(QCOSTARICA) “Are we going to let it be a cannibalism of sectorial interests that governs the debate? Or will solidarity prevail?” asked Costa Rica’s President, Carlos Alvarado, in an audio message sent this Sunday to his government team.
“It is necessary that we unite, without union there will be no good future, or we unite or sink”, he added in the recording of 5 minutes and 27 seconds, after anticipating that a “very hard stage” is coming for Costa Rica due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This attitude decision should be the one that gives the government and legislators room to adopt the measures that the country needs, putting the responsibility first, and not of the group pressure or political threats in the face of the looming electoral process that is taking place,” said the president.
Alvarado said he shares the same anguish that those who do not know how they will put food to their table or fear that a family member becomes ill with COVID-19.
“There are valid questions, how and what will be negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)? How will sanitary measures continue to be adopted in the aftermath of the pandemic? What will happen to unemployment?”
“Today I want to emphasize a question that must precede all the ones that the country must answer and that the whole country, each sector and each one of us within ourselves must answer. The question is, what is the attitude with which we will face the necessary decisions?” Alvarado pointed out.
He added that in the coming months, each person “should put their hands on their hearts and say what I am going to do to solve this, instead of starting by saying why I am exceptional and why they should exempt me.”
Likewise, he urged those in better economic conditions to contribute more to solve the crisis.
“Contrary, it would be everyone for themselves that might lead to rupture and contradiction within the Costa Rican family,” he said.
“Just as in health matters we fight with everything so that our hospital system is not saturated, as we have painfully seen in sister countries, and just as we apply solidarity and institutional deployment to protect the most affected communities, so we must apply our humanity and solidarity for the economic and social measures that we adopt,” he declared.
In order to reach solutions, the president assured that he had begun a dialogue with the heads of the Legislative Assembly fractions.
“I have no doubt, none at all, that we can get ahead,” Alvarado concluded.
More sick, more deceased, more unemployment …
The president sent this message as the country faces its most critical moment for the COVID-19 pandemic.
This Sunday, 563 new infections were confirmed, for a total of 11,114 people since the first case of a new coronavirus was confirmed on March 6.
Of the 8,086 active cases, 241 are hospitalized, the highest number yet; Of these, 44 are in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), another highest number yet.
More highest numbers are the 8 deaths recorded in the 24 hours between Saturday and Sunday’s daily press conference, bringing the total deaths to 62 due to COVID-19, another highest number so far.
Confinement measures to lower these numbers have caused the unemployment rate to reach 20.1% for the months of March, April and May. This means an increase of 8.8 percentage points compared to the same period in 2019.
To deal with the serious economic crisis, the Government has provided subsidies to affected workers, through the Bono Protoger, and has provided loans to medium and small businesses.
However, the shortage of tax revenues led the Executive Branch to turn to other financing channels, such as the quick US$508 million loan approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in April.
Associated with this financing, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced, on May 22, that it had approved a loan for US$250 million.
With the IMF itself, the Government is negotiating a stand-by agreement, mentioned by Alvarado in the audio message, that would allow him access to US$2.25 billion in exchange for applying strong adjustments to state finances.
On the expenditure side, the Executive Branch proposed to legislators a net reduction of ¢195 billion colones for the new extraordinary budget, with a projection from the Ministry of Finance, that 2020 will leave a fiscal deficit of 9.7% of the product gross domestic (GDP).
In addition, he proposed a bill to reduce by 15% the hours and wages of public employees who earn more than ¢1.5 million colones monthly and who do not belong to an institution related to the intervention of the pandemic.
To be in line with that initiative, on Friday Alvarado issued a decree to cut his salary by 15% and deposit that money in the National Emergency Fund to attend to the country’s health situation.