PRIORITIESSET RIGHT

Costa Rica 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Costa Rica is adopting best public governance practices, introducing regulatory improvements, and focusing on value-added tourism to become an OECD member and fulfill its sustainable development goals.

María Del Pilar Garrido
BIOGRAPHY
María Del Pilar Garrido is the Minister of National Planning and Economic Policy of the Republic of Costa Rica as well as Coordinator of the Technical Secretarial of the National Commission of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). She studied political sciences and has a master’s degree in democratic governance and public politics from the University of Costa Rica. She also completed a master’s degree in economy in the Trinity College of Dublin. She worked for the United Nations Organization and for the Barcelona Provincial Council as a consultant of topics of human local development planning and of population and development, with vulnerable populations. She was Vice Minister of National Planning during the administration of President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, namely from 2016 to 2018.

How would you define the identity of Costa Rica, and how do you distinguish it from the rest of Central America?

We have established our identity based on social dialog, a shared vision between the public and private sectors, and the goal of sustainable development. In addition to that, Costa Rica aspires to be a green laboratory, carry out climate change initiatives, and decarbonize the economy.

What is the status of the changes in public policy that Costa Rica requires in its candidacy to join the OECD?

We see the process of entering the OECD as a group of best public governance practices. We have worked and incorporated the OECD standards so that our institutions are up to the challenges of the current socioeconomic complexity, and so that we can be more competitive and productive as well as provide our citizens with the goods and services that they need.

How do you plan to start promoting more human capital that can satisfy the demand of the market?

One of the most relevant points of the Alvarado administration is the importance of education as an engine of social mobility, economy, and sustainable development. Education is also key to close gaps in human rights to generate equality in access to both goods and services, opportunities, and results of sustainable development. Moreover, we must engage young women to achieve economic expectations, and we must work articulately and incorporate cooperation into our agenda.

What do you plan to include in the agenda to make the legalization of businesses in Costa Rica more efficient?

One of the president's clearest mandates has been to simplify procedures and make regulatory improvements to encourage the business climate because it is one of the key points in the global competitiveness indexes. To that end, we have developed a strategy with National Environmental Technical Secretary (SETENA) to eliminate unnecessary procedures and simplify the necessary ones without subtracting quality or diminishing the environmental aspect.

How do you see foreign investment opportunities, and which sectors offer the best opportunities for PPPs?

FDI and public and private investment must be at the service of the vision of sustainable development. The investment must also be at the service of our commitment to sustainable, decarbonized, inclusive, and prosperous energy. In addition, there must be an intention to generate knowledge. We have signed several international commitments and local policies to identify the appropriate investments under the National Strategic Plan. It is important that FDI is respectful of the environment, focuses on generating employment, and helps to close gender gaps in specialized areas and services. We also need a reliable and comprehensive transport system that not only reduces travel times and increases competitiveness but also gives people the opportunity to conciliate their personal life with their working life. We will call for tenders to generate a public-private partnership for the high-speed railway system. Another project is the electric freight train in Limón. On the other hand, the Chorotega region offers options for foreign investment in solar energy. A development cluster can be created around the field of sustainable energies that would include hydrogen, plasma, solar, hydrothermal, and wind energy.

What are the plans for the tourism sector?

We recognize the potential tourism has for FDI and job creation. We want to continue encouraging tourism in all its modalities, though mainly we want to link it to SMEs. One of the successes of our tourism business model is not only the large hotel industry but also the small businesses that generate different experiences for visitors. Through projects such as the convention center, we want to promote MICE tourism and value-added tourism such as wellness and health tourism. We also want to encourage a niche of domestic tourism that makes it possible to attract and invite nationals to visit areas that require an economic boost.