SEE OUR BEACH FRONT HOMES FOR SALE IN COSTA RICA: JACO BEACH PLAYA HERMOSA PALMS, PU, CR

Costa Rica Jaco Central Pacific News up to Sept 30, 2017


 

384 Tourism Companies have Sustainable Tourism Certificatio 9/28/2017 by news.co.cr

The Costa Rica Tourisim Board granted to 384 tourism companies the Tourism Sustainability Certification
which is recognized by the World Tourism Organization.“For over three decades Costa Rica conceived sustainability as a base to its Model of Tourism Development, making it a competitive advantage and the main differentiation of the country as a destination. The country created 20 years ago the Tourism Sustainability Certification (CST), an innovative and pioneer norm in its field that promotes sustainability and therefore social and economic wellness for the communities”, explained Mauricio Ventura, Minister of Tourism.

Among the 384 companies that have earned the certification, 76 of which received the certification yesterday in the frame of the World Tourism Day, there are lodging facilities, car rentals, tour operator agencies, sustainable theme parks and gastronomy companies.
The CST evaluates five fundamental aspects:1) The physical and biological surrounding  2) Service infrastructure (for lodging companies)-this evaluates the construction, systems and internal processes in place for waste management and water and electricity saving.3) Service management (for tour operators): the design of tourist products that fits the characteristics of the country and locations taking into consideration market tendencys.4) Client: actions that companies carry out to promote the participation of clients in the organization’s sustainability processes.5) Social-Economic Surrounding: the identification and interaction of the establishment with the nearby communities.
Sustainability as a development model promotes the need to satisfy the current requirements of the society without compromising the right of the future generations to satisfy theirs, through the appropriate use of our natural and cultural resources, the improvement of the quality of life of local communities and the financial success that can contribute with other national projects.

The truth about real estate appraisals in Costa Rica
THE TICO TIMES  SEPTEMBER 22     Ivo Henfling / The Tico Times 

 Property records In the United States, for example, you can look up property values, history records and other valuable info easily through programs like US Realty Records.
In Costa Rica, we don’t have anything like this. Property sales are registered through a deed in the National Property Registry. Those data are public, but you need to know the owner information or property number to access the information. Sales data for a property owned in a corporation and transferred within the corporation will never be visible to the general public.
Therefore, nobody really has any access to property values and history records to be used for real estate appraisals. For the same reason, you won’t find any CMAs (Comparative Market Analysis) in Costa Rica.
Banks in Costa Rica use the loan amount to register the value of a property they lend on – so those data are no good to their own appraisers either.( almost impossible for Gringo foreigners to get a loan! says Jeff).

Real estate values and data
Real estate values change all the time; finding fresh data requires an enormous effort. Without the fresh data, it is impossible to do correct and up-to-date real estate appraisals. So what do appraisers do to find the necessary data to do their job?
They do what any human being can do: surf around on the web and drive around the neighborhood looking for signs. They collect the data and try to get a general idea of land values in the area.

Appraisal methods
There are various appraisal methods used by appraisers in Costa Rica: the Ross-Heidecke, the Heidecke, the Ross, and the Kuentzle method. Real estate agents usually use the concept of replacement value, less a construction cost depreciation of 2 percent per year.All these methods need up-to-date values to be able to come up with a sensible result. As I explained before, the necessary data for an exact result is not available in Costa Rica.

Guesstimate
As you can see, all these methods to do real estate appraisals are much like holding a finger in the air. As long as the National Property Registry doesn’t start producing data and making them public, real estate appraisals are not much more than a guesstimate.

Lenders
Banks and private lenders use real estate appraisals to find out what the Loan To Value (LTV) is. Banks are now lending on property sold by real estate developers at almost 100 percent. Private lenders often have real estate agents do their appraisals, and they use a “fire sale value.” Who do you think will get the short end of the stick?

Solution
In my opinion, the best solution for getting a sensible real estate appraisal is to ask a seasoned real estate agent who has worked in a particular area for many years. Those agents usually know what properties in their area have sold for in the past.
In any case, the only real value is the price that a buyer is willing to pay for a property.
Jeff says: please come to Costa Rica with the intention of having your funds ready to be wired, as this is the
best way to save money by being able to offer the Seller, cash. Instead of paying the Sellers' dream price
YOU will be buying at your dream price!

