PRIORITIES SET RIGHT

Costa Rica 2019 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

Costa Rica is working toward financial, institutional, and legal stability, and investing heavily in education, infrastructure, and green energy to break down economic, gender, and age inequality.

Carlos Alvarado Quesada
BIOGRAPHY
President Carlos Alvarado Quesada has four years of experience in public office. He started as executive president of the Joint Institute of Social Assistance (IMAS) with the rank of Minister of Human Development and Social Inclusion. Two years later, he was in charge of the Labor Ministry before subsequently running for president. Alvarado holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Costa Rica, as well as a master’s degree in development studies from the University of Sussex. At 38, he became the youngest serving president since Alfredo González Flores in 1914.

How can Costa Rica become a member of the OECD?

This is our goal; we aim to be a modern and developed country for our citizens' wellbeing, and being a member of OECD plays a key role in achieving that goal. We are defining the terms so we do not lose our own characteristics and development style. We are working hard on this and have created a legislative committee, a group of specialized deputies with knowledge of all the projects.

What are the priorities of this administration?

The first priorities are financial, institutional, and legal stability. Costa Rica is a growing country, with stable inflation, many opportunities for investment, an excellent geographical location, and human talent. That is why we want to strengthen this development platform and resolve the public deficit. By doing so, we can move and work with other issues, especially education. We are investing heavily in education and aim to become a bilingual country in the medium term and connect our educational centers with broadband by 2021. Apart from that, we are also working on the decarbonization of our energy. 99% of our electrical energy is clean, and we want to bring this concept to transportation and other aspects. We also need to upgrade our infrastructure to improve our competitiveness. For the next four years, we plan to invest USD4 billion in road infrastructure and USD1.3 billion in an interurban electric train. We aim to transform our Caribbean harbors and will kick off a container terminal project in February 2019. As well, we are working on a Pacific harbor in Caldera to strengthen commerce with the Pacific and Asia. We are working hard to reduce income inequality and poverty, which is why we need to generate more jobs and work on territorial specialization.

Regarding Costa Rica's payment capacity, fiscal reform is one of the key objectives of this administration. How would you evaluate the landscape of this reform?

This has been our priority since the start of our administration. We have had our first debate as well as some results, despite the opposition. Also, we already have the federal budget for 2019, which has not been increased and will not affect the government's functions. By using AI, we have been able to cover emergencies, prevent droughts, and improve our infrastructure. We have achieved significant reductions without neglecting our services or announcing redundancies. This plan is currently awaiting approval from the constitutional chamber. In terms of taxes, there is a strong message of confidence. This will be reflected in economic stability and confidence, which will attract investors.

What message are you sending to the private sector, and how keen is the administration to work with PPPs?

In our first budget, we reinforced the National Concessions Council with more than CRC5 billion (USD8.33 million). There are also USD15 million in opportunities for PPPs. We are interested in economic growth and understand that such partnerships are a tool that will take us in that direction. These include projects such as airports, the interurban electric train, and a freight train line.

How can the government boost the educational agenda to adjust to Costa Rica's private sector's present and future needs?

We have the human talent, and education is a priority; however, we need to create more opportunities, which is why we are working on English training to have more people speak the language of business, knowledge, and communication around the world. The aspects we are working on are dual training and improving regional higher education offerings. We need to find a balance between what universities offer, what the private sector needs, and where the country wants to go. We also want to work on reducing inequality, since the majority of development in Costa Rica is in the central region. By distributing opportunities across the country, we will break down economic, gender, and age inequality.