FUTURES NEAR AND FAR

Costa Rica 2019 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

Costa Rica sees its stability and wealth as attractive to international investment as it builds trade relationships with neighbors and overseas nations.

Epsy Campbell Barr

How would you define Costa Rican identity?

Beyond legal security and favorable environments for investors, Costa Rica is the only country that has a historical democratic foundation, which is fundamental to secure the long-term stability of its economic outlook.

What are the plans to promote and continue with the Central American Integration System (SICA) agenda?

Celebrating 200 years of our republic during our administration, we are extremely committed to advancing the agenda of SICA with the necessary reforms. We need to align the objectives of certain SICA institutions to serve the development needs of our countries and the region. We need to adapt the organization to understand the specific situation of countries that promote more advanced agendas. For example, while there are countries that live with 50% or 60% poverty rates, ours is around 20%, and we still want to advance the sustainable development agenda. We also understand the need to strengthen our regional market, as our neighbors should be our main trading partners, and we should be theirs. The strengthening of the Central American institution will allow Costa Rica to have greater economic opportunities in closer markets and more open-access channels for SMEs that have difficulty accessing geographically farther markets.

What is the new administration's perspective and position in terms of access to organizations like the OECD?

The most important challenge in Costa Rica is to make the most out of the commercial agreements it has already signed with different partners, rather than intensively spending diplomatic capital on new ones. We were the first country in the region to establish economic and political relations with China, for example. We could do more things with the US, which is our most important business partner. We are making an important institutional effort to achieve accession to the OECD with all the advantages that it implies.

What are the main priorities on the agenda of the new administration?

One of the most important tasks of this administration will be decarbonization. This project brings together specific government actions, the first of which is public transportation. When we decided to change the country's energy matrix to do away with fossil fuels, it required the absolute transformation of the means of transportation. High-speed railways are some of the most important projects in the urban sector that also require a large number of long-term private investments. We need financing that is attractive for the country and investors. On the other hand, the freight train on the northern border with APM Terminals is another great and necessary project that we must consolidate in the short term. There are some important investments in the infrastructure sector that we have pending. One of them is public infrastructure. We have to significantly advance the construction of certain hospitals that are not yet fully funded, such as the Hospital of Limón and the geriatric hospital. We have to accelerate investment in telecommunications to generate all the necessary conditions for another kind of investments. We want to guarantee universal access to the internet, which can also jumpstart development in most impoverished areas of the country. Costa Rica plans to become a global green lab where the best experiments on environmental sustainability and climate change are conducted. This space is a great investment scenario linked to our decarbonization plans and the use of renewable energies nationwide.

What message would you like to send to the investment community in terms of the structural changes in the free zone or the promotion of systems of public and private sector concessions?

Free zone regimes will be maintained. The democratic system works, and the investment attraction models that have produced important results cannot be changed on a whim.