 

Lawmaker says water woes may close Guanacaste Pacific hotels
August 19, 2014  By the A.M. Costa Rica staff (Ed. Jeff says-we have lots of water in the Jaco Central 
Pacific areas-which is one of the reasons why I moved here from Tamarindo!)
A lawmaker warned Monday that the shortage of water in Guanacaste might cause hotels to close in the next few weeks. The domestic water crisis caused by a prolonged drought has been overshadowed in the news by the problems facing farmers and ranchers in the area.
But the lawmaker, Juan Marín, said that even a major hotel like the Barceló might be forced to close due to the lack of water. That would leave 250 employees without jobs, he said.  

The shortage has caused the hotel management to spend $55,000 during July just to bring in water, the lawmaker told the Asamblea Legislativa. He blamed the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados. However, there are many other smaller water systems in the area.Marín said that today he and fellow lawmakers who represent that area will meet with the leadership of the national water company to seek solutions.
The dry spell is a result of the El Niño conditions in the Pacific. For months ranchers have been cutting their herds and moving animals to other locations so they could find forage. There has been a promise of an emergency decree.Marín also said that also hurting tourism in Tamarindo is the closing of the local airport due to asphalt breaking up on the runway.

WATER SHORTAGE AFFECTING TAMARINDO'S REAL ESTATE MARKET
August 8th, 2014  By Liisa Vexler 
Residents of Tamarindo and surrounding communities continue to be subject to water shortages, stoppages and restrictions after a drier than normal May, June and July. Scheduled and unscheduled water stoppages continue to affect the operation of businesses and the daily lives of community members.The biggest complaint from residents and businesses is the lack of communication about these stoppages.Despite the restrictions and pleas for voluntary water sparing, there are reports of businesses and individuals continuing to water gardens, wash cars, and polish facilities. One resident who asked to remain anonymous said, “Tourists in most cases have no idea about the water situation while residents have no water in their homes.”  Residents are asked to forgo use of water for cosmetic purposes (armpits?) until the water shortage passes.

New law comes into effect for those who overstay their visa
August 4th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com)
After a one-year extension on their implementation, new laws regarding those who overstay their visa in Costa Rica came into effect last Friday, August 1st.

Effective as of last Friday, August 1st, those who overstay any type of visa, including tourist visas, must pay a fine of $100 for each month they remained in the country after the expiration of their visa.

Those who are unable or unwilling to pay the fines will be barred from reentering the country for a period equal to three times the length of time they overstayed.  For instance, a person who overstays a tourist visa by three months can be barred from reentering the country for a period of nine months.

Fines must be paid 48 hours in advance of departing the country at any Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) branch.However, those who are already in the country past the expiration of their visa will apparently not have to pay the $100 per month fine for months before the law came into effect – thus, the first fines come into place starting September 1st.  As such, immigration authorities are urging those who are over their allowed stay to renew their visas or change their immigration status by the end of the month to avoid having to pay the fines. 

Other immigration laws came into effect on August 1st as well, including a fine of two to twelve times the base salary for hiring a foreign worker who does not have a work visa, as well as fines for people or businesses that provide accommodations for foreign nationals who are in the country without a valid visa.

Costa Rica named top tourism destination in new global survey
June 11, 2014 by Tico Times Zach Dyer  
A new global survey confirmed that tourists love Costa Rica, naming the country most recommended tourism destination in the world.

The Global Tourism Monitor Survey asked 23,000 globetrotters from 26 countries where they had traveled during the previous 12 months and which destination they would more recommend based on their experience there. The report, released Monday, ranked the top 65 most recommended destinations.

Austria came in second, followed by Israel, New Zealand and Italy.

Ukraine, Malaysia, China, Indonesia and Tunisia were the five least recommended destinations, according to the survey conducted by BDRC Continental.

While Costa Rica placed atop the list of most recommended destination, no other Latin American country made the top 10.

Latin America and the Caribbean placed among the least popular regions with only 6 percent of respondents saying they were “seriously” planning to travel to the region. Europe ranked the highest among potential travelers with 43 percent planning to travel there, followed by 27 percent in the Asian Pacific. Only 4 percent said they planned to take their holiday in Africa or the Middle East.

