Wednesday 8 February 2023

Costa Rica advances in infrastructure, but is still far from overcoming lag

Costa Rica occupies the last positions in terms of connectivity and quality of roads, according to competitiveness report. Sustained investment of 2% or 3% of GDP is required.

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Perhaps you have noticed that the current government is building several infrastructure works in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) with the objective of mitigating road congestion problems.

“It would be mean not to recognize how well the Government has done in this area thanks to the experience and diligence of Mr. Rodolfo,” said Silvia Bolaños, director of the National Chamber of Transporters. La Republica

However, projects such as Circunvalación Norte, the new bridge over the Virilla River and the overpasses in Gariantia Sociales and Guadalupe on the Circunvalacaion would not be sufficient to overcome the 30-year infrastructure lag, according to Federico Villalobos, Deloitte’s infrastructure manager.

The country’s roads improved in terms of connectivity and quality, as Costa Rica advanced several positions in relation to last year, according to the 2019 Global Competitiveness Report, released this week, covering 141 economies, measuring national competitiveness—defined as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity.

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Costa Rica placed overall 63rd (of 141), down 7 positions from last year.

Investing in infrastructure will be key for Costa Rica and the rest of the Latin American countries to move forward in times of economic uncertainty, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

In the case of connectivity, our country advanced eight places, and ranked 103 out of 141 countries, while in quality, it improved seven places.

However, to overcome the problem of road infrastructure, the Government should invest between 2% and 3% of GDP in a sustained manner for several years, while now barely spending 1%, Villalobos added.

“Infrastructure improvements do not happen overnight, so it is necessary not to create false expectations. What is clear is that this Government has been reflecting improvements, although much remains to be resolved and to invest to overcome the lag,” said Villalobos.

Several of the bottlenecks that affect drivers in the GAM today would be cleared before Carlos Alvarado leaves the Government in May 2022.

The  Circunvalación Norte, the road that completes the ring road around San Jose, a project that began decades ago and only now is nearing completion, and the overpasses in the Garantias Sociales and Guadalupe, as well as the expansion of the Lindora radial, will be completed.

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Likewise, the first four-level intersection, located in Taras – La Lima, in Cartago, is expected to be under construction.

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In all cases, these are road works that would be complementary to the intercity electric train project – which will be concessioned next year – that will connect 15 cantons over 73 kilometers.

“It would be mean not to recognize how well the Government has done in this area thanks to the experience and diligence of Mr. Rodolfo (Minister of Public Works and Transport – MOPT), although there are still areas to improve,” said Silvia Bolaños, director of the Cámara Nacional de Transportistas (National Chamber of Transporters).

For drivers ,it is essential that the government provides solutions to the serious problems of congestion, since at the moment, Costa Rica is one of the countries with the highest vehicle density, only surpassed by Mexico and Argentina, according to the Estado de la Nación (State of the Nation) report.

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For economist at the Universidad Nacional, Roxana Morales, investment in infrastructure would improve the country’s competitiveness and production and, in the short term, would generate sources of employment and income for households, particularly for those in which the workforce has a low level of specialization and is unable to join the most dynamic activities at the moment.

The former MOPT minister, Carlos Segnini (2014-2016) added that the progress of the road agenda is a product of the stopping of bad practices to order the program. “Now, the projects are with studies, designs, executing units; before they were put out to the bidding without these requirements, by political game, and the consequence was the cost and delay of the works.”

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