICE and RECOPE.
The list goes on. But, sooner or later the country’s excessive borrowing on the international market to cover up the lack of planning, caring for our gifts and the need to pay back loans taken out for the last 25 years simply will win unless this president, Solis, takes aim at what is fiscally essential. We are in need, much like Greece, of tough decisions and a clear path that we each can buy into for economic survival and some sort of sustainable future.