Costa Rica received a record-breaking 2.4 million tourists during 2013, according to the Costa Rican Tourism Board.Here’s the list of the top 10 most recommended destinations (with a three-way tie for 10th place):

1. Costa Rica
2. Austria
3. Israel
4. New Zealand
5. Italy
6. Japan
7. Croatia
8. USA
9. Norway
10. Canada
10. Greece
10. United Kingdom

…and the 10 least recommended:

56. Bulgaria
57. Russia
58. Albania
59. Cambodia
60. India
61. Ukraine
62. Malaysia
63. China
64. Indonesia
65. Tunisia

The Global Tourism Monitor Survey 
The Global Tourism Monitor survey was conducted in Q1 2014 by Global Market Research, a leading 
international network of market research agencies. The survey comprised more than 23,000 
interviews among nationally representative samples in 26 countries. 
 Europe: Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, 
Netherlands, Romania, Russia, UK, Ukraine 
 Asia Pacific: Australia, India, China, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, 
Vietnam 
 Americas: Brazil, Canada, Mexico, USA 
 
The survey captured information regarding the following: 
 Countries visited by respondents in the past 12 months; 
 Respondents’ likelihood to recommend the destination (or destinations) they visited in the past 
12 months (using a Net Promoter Score); 
 Which countries respondents seriously intended to visit on their next main holiday. 
 Influences behind holiday decisions, including recommendations from friends, destination 
advertising, travel agents promoting packages, special offers from airlines or hotel groups, 
destination reviews in print or online travel publications. 
 

Tomorrow's holiday begins the long vacation
April 10, 2014 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Tomorrow not only is a legal holiday, the Día de Juan Santamaría, but it also is the beginning of a 10-day break for many government workers.The driver's licensing offices will be closed starting tomorrow. President Laura Chinchilla has decreed the long vacation for much of the executive branch. Other branches of government are doing the same.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros will close its main office for the duration, but many departments in the state insurance agency only will be closed tomorrow and April 17 and 18. The insurance agency's medical and rehabilitation facilities will be open the entire time. Accident investigators will be on duty the entire time, too.

The Cruz Roja will be operating at full strength with 160 aid stations located strategically around the country for the benefit of vacationers. More than 1,000 Cruz Roja workers and volunteers will be on duty.
Naturally the traffic police will be at full strength. So will the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas. 
Crew members will be patrolling off popular beaches.

From noon April 17, Holy Thursday, until 6 a.m. April 19, the day before Easter, toll booths will be closed on highways operated by the state. The toll booths on highway 27 to Jaco will be open as usual.

More good news is that the restrictions on license plates for the metro area are being suspended for tomorrow through Easter, April 20.

The Barrio Otoya offices of A.M. Costa Rica will be closed tomorrow, but a Friday edition will appear. 

The offices also will be closed all of Semana Santa, but the daily newspaper will be published each weekday except Good Friday, April 18. Telephones will be attended as usual, 24 hours a day.The festivities tomorrow are in Alajuela, the home of Juan Santamaría, the hero of the Battle of Rivas in 1856.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM COSTA RICA'S NEW PRESIDENT
April 9, 2014 Tico Times

Costa Rican President-elect Luis Guillermo Solís promised to balance the budget without raising taxes, while investing in public transportation, environmental protection and increased economic opportunities for women.

Originally released in December, the Citizen Action Party president-elect’s plan for governing contains a mix of centrist and progressive policy proposals. Forming the foundation of his specific proposals are what he called three pillars: fighting corruption, growing the economy and reducing inequality and poverty. Solís’ plan attacks previous administrations, whose economic liberalization of Costa Rica failed to deliver an equitable economy, according to PAC.

“The past generated two types of economy: one very dynamic, modern and generally oriented toward external markets, with limited possibilities to create new sources of employment, and the other, traditional, which created many jobs with low pay and where small and medium-sized businesses concentrated,” Solis’ plan said.

Solís promised to deliver a responsive government that distributed income more equally, while upholding Costa Rica’s commitment to human rights and ecological protections. However, Solís’ plan stopped short of calling for the rollback of some economic liberalization, such as free trade agreements, which he has criticized in the past.

