COSTA RICA NEWS — After a month full of drama, of political twists and turns and intricate maneuvering between lawmakers and the Administration, the Legislative Assembly’s Financial Affairs Subcommittee passed on the Administration’s 2015 national budget with inconsequential cuts, despite Chairman Ottón Solis’s (no realtion to President Luis Guillermo Solís) best efforts to trim the fat.

ventimil-colonesAs Shakespeare would have expressed it, it was a time full of sound and fury and signifying absolutely zilch. (Well, he wrote it more elegantly, but effectively came the same conclusion.)

The lawmakers recommended a little over 9.1 billion colones in savings — 0.1% of the overall budget and far from the 305 billion urged by Solís or even the tricky 221 billion suggested by the Administration — which turns out to be only a reduction of 61 billion colones in spending and the rest in using reserves.

If you’re keeping score — a nearly pointless exercise — the cuts are roughly 6.7 billion in the contributions to political parties asked by the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE), about 1.6 billion less for Immigration services, 500 million less for the Health Ministry and 120 million trimming of the Culture Ministry budget.

This is, of course, a drop in the ocean of the 7.9 trillion overall budget, a spit in the desert, a snowflake in the Artic Circle, a… Well, you get the idea. Oh, yes, there’s another 3 million from Culture, 60 millions subtracted from TSE and 63 million from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Although some legislators on the subcommittee belong to opposition parties that denounced the Administration proposed cuts as laughable sleight of hand illusions, when it came time to present their report, the members were positively timid.

When push came to shove, Social Christian Unity (PUSC) legislator Rosibel Barrantes presented a motion to cut regular spending by ¢117.9 billion colones, ¢14 billion to universities for special education funding and a delay in paying interest on the debt of ¢100 billion as well as using another ¢100 billion in reserves jealously guarded by institutions.

But this received a pushback by Frente Amplio party member Jose Ramirez who opposed touching the university contributions or, indeed, anything in education and contented himself with ¢40 billions in cuts of “superfluous” spending on travel, consulting and other such fluff.

Renovación Costarricense party’s Abelino Esquivel went along with the subcommittee motion but advised freezing ¢4 billion of the special fund to higher education. This latter proposal came from National Liberation Party (PLN) Rolando Gonzalez, who decided to wait until Friday, the last day of subcommittee deliberations, to make a statement.

In all, it might be said that Chairman Solis gave the five-person group a machete to use on the budget and the subcommittee wound up using fingernail scissors …

Article by, with editing by the Q!