Drop in poverty
The growth of economy and less inflation combined with state aid to lower the percentage of poor households from 20.2 percent last year to 16.7 percent now. This is the lowest level recorded in the last 30 years. The 3.5 percent drop means that 29,000 households were able to come out of poverty. Unemployment also decreased, from 6 percent in 2006 to 4.6 this year, the best performance since 1994, according to the outcome of last July’s Household Survey by the National Census and Statistics Bureau (INEC in Spanish). The institution’s vice-chairman Victor Cespedes said that the fast and steady growth of economy in recent years has allowed for an increase in employment and income, which largely explain the reduction of poverty.
The fact that 56,000 households were able to leave the realm of extreme poverty –meaning that they lived under the line of poverty, that they lacked the means to meet even the most basic needs, such as food– along the last year, encourages the Arias Administration to fully eliminate that problem by the year 2010. Extreme poverty dropped from 5.3 of the population in July last year to 3.3 percent last July. “If we keep the pace, we would end extreme poverty by 2010. Why not? Apparently, there are 36,000 households living in that condition. If we were able to identify them, via social aid, we will be able to pull them out of extreme poverty,” President Arias said.
Higher household consumption
Families are buying this year at a faster rate than at any time before in the last 10 years. People standing in line at supermarket cash registers and the inability to find space in parking lots at shopping centers confirm the trend. It is also confirmed by import statistics, business sales, and estimated spending per household. According to the business sector, this is a trend that started in 2005 and has continued steadily to the present. According to the Central Bank’s monthly index of economic activity, the business sector expanded 5.5 percent in the last 12 months.
Costa Rica climbed five positions in the Global Competitive Index, to position 63 among the 131 nations analyzed. The Index, part of a report of the World Economic Forum, shows that the United States has recovered the first position, which Switzerland held last year. At the Latin American level, Costa Rica is sixth, surpassed by Chile, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Mexico, and Panama.
The Chinese National Petroleum Corporation is analyzing the possibility of setting up an oil refinery in Costa Rica, in order to sell fuel to Central America and the Caribbean. President Dr. Oscar Arias mentioned the project upon his return from a visit to China. The $6-billion project would process 200,000 of barrels a day, according to President Arias. He further explained that the oil would come from Venezuela and that this project is independent from the one the Chinese have to revamp the National Petroleum Refinery of Costa Rica (RECOPE in Spanish) to enable it to process the 40,000 barrels a day the country uses.
The number of visitors who arrived by plane the first nine months this year increased by11.3 percent, as compared to the same period in 2006. Based on reports from Juan Santamaria International Airport and Daniel Oduber International Airport, the National Chamber of Tourism reported the arrival of 1,216, 345 visitors January through September, 123,533 more than in the same nine months in 2006. According to the Chamber, the total number of tourists for the period would be 1.5 million, if those arriving on cruise ships were accounted for.
Chinese tour operators
In the coming months, 200 Chinese tour operators will visit Costa Rica, Minister of Tourism Carlos Benavides said. He explained that this will be an extraordinary opportunity to enter a 1.3-billion people market. Yearly, some 35 million Chinese visit Asian and European countries, while very few of them come here. Last year, only 1,545 Chinese tourists visited Costa Rica. Minister Benavides said that the Costa Rican Board of Tourism is also negotiating with airlines in order to ease traveling between China and Costa Rica.
1,125 kilos of cocaine
Officers of the Drug Enforcement Police confiscated 1,125 kilos (2,445 pounds) of cocaine that were hidden in a Pacific Port Authority truck. A driver from the Municipality of Puntarenas was at the wheel, and he was accompanied by a local commercial fisherman. According to official sources, the truck had been loaned to an association which is in charge of cleaning the Puntarenas beaches, and the driver was in charge of maintaining it. Official sources said that the case is subject of a widespread investigation, particularly because the drug was apparently destined to the Costa Rican market.
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