Monday 4 December 2023

Kudos To President Carlos And Other Ramblings

Paying the bills


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2 December 2023 - At The Banks - Source: BCCR

Paying the bills


Rico’s TICO BULL – Kudos to President Carlos Alvarado. I was one of the many, or few, that never believed he could do what two presidents before him could. Not even Oscar Arias. Get passed in the legislative assembly the tax reform bill.

It was not even hours prior to learning that the bill had been approved in second and final debate that I had stated publicly, no, it won’t get passed by the bunch sitting behind their ‘curuls’ (thrones, my interpretation) in Cuesta de Mora, the name of the barrio where the legislative complex is located.

No. No way. Others have tried. It won’t get past the first debate. It’s not going to happen. All I have said on the subject in the past several months.

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Well, I am ready to eat crow. Wait give me a bitter chocolate pie instead.

And before all this, it was around 2 in the afternoon on Monday I happened to be downtown. I was not to be there, my plans for the day didn’t include a trip to San Jose. But here I was, in the area of the Casa Amarilla (Chancellery) when I happened to be right behind La Bestia (The Beast), the police tactical vehicle. After a stop at the Mexican Embassy, my journey out of San Jose continued to the Public Library and beyond and there, parking (to hide) in the back alley of the library, was once again La Bestia.

I thought it odd.

It was shortly after 6 pm when I learned of the news of the passing of the Plan Fiscal. My thoughts immediately went to the event hours earlier, I understood perfectly why The Beast was there.

The Beast in waiting – just in case – outside the Legislative building in downtown San Jose, authorities did not take it lightly, ready for any outbreak of violence

It was later moved right next to the legislative building, backing up the contingency of on foot police officers.

They were prepared.

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Fortunately, nothing came of it. The feeling of “this is the Costa Rica I fell in love with over two decades ago”. No riots. No violence. Nothing of the worst that the Ministry of Seguridad Publica (MSP) had planned for.

The first time I ever saw Costa Ricans raise their voice in protest was back in 2000 when the public sector unions rallied the masses against the “ICE Combo”.

In the years following there have been many manifestations, protests, the worst of these have been blocking traffic and political and union leaders making good sound bites. Then it would rain and the protest, manifestation, whatever was going that day, was over.

But, in the last several years, the protests have become violent. Violent for Costa Rica. Nothing compared to the violence in many other countries. But still violent when compared to the past 70 years when Don Pepe or “Papa Figueres” as I like to call him abolished the army.

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So what comes next?

The national strike that began on September 10 is over. If you will recall the strike was against the Plan Fiscal. Now that it is passed irrevocably, signed by the president and in effect in the coming days, the strike no longer had any purpose.

But Albino Vargas, the leader of the largest of the public sector unions, the ANEP, assured the “fight” will continue, albeit from a different angle.

The thousands of teachers, the last major holdout of the strikers, will get back to work sometime this week, just in time for the ‘summer’ vacation. All will be forgiven, only a handful of teachers caught taking a vacation out of the country will be sanctioned, the rest, back to school as nothing happened. No matter that their strike was declared illegal, the government has made noise that wages will be docked. Can’t provoke another strike if they try.

For the rest of the people, I dare to say that many if not most, their prime concern these days is the Aguinaldo – the annual bonus- which by law every salaried employee – in the private and public sector – will receive on or before the legal payday of December 20.

For public sector employees, the holiday shopping season was delayed, waiting for word when the government would have the money to pay. With the passing of the Plan Fiscal payment is assured. Well, it was never not going to be, the deputy minister of the Treasury said he would resort to the ‘corner lender’  (loan shark) if had to to make good on what is a right of every salaried person in Costa Rica.

Not too good for the loan sharks that were probably getting ready to take a bite of the government’s ass. Can I say that here? Oh, I just did.

This year was not the traditional pay day of the first week in December. Typically by this time every year back as far as I can remember in Costa Rica, retailers, by this time, were crammed with shoppers with their Aguinaldo in hand.

This year, like at Walmart in Alajuela I happened to be yesterday, the specials were on, but the shoppers had yet to arrive.

Beyond this week and for the next few weeks, the country is in holiday shopping mode. Prices at the gas pumps came down, retailers are doing their best to get their share of the spending. For the average Tico, there is little or no concern for the economy.

Or what is to be in January.

Me, being one who earns in dollars and spends in colones, to better improve my living environment I’ve taken advantage of the dollar exchange, the specials and the prices which I am sure will start increasing come January. Just a few more items as the deals heat up even more.

I’ve even started considering buying a new car. But those pesky car dealers keep quoting me in dollars. It was just a thought, maybe I can get in on the ICE deal with the electric cars. Who do I know at ICE?

Come January I fear an entirely different scenario. Retailers will be adjusting their prices to reflect the new norm in the exchange rate – ¢600 colones for one US dollar. They will need way more colones to replace stock, which in turn will see higher prices.

I’ve seen that already on some items. At Pricesmart, a 40″ JVC flatscreen was ¢149,900 10 days ago, on Sunday the price as ¢164,000. The prices of the other flatscreens in the same line, the big ones, 50 inch and above, remained the same. I can see from the floor stock at the Santa Ana store few were sold, where only a few remained of the smaller sized. A coinincidence? Maybe. But I don’t think so.

Then there is the other reality, the reality for the masses of every January, paying off the December spending.

January in Costa Rica is known as, “la cuesta de Enero” (the January slope).

Apart from all of this, my guess of what will be ahead for us, here in Costa Rica, is just as good as yours.

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Paying the bills
"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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