Sunday, March 15, 2015

What the U.S. Can Learn from Costa Rica

I just returned from my 12th trip to Costa Rica (mostly for business) and I can see a negative parallel with what is happening in the United States at the present time as compared with the policies of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a fairly modern democratic country with a third-world mentality, and it seems to be on a course of abject national economic stupidity.

When I first traveled to Costa Rica, 12 years ago, it was with wide-eyed enthusiasm, especially after reading the glowing ads promoting why Americans should choose Costa Rica as a place to retire to. Well, that was 12 years ago, and times have changed for the worse.

No longer is it a haven for retired “Gringo's”, in fact, many of those U.S. ex-expatriates have now begun moving back to the United States. Why, you may ask? Well, to begin with, the cost of living in Costa has doubled during those years. No longer can Costa Rica be considered a pensioners or retired persons “Nirvana”. Food costs have more than doubled in Costa Rica, even more so than in the States, gasoline is more expensive, restaurants rival NYC in the cost of having dinner (which includes a 13% sales tax on every meal), the prices of autos, clothing etc., are generally higher than in the States, and on and on. Being on a fixed income 12 years ago and living comfortably, would not seem to be available for a retired person to hack it in today's time and place in Costa Rica. The ads from 12 years ago about a retired person's paradise seems to have faded into posterity.

In addition, doing business in Costa Rica is an enduring nightmare. The legal system is a bureaucratic maze of laws that are from another day, especially when dealing with the country's lawyers (as many in Costa Rica are called “liars”). If you are an American (or Canadian or European) you have a “target” on your back and you are ripe pickings to be ripped off of money or property, maybe both.

The country is fairly modern (as I stated before) with big beautiful shopping malls, rivaling those in the United States, but in the height of stupidity, they have recently started to charge parking fees to the people who want to spend money and shop in their stores. A big annoyance, to say the least. In addition, the hospitals, which are some of the best in Latin America, also charge for parking. I can't recall any hospitals in the States charging parking fees on people seeking medical services or for visiting patients in the hospital, another major annoyance. By the way, Costa Rica does have excellent medical doctors, hospitals, and dentists, most all of whom were trained in the U.S. or Europe, and the cost of their services are approx. one-half the cost of comparable services in the U.S. One thing that has not suffered, in the country's economic slowdown, is the phenomenon of so-called “medical tourism”, as many people come on down to Costa Rica seeking medical and dental treatments at half the cost as it is in the States. That's the one bright spot in a deteriorating and slowing economy, but during the past couple of years, even those costs are inching up as well.

As with most Latin countries, the crime rate has risen substantially over the past few years as petty thefts, scam operations, and drug use and distribution are major community problems. Visitors are warned not to wear jewelry, or to leave packages on the seat of your car, as it is a temptation that might attract an ever growing criminal element that is now a primary concern of law enforcement, as inefficient as it might be.

As a result of the governments policies over the past 10 years, many companies who built plants in Costa Rica, are now moving their operations to less expensive countries (including Intel and it's 1,500 jobs), like to neighboring Nicaragua, even under the rule of Communist President Daniel Ortega who is openly urging companies to locate in his country. That's how bad it has become in the economic climate in Costa Rica. Also, Costa Rica is no longer a prime vacation spot as was touted to be just a few short years ago. The beautiful resorts on the beach are now charging room rates as high as those charged in Miami Beach during the high season. Mention should also be made that the traffic problem, especially in and around the capitol city of San Jose, is one big traffic jam from 6 AM to 10 AM and from 4 PM to 7 PM. It makes the traffic jams in the U.S. seem almost bearable.

What is happening in Costa Rica can be compared with some of the destructive economic policies now being promoted and implemented in our own country. Our corporate tax rate is the highest in the world, our health care system has been turned on its head with additional oppressive taxes and government bureaucracy stifling business and individual entrepreneurial spirit, and government regulations make starting or expanding a business almost impossible. Companies in the U.S. are also moving their operations to other countries in search of a better economic climate, and with these moves, many jobs and government revenues go with them.

Do we really want to emulate a country committing economic suicide like what Costa Rica seems to be doing? We must get rid of the Marxist/Socialist mindset that takes initiative out of doing business and consequently, life in general. Let's not become another modern country with a third-world mentality, like Costa Rica. Someone should clue in both President Obama and the Democrats. Their policies are what has kept us from reaching our economic potential, even after the so-called recession ended in 2009. Why are they so blind to see the obvious?

Conservative commentary by Chuck Lehmann

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Tanti said...

There is a much more corruption than you think but it is hidden by the media.

senor said...

The only way to fix this problem is is if this officials are held accountable for their actions. The problem is there is no accountability at any level of Costa Rican government.

Chuck Lehmann said...

Costa Rica, and I presume other Latin countries, charge a departure tax (fee) in order to leave the country (it is $29 per person). This besides the fact that American Airlines charges you $25 for your 1st piece of checked luggage and $40 for each additional piece of checked luggage. For us that amounted to $130 each way ($260 total round trip), just for luggage, which I consider a big ripoff. I'd suggest you spend your money in the good ole U.S.A., at least you will not be a target for unscrupulous miscreants who want to relieve you of your money and property.