Protecting the environment

The environmental plank of Solis’ plan was heavy on platitudes with specific proposals on water rights, involving local communities and reorganizing the Environment Ministry (MINAE).

His proposals focus heavily on management of aquifers and reservoirs, supporting the recently passed Water Resources Management Bill, which considers access a fundamental right, meaning private use of water would have to go through government concessions. His plan called for sanctioning those who violate sustainable water resource management.

For reorganizing MINAE, Solís proposed simplifying regulations while not diminishing them as his priority. He proposed a System of Application and Compliance with Environmental Laws to seek out critical areas. He asked that all government ministries make public information on their own environmental impact. In dealing with climate change, he proposed using the National Emergency Commission to evaluate risks and adaptation measures.

The reorganization proposed to focus on more local involvement and an ostensible increase in the power of local governments. Alongside this, Solís advocated for involving indigenous communities and residents who live near protected areas or national parks. His government plan calls for “adequate funding” for protected areas as well as improving the livelihood of employees such as park rangers. He also called for giving priority to artisanal fishermen in Costa Rica.

Public transportation gets a mention in his environment section and a more detailed layout in his infrastructure plan. Solís called for an electric train in San José’s metropolitan area, investment in alternative fuels and an electronic payment system such as a transit card to make public transportation easier.

Less defined environmental proposals called for increased public investment in alternative energy such as self-generation and improved municipal recycling.

Fixing the budget

Public deficits and debts have plagued Costa Rica for years, and Solís has promised to resolve this issue without increasing overall tax rates. His government plan laid out a combination of increased tax enforcement, some tweaks in sales taxes and controlling government spending.

Solís’ plan said his administration would target Anonymous Societies (the most common type of corporation in Costa Rica, known as S.A.s), the self-employed and high-income individuals for tax evasion. He would also increase collection measures on permits and concessions such as liquor licenses. Social welfare agencies such as the retirement system, the Caja and the Social Development and Family Allowance Fund would see an increase in their collection ability, according to Solís’ plan. He also called for a revision on taxing foreign companies.

The president-elect has called for changing the country’s sales tax to a more progressive value-added tax. Arguing it would protect the lower classes, Solis suggested a tax on luxury goods, capital gains and polluters. He further called for a modified tax on luxury homes and a new law to punish tax evaders.

His plan becomes slightly less concrete when talking about government spending, saying he would eliminate redundant and superfluous parts of the government. He called for prioritizing all government spending based on whether it creates a positive social, economic or environmental impact. His progressive philosophy remained as he called for government spending to be directed at the poorest sectors of the country. Solís said he would provide a stricter standard on increases in government salaries, which currently automatically increase.

Coming under special scrutiny was the health care and social security system of Costa Rica, which suffers under enormous deficits.

“[The health care system] has become a fragmented and segmented health system, with long waiting lines, conflicts of interest, corruption, a difficult financial situation, especially the CCSS [the Caja], among other things that have weakened,” Solís’ plan said.

In the section on the Caja, Solís strongly pushes for reform, saying the board of directors needs to be reorganized as well as the payment system.

Lastly, on monetary policy, Solís said the Central Bank should prioritize low levels of currency inflation, punish banks that loan at high interest rates and incentivize the export industry.

Women and human rights issues

Solís castigated free trade and market liberalization policies that have been the norm in Costa Rica for the past decades.

“Implemented neoliberal politics have led to the destruction of the supportive state and rights, with its negative effects in all aspects, and principally, for women,” Solís’ plan said. “The globalized world continues to exercise mechanisms of oppression on all women, and, in Costa Rica, it has continued to produce these patterns of oppression against women, which touch all aspects of daily life.”

In order to combat this regime, which he said has disproportionately affected women, he promised to improve health coverage, lower the income gap with men and reduce violence against women. Solis’ plan said he aims to lower the number of women without medical coverage by 15 percent. For income inequality his government will provide 1,250 loans per year to women entrepreneurs. His government also will fund 5,000 projects over four years through the small and medium-sized business branch of the Economy, Industry and Commerce Ministry.

For other groups, ethnic minorities and the disabled, Solís’ plan has called for providing loans or credits, though not with the specific numbers he has with women. He has promised to provide 5 percent of public employee positions to the disabled, and to provide college grants to indigenous youth.

