First in environment
In the Americas, Costa Rica is the top performer regarding the environment. This surfaced in the last edition of the Environmental Performance Index, (EPI) which evaluated 149 countries in six areas: environmental health, atmospheric pollution, water resources, biodiversity, and habitat. With data from WHO and FAO, Yale and Columbia experts graded the countries from 0 to 100. Switzerland tops the overall list at 95.5, followed by Sweden (93.1), Norway (93.1), Finland (91.4), and Costa Rica (90.5). EPI scientists said there was no surprise in Costa Rica’s outstanding performance. According to the director of Yale’s Environmental Law and Policy Center, Dan Esty, this Central American nation is probably the first one in the world to make of the environment its number 1 priority.
For the first time in the last 50 years, the expenses of the Government of Costa Rica were less than the revenues in 2007. According to the Central Bank, the last time such event took place was 1957. Minister of Finance Guillermo Zuniga said that the surplus is 0.65 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. In contrast, in 2006 there was a deficit amounting to 0.69 percent of the GDP, the official added.
Exports 14 percent up
In 2007, Costa Rican exports increased by 14 percent as compared to those in 2006. They went from $8,196 million to $9,343 million. That rate of growth was lower than the 17 percent recorded in the preceding year, but it surpassed the 11.5 percent in 2005 and the 3 percent in 2004. Of the overall sales abroad, 38 percent went to the United States; however, that figure has been decreasing since 2002, when that market absorbed 53 percent of all Tico exports. Minister of Foreign Commerce Marco Ruiz pointed to this fact as one of the reasons that would somehow soothe the consequences here of recession in the U.S.
FTA with China
Costa Rica has ideal and very attractive conditions for a Free Trade Agreement with China. “Costa Rica is a very important partner for China in Central America,” said the assistant director of International Trade of the People’s Republic Zhu Hong. The increase in bilateral trade, the renewal of diplomatic ties, technology development, and new investments were quoted by the Chinese official among the features that make of Costa Rica an attractive partner.
New PROCOMER boss
Minister of Foreign Commerce Marco Ruiz announced the appointment of economist Emmanuel Hess as the new chief executive of the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER in Spanish). A University of Costa Rica graduate with a master’s degree in Economy from the University of California, Hess was chosen among the 26 candidates to the post.
$800 million investment
Foreign investment in tourism was $800 million last year, when the overall figure was $1,885 million, according to the Central Bank. Funds in the tourism sector were focused mainly on hotels –buying land and construction–, and the provinces of Guanacaste and Puntarenas led as the largest receivers. According to investment advisory firm KPMG, Costa Rica currently has 40,000 hotel rooms, which will be expanded to 50,000 through the year 2012.
Health tourism certification
Clinica Biblica Hospital in San Jose received international certification as a destination for the so-called health tourism. In Costa Rica, private institutions provide health care to visitors from other countries, particularly from the United States, who cannot afford treatment in their homeland but can pay for it and for travel expenses to Costa Rica with a much lower budget. Only 136 hospitals outside the United States are certified, and Clinica Biblica Hospital is the first one in Costa Rica to do so.
Flights from Paris
French carrier Air Caraibes started operating two weekly flights linking Paris, Guadeloupe, Panama, and Costa Rica. Tourist sector sources said that this is the eighth new airline operating here in under a year. The seventh was Frontier, which last November made its first flight from Denver. Currently, there are 2.7 million seats available in flights to Costa Rica, a 25 percent increase in the last 12 months.
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