In his annual report to the Legislative Assembly, President Carlos Alvarado on Monday reviewed how Costa Rica has successfully faced the Covid-19 pandemic, reported on the country’s achievements prior to the emergency, and outlined the challenges that we must all face in the immediate future.
“This enemy has subdued rich and powerful nations, but little Costa Rica, brave, united and hopeful, is determined to defeat it, and we will overcome it!” Was one of Alvarado’s first sentences, hinting at the success of the health approach, which places it as the country with the lowest mortality due to the virus in the entire American continent.
Despite this, the President made it clear that we are barely at the beginning of a long process. “Let’s not deceive ourselves or trust ourselves. We are facing the greatest challenge of our generation”, for which it is essential that we believe in ourselves as never before.
Alvarado insisted that the strength of the response to the pandemic is possible thanks to almost 200 years of the country’s history: a nation without an army, which enjoys liberties and guarantees, a country interested in the education of citizens and with solid security. Social.
In this context, he highlighted the way in which the world pandemic has shown the importance of a Solidarity State, at the same time that he called for strengthening it in changing times and realities. He indicated that to overcome the crisis emanating from the pandemic, it is necessary to renew the social pact and continue modernizing the State. “I want to be equally categorical here: the actions that we will promote aim to take care of the country that we have built,” he emphasized.
“I was not called (elected) to govern to eliminate the Social Rule of Law: never! This must be preserved for this and future generations. But I was called to protect and modernize it, to prolong it over time,” he stated forcefully.
The President highlighted the public-private sector collaboration that made it possible to transform the CENARE in 11 days into the Specialized Patient Care Center with Covid-19, to adopting the concept that the public and the private sectors are not antagonists but natural and necessary allies. “We would advance light years. We must discipline ourselves so that after the pandemic this practice is not an exception, but a rule.,” said Alvarado.
“Let us leave aside the voices that seek to sow divisions. What we have done well in the face of the pandemic has been in plurality, but in union and teamwork. We must follow the path of innovation, solidarity and disciplined work,” he said.
Lastly, the President set the path to “successfully face the triple threat to life, social welfare and the economy represented by Covid 19”, making it clear that the challenge after overcoming the health crisis will be “to act to protect the stability of the economy and enhance its recovery. ”
He was vehement in all his speech about the importance of balance in decision making so as not to leave anyone behind, in a Costa Rica that must reinvent itself as a result of the crisis. In this regard, he noted that “the key to the decisions we have before us, once again, is to distribute the burdens. It is union and solidarity. It is balance. And that the burden of this pandemic is not burdened on the poorest and most vulnerable. That we maintain and improve social cohesion.
“There is an urgent need to act to reduce the fiscal impact of the pandemic, guarantee debt service and maintain the proper functioning of the institutions,” he said.
He mentioned the importance of generating healthy income, a measure that must go hand in hand with austerity and the redirection of funds. At the same time, he proposed the search for a solution to informality, streamline the State and cut procedures.
“We must also innovate by attracting investment. We will use all the prestige in life sciences and tourism, to take off again in all regions,” he said.
He spoke of the urgency of important reforms such as that relating to public employment, the ordering and closing of some decentralized institutions, the new modalities of working hours, the closure of Fonabe and the proposal to give greater flexibility to the National Institute of Learning (INA) so that it responds promptly to new trends and thus strengthen the employability of its students.
These actions will be necessary as the economy will drop 3.6 percent of GDP and there will be an additional shortage of more than ¢701 billion colones in the state coffers. “You cannot realistically obtain this figure only one way or the other, it has to be a balanced and temporary combination of loads,” he continued in line with the balance in strategic decision-making.
“Our goal is to reduce that impact by approximately 2 percent of GDP, to return the country to the fiscal consolidation route it had embarked on before the pandemic,” Alvarado said, while announcing the reduction of his salary by 10 % and reiterated his resignation to the pension as a former president, to set the example regarding the solidarity contribution proposal.
At the international level, he indicated the strategic actions that he is promoting and that will benefit Costa Rica in its recovery. He recalled the country’s leading role in establishing the patent repository to combat Covid-19 so that future treatments and vaccines are available to all, and the promotion of a global initiative for pandemic-related financing for countries of Average income –l ike Costa Rica – is at a fixed rate, hopefully, zero rate, and long-term.
In the last stage of the speech, he called for a constructive spirit in difficult times and to leave behind decisions based on electoral politics.
“In my two years in office, I have not dedicated myself to finding guilty parties, finding excuses or caring for popularity. I have dedicated myself to seeking and proposing solutions, regardless of whether in the short term they appear to be very harsh and have high political costs. The electoral cycle doesn’t interest me at all,” said Alvarado.
In closing, he drew a realistic panorama but also full of hope, indicating that “difficult days are coming but we should not be afraid, but with determination and self-confidence. We are going to overcome them as we have done so far: with solidarity, with empathy and with a firm decision.”
“With the conviction that we will move forward, without fear, I will continue to promote the changes that are necessary to improve Costa Rica,” he said.