With LGBT individuals, Solís has not advocated for marriage or civil unions, but his plan did extend the promise of property rights between same-sex partners, medical visitation rights and having sexuality as a status protected from discrimination.

Infrastructure

As said above, Solís promised a commitment to expanding public transportation, not only for environmental reasons, but to alleviate traffic congestion. He further said he would tackle a number of road projects in the National Transportation Plan of 2011-2031, which have stalled or lagged under President Laura Chinchilla.

These include: broadening the highway between San José and San Ramón (a project that befuddled Chinchilla’s administration), broadening Route 32 from San José to Limón, a highway between San Carlos and Sarapiquí, a highway between Ciudad Quesada and Bernardo Soto, improving the beltway around San José, improving a route between Zapote and Hacienda Vieja and maintaining Route 35 between Los Chiles and Muelle.

Solís’ plan said he would eliminate excessive road tolls and promised to devote 40 percent of road resources to municipalities with agricultural zones.

On the issue of public security, Solís’ promised to increase police resources and salaries. He also proposed a parole option for offenders who did not commit violent or property-related crimes, in order to alleviate prison overcrowding.

Holidays and Semana Santa break up April and reduce work time
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff  April 2, 2014

April is not a great month for commerce this year.Friday, April 11, is Día de Juan Santamaría, a national holiday. And both April 17 and 18 also are legal holidays.

On all three days, employers are obligated to give workers a paid holiday. If for some reason the employees agree to work at the request of the employer, they get double pay. Overtime means triple pay.

These are the obligations for employers as set out this week by the Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social.April 13 to 19 is Holy Week or Semana Santa leading up to Easter Sunday, April 20.  That Thursday and Friiday are the holidays.Lucky members of the workforce will embark on a vacation starting the evening of Thursday, April 10, and not return to the job until April 21. The ministry noted that workers can use vacation time for the first three work days of Semana Santa

Of course for the tourism industry, Semana Santa is hard work. The Cámera Nacional de Turismo said Tuesday that operators of some 78 hotels that were surveyed predicted an average occupancy over Semana Santa of about 75 percent. Those at the beaches estimated occupancy in the 80s. Most of the tourism operators expected the week to be the same as last year.

The average was thrown off somewhat by the Central Valley where occupancy was estimated at about 52 percent, about typical for a holiday week when vacationers go to the mountains or beaches.

Curiously only 55 percent of the hotel operators said they were offering any type of promotion for Semana Santa. Those who were said they offered  discounts, accepted coupons or provided an extra night's lodging for free.

Tourism over Semana Santa is heavily Costa Rican. Many do not bother with hotels. Some stay with relatives who live near at vacation spots. Others simply set up tents on the public beaches.

Costa Rica amongst safest countries in Latin America        March 25th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) Consulting firm, FTI Consulting has published its 2014 Latin America Security Index, ranking Costa Rica as the safest country in Central America and one of the safest countries in the whole of Latin America. 

Of the 19 countries identified in this ranking, the Latin America Security Index finds that Venezuela, Honduras and Guatemala are the most dangerous countries in Latin America, while Costa Rica, Chile and Uruguay are the safest.

“Over the past decade, Latin America has mostly demonstrated strong economic growth with better integration, more commitment to the weakest social sectors and with more entrenched democratic governments,” said Frank L. Holder, Chairman of Latin America for FTI Consulting and author of the Latin America Security Index. “However, social mobility and inclusion has not eliminated the scourge of public insecurity. It remains, together with organized crime, money laundering, corruption and drug trafficking, paramount on regional government agendas.”

The Latin America Security Index provides “Danger Level” rankings from one to five, with one representing a very safe country and five representing a very dangerous country.

Costa Rica, along with Uruguay and Chile ranked as twos.  No country in Latin America received a “one” rating, representing a “very safe” country.

The report ranks neighboring Nicaragua as a “four,” while at the same time seeming to uphold a widely-held belief that Nicaragua is a safe country: “[Nicaragua] continues to maintain the lowest rate of insecurity in the ‘Triangle of Central America,’” the report states.

“However, [in Nicaragua] robberies with violence are high and increasing.  For example, in the first month of this year, violent crimes increased by 15% in comparison to the same month the prior year,” the report adds.

Regarding Costa Rica, the report said, “[The Costa Rican government] continues with its plan to professionalize the security forces and its investment in public safety prevention programs. The country continues to maintain lower crime rates than other neighboring countries, although it has not been completely isolated from their problems.”

FTI says the report is “based on official federal, provincial and municipal-level figures, concerning areas such as homicides, felonies, organized crime and drug trafficking, cargo and warehouse theft, home invasion, kidnapping, political and labor unrest, riots and violent demonstrations, as well as analyses of the effectiveness of government programs intended to address these problems.”

In general, the report highlights that organized crime and extreme violence surrounding the activities of drug cartels and the movement of drugs from production to consumer markets continues to be a major source of public insecurity in parts of Central America and Mexico. The Index notes that social and political unrest has become a factor for some of the more troubled economies, such as Venezuela.

Costa Rican Security Minister, Mario Zamora, was quick to express his satisfaction with Costa Rica’s ranking, adding that the Ministry of Public Security has been investing heavily in security, including uniforms, body armor, communication equipment, as well as modern and fast patrol boats.  The Ministry has also acquired more than 600 vehicles to enhance security throughout the country, Zamora said.“[The ranking] will inevitably translate into better conditions for tourism and foreign investment,” Zamora said.FTI Consulting has published the Latin America Security Index since 2007.

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NEW FLIGHTS ANNOUNCED FOR COSTA RICA
March 13, 2014 Tico Times

After dropping the route last year, Colombian airline Avianca apparently has changed its mind and will soon resume flights between San José, Costa Rica, and New York, Costa Rica Civil Aviation Authority (DGAV) Director Álvaro Vargas announced this week.
The route, which includes a stop in San Salvador, El Salvador, will take off on March 16.Avianca also canceled four other flights to Costa Rica last May, firing 261 Costa Rican employees in the process.

Last week, United Airlines announced it would add more nonstop flights between San José and hubs in Chicago and Washington-Dulles.Throughout this month United will offer two weekly flights between San José and Chicago on Saturdays and Sundays, and three weekly flights between San José and Washington on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Stunning surprise in the Costa Rica presidential race
Wednesday March 5th, 2014 was a very exciting day politically as the number 2 vote getter in the Presidential race held Feb. 2, and forcing an April 6thrunoff,  Johnny Araya,  suspended his presidential campaign in the face of discouraging opinion poll numbers, and Luis Guillermo Solís of the Partido Acción Ciudadana appears to be headed for a decisive win as Costa Rica’s next president on April 6th.

After National Liberation Party (PLN) candidate Johnny Araya made a historic announcement to drop out of Costa Rica’s presidential runoff, Citizen Action Party (PAC) candidate and Costa Rica’s new president elect, Luis Guillermo Solís convened a press conference to address supporters and the media about the newly cleared field.

According to the Supreme Elections Tribunal, 31.8 percent of Costa Ricans did not vote on Feb. 2. That number is expected to increase in the runoff vote, especially now that only one candidate remains actively campaigning.

Solís, a 55-year-old history professor/political advisor & a first time politician who earned a Masters degree at Tulane Uni. in New Orleans, also was a Fulbright

Scholar at the Uni. of Michigan, and heads the Citizen Acton Party (PAC) — won 30.8 percent of the vote, narrowly ahead of Johnny Araya from the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN), who had 29.6 percent and had been in power with the 2 past presidents.  Solis has never held political office and was largely unknown until months ago, though he has worked in several PLN administrations and once served as ambassador to Panama.

In early January, polls showed that Solis had only five-percent support among voters. His party, formed to fight corruption and support of better income distribution, is just 13 years old.  This is the first time in 50 years that a member of neither of the two leading parties — the PLN or the Social Christian party (PUSC) — is in power, and thus it’s an exciting change from “politics as usual.”

 

JACO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE (CENPAC)
ACCOMPLISHMENTS FOR 2013  March 2, 20134

The Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce, is a non-profit organization located in Jaco’s Pacific Center #26 and was founded in 2006. Over the years this organization has been a powerful voice and promoter for local businesses as well as being strong supporter of improving the quality of life in Jaco and surrounding areas in the Central Pacific coast.

With the support of our members, businesses, volunteers, institutions, organizations and others here are their achievements during 2013:

•         Several Beach Clean Ups. These involve soliciting donations of gloves, garbage and water for the volunteers. Determining which area needs attention and supervising the events.

•          Incredible continuing support of the Jaco Public Library

•         Attendance and support of the Central Pacific Women’s Group .

·         Collaboration in the IV Travel Medical Summit which was held in April 2013 at Los Sueños Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort. For this event our organization served as co-organizer.

·         Participation in DIPECHO VIII. This was a Red Cross project which involved institutions and community leaders. Helped with the establishment of the Local Emergency Commission, preparation of Emergency Plan of Jacó, delivering first aid equipment to the Central School, Municipal and Local Emergency Commission, maps where routes of evacuation  are established,  and created informational material.

·         Collaboration on the Eco SUP (Stand Up Paddle) tournament Los Sueños Marriott.

·         Collaboration in the Tope Parade Jaco 2014 by publicizing the event and finding sponsors.

·         Organization of the III Inter-institutional Fair Garabito 2013.  The main goal of this fair was to showcase the functions of community service providers (Fire, Police etc) and included various cultural, sporting and recreational activities during the event for the whole family to enjoy.

·         Collaboration with the Senior Center Josefina Ugalde Céspedes in the promotion and advertising  of the activities to raise funds. We are serving as point of sale of tickets for different events.

·         Management of donations for CEN CINAI Jaco, a public day care center.

·         Meetings with high officials of the Ministry of Security regarding the need to relocate the Tourist police delegation from Herradura and help speed up the new construction of the Tourist Police location in Jaco.

·         Organization of the Pro -Education soccer championship in which we collected school supplies through donations from institutions such as the Association of Taxi Drivers , Fire Department, Fuerza Publica, Municipal Police , OIJ and the Tourist Police among others.

·         Soccer Championship in May in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Sports Committee to promote physical activity among institutions.

·         Attending meetings with CANATUR, the Costa Rican Tourist chamber.

·         Attending meetings with the Mayor every two weeks to inform him about our projects , discuss current and new municipal projects and coordinate .

·         Attendance at meetings of the Municipal Emergencies Commission.

·         Collaboration on the project "Caring a Heart "  for the donation of school supplies for children in high social risk areas.

·         Meetings with Chambers of Commerce and Tourism from other parts of the country to initiate joint projects for 2014.

·         Collection and management of funds for the National Wildlife Refuge Playa Hermosa - Punta Mala, as well as meetings with officers from Minae , ACOPAC and SINAC to develop plans to strengthen this protected area.

·         Support for the project of Fuerza Publica (local police) officers named Tortuga Segura (Safe Turtle) by managing donations of materials and electronic disclosure thereof. This initiative aims to assist in the conservation of sea turtles through the nursery which is now located in front of the old police station in Calle Bohio, Jaco.

·         Inauguration of the new building of Fuerza Publica and meeting with the Minister of Security Mr. Mario Zamora and Commissioner Juan José Andrade, in which we requested new vehicles for this area. The first week of January 2014 five new vehicles were delivered for the Garabito Police Station.

·         Collaboration in the campaign against Dengue by the Ministry of Health,  providing material related to this campaign.   Meeting with leaders of the Ministry of Health and City Council President to coordinate the purchase and delivery of spraying machines against the dengue mosquito. As a result, the City spent 12 million colones ($24k)  buying 2 spraying machines.

·         Working in conjunction with the Fuerza Publica and Fire Department to carry out the Christmas party for the children in Pueblo Nuevo .  Support for Integral Development Association and the Municipality of Garabito in holding the Annual Christmas Party for the children of Jacó.

·         Support to the Fuerza Publica to bring a Blood Donation Campaign to Jacó.

·         Work in conjunction with Fuerza Publica to bring a parent workshop to Jacó, which took place at the Hotel Amapola.

·         Collaboration with ICT (CR Institute of Tourism) for convening and dissemination of different events such as:  

-         Tourism Security Conference by individuals from the Embassy of the United States.

-         Meetings with the regional manager of ICT and the national manager