Costa Rica 2017 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Enrique J. Egloff, President of the Chamber of Industries, on encouraging greater investment, increasing the country's competitiveness, and stimulating economic growth.

Enrique J. Egloff
Enrique J. Egloff has a degree in business administration and marketing from Oklahoma State University and advanced studies in marketing and finance at INCAE. Former positions have included Marketing and Sales Director at Bridgestone/Firestone for Costa Rica and Central America and Advisor to CORFO and the government of Chile in Foreign Direct Investment Promotion. He is currently President of the Chamber of Industries.

What initiatives are underway to encourage investment in other areas beyond the capital?

The recently renovated airport in Liberia, Guanacaste will play an important role; hence, we need to work on the cargo terminal there in order to generate trade activity in and out of the country. That will also provide conditions for the development of other economic activities, such as agroindustry. We need to move forward and through innovation try to transform our agricultural industry into value-added processes whereby Costa Rica, its people, and the agricultural undertakings take advantage of the activities that are being developed by the multinational corporations active in the country.

What do you think the country needs to do to increase its competitiveness?

We need to create better conditions, and energy is an important area. Costa Rica has been successful, and the Chamber of Industries has played an important role in the establishment of a sustainable long-term energy plan. We are in full agreement with the government that the country is moving in the right direction in that sense. We need to be less dependent on fossil fuels for generation, and on non-sustainable resources in general. Costa Rica has for many years been developing hydroelectric energy; however, we need to focus on improving rates and generating significant levels in an effort to reduce costs. That has to do with efficiency and focusing a lot of our matrix into lower cost, sustainable energy generation. It is also related to efficiency and opening up energy generation and distribution to competition. Competition drives efficiency and leads to a reduction in costs and rates. We also need to ensure that we make processes easier for companies to come here and invest. This is something that we have been discussing seriously with the president. One of the most important things that we need to focus on is strengthening our security. We all understand that we live in democratic countries and that the people of Costa Rica are prone to corruption and illegal activities; therefore, we need to ensure that we provide jobs and a sense of wellbeing to the population so that they do not feel the temptation of such activities.

How do you foresee Costa Rica's economic structure evolving in the short to medium term?

Services are going to continue to grow. We need to make sure that we maintain the diversification of our economy, which has proven to be successful for the country. Diversification means that we have the possibility to continue to move forward as sectors are affected in the future. A diverse economy reduces risks that may occur when a specific sector suffers a downturn. The fact that Costa Rica was diversified when we faced the 2008 real estate crisis allowed the country to better handle the crisis and survive. While other countries were significantly affected because their economies were not as diversified as Costa Rica's, we were able to emerge faster and stronger.

What is the Chamber of Industries doing to contribute to the growth of the industrial sector?

We need to understand that what we are producing and selling today is not what is going to be sold in the future; I do not know what sort of industry we will have in the country in five years. The role of the Chamber of Industries is to ensure that we help in the development of new activities and in the development of the future industry of Costa Rica. The Chamber of Industry is playing an important role as a facilitator by organizing activities and bringing in key worldwide players in innovation to come share their successes and experience with local industry and different players in the country, such as universities and institutions involved in R&D, as well as governmental divisions and industry so that we can generate actions to get them involved in innovation. Innovation can happen when industry, academia, and research institutions all work together.