Starting in mid 2007, the purchase of goods abroad by companies and consumers started increasing at a faster rate, while exports slowed down. Through February this year, overall imports in the preceding 12 months increased at a year on year average of 24 percent, while exports increased by only 11 percent. This behavior has led to a cumulate export-import deficit of $6 billion, through last January, or 30 percent more than the corresponding figures through January 2007. This increase has also expanded the current account’s deficit, which reached $1,499 million, 40 percent more than a year before. However, Central Bank chairman Francisco Gutierrez asserted that the important issue is the lack of balance in the current account, not the one in the trade balance.
The arrival of direct foreign investment (DFI) –which means 7 percent of Costa Rica’s Gross Domestic Product– will be $245 million less this year, as compared to the one in 2007, when it reached $1,885 million, according to a report from the Central Bank. The dip in DFI is blamed mainly on recession in the United States, the major source of such funds. In 2007, $54 of every $100 in DFI here came from the U.S. However, depending on the behavior of U.S. economy, the figures would change. According to the Central Bank, the financial troubles in the United States would mainly affect investment in Costa Rican real estate, one of the major attractions for DFI in recent years. This investment takes in the establishment of new firms, the expansion of foreign companies, and the purchase of companies and real estate by foreigners.
New Security Minister
The vacant left by Fernando Berrocal as head of the Ministry of Security of Costa Rica will be filled by congresswoman Janina Del Vecchio, of the ruling National Liberation Party, as of next April 25. Meanwhile, Vice-President Laura Chinchilla is handling the Ministry as an addition to her normal duties. A math professor at the University of Costa Rica and a diplomat, Del Vecchio lacks experience in the security sector. However, upon appointing her, President Oscar Arias pointed out that she has the leadership, dedication, strong character, and loyalty that will enable her to handle the job to the satisfaction of all. Del Vecchio, 62, talked about her inexperience in the sector and remarked that a civilian nation does not need a Security Minister who is an expert in the military or in police issues.
$500 million for sewage
Increasing the supply of drinking water and improving sewage treatment at beaches demands a $500-million investment in the coming years. Half of the resources do not yet have an identifiable source, said the head of the Costa Rican Water and Sewage Institution Ricardo Sancho. He added that a large part of the resources now available come from the developers of tourist projects, but that there are still $250 million yet to be found.
Blessing from above
A one-hour shower did what volunteers and staff were unable to: control a forest fire in Palo Verde National Park, home to hundreds of species, particularly birds. In close to 24 hours, the fire had destroyed 700 hectares (over 1,700 acres) and was totally out of control. Park authorities fear that the fire was started by poachers, since at first in consisted in two small patches, which rapidly extended in an area that had been dried for months.
Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic were awarded the financial infrastructure “Project of the Year” prizes at the 4th Yearly Latin American Leadership Forum, held in Miami. The San Jose-Caldera Highway was chosen as the project with the best outlook for the future. Panama earned the “Long-Term Profit” and the “Strategic Project of the Year” awards, while the Dominican Republic earned the “Values and Jobs” one for a bio-diesel refinery. Finally, Mexico won the award corresponding to “Engineering”.
“Do you know this man,” an Immigration official asks a Dominican woman. She takes a guess, “I’ve seen him. He’s a lawyer, I think.” The official replies: “Are you sure? This man is your husband.” This is one in hundreds of similar stories springing from the actions of a prostitution ring. The criminals enroll women in the Dominican Republic to come to Costa Rica to work, arrange their marriages to destitute men they recruit in the streets, and enslave them as prostitutes to pay the legal fees, transportation to Costa Rica, arranging the marriage with immigration purposes in mind, and other “expenses”. Local authorities are developing actions to put an end to the criminal organization.
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