The poverty in Costa Rica surprises many a tourist. In the United States and Canada, the image of tropical Costa Rica is the focus of travel websites.
Costa Rica has the lowest poverty rate in Central America. Despite this it has struggled to keep the amount of persons below the poverty line under 20% of the population.
The poverty issue is that, for the most part, is swept under the rug by Costa Rica’s administrations. The subject only surfaces when politicians need a boost in the image or during an election.
Read more Poverty Remains Stagnant in Costa
Today, with a little over a week before Costa Ricans go to the polls, three presidential candidates vow to eradicate extreme poverty during their four year term, a promise that anyone can see is as not only difficult, but impossible to keep.
Johnny Araya, candidate for the Liberación Nacional (PLN); Otto Guevara, of the Movimiento Libertario, and Luis Guillermo Solís, of the Acción Ciudadana (PAC), have all included in the plan for an eventual government, the elimination extreme poverty before they leave offie in 2018.
Wikipedia defines extreme poverty, absolute poverty, or abject poverty as “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.” It depends not only on income but also on access to services.” Extreme poverty was defined in 1996 by Joseph Wresinski, the founder of ATD Fourth World as:
[quote] the absence of one or more factors enabling individuals and families to assume basic responsibilities and to enjoy fundamental rights. The situation may become widespread and result in more serious and permanent consequences. The lack of basic security leads to chronic poverty when it simultaneously affects several aspects of people’s lives, when it is prolonged and when it severely compromises people’s chances of regaining their rights and of reassuming their responsibilities in the foreseeable future.
According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos (INEC) – Costa Rica’s institute of statistics and census – today there are today some 85.000 families living in extreme provety, which results in some 339.000 people.
While the presidential candidates and their political teams claim to have the formula, the experts see the reality of eradicating extreme poverty as an issue, for now, only solved on paper.
The director of the INEC, Víctor Hugo Céspedes, sees the solution as one deserving a “long term vision” than one that of immediacy.
The head of the Instituto de Investigaciones en Ciencias Económicas de la Universidad de Costa Rica, Juan Diego Trejos, says “theoretically it would be possible, there are resources for it. In practical terms I would say no”.
Amparo Pacheco, CEO of the Fondo de Desarrollo y Asignaciones Familiares (Fodesaf) – Fund Development and Family Allowances – she did not dare affirm or rule out that a new government can solve the problem in just four years.
“It is possible (eliminating extreme poverty), but I don’t know in how many years…”, said Pacheco.
The plan by the PLN is give monthly each person living in extreme poverty in rural areas ¢19.530 colones and ¢20.834 to those living in urban areas (about US$40).
The plan of Otto Guevara of the Movimiento Libertario does not include giving a direct payment, rather his proposal is to have the central government, business and churches (religion) work together towards a common goal. The plan involves creating employment, debugging support lists and eliminating duplication of existing social assistance programs.
The PAC is even lighter in their plan. Ana Helena Chacón, vice-presidential candidate, explains that focusing on social policy towards the 85.000 families and maximizing aid could pull these people of extreme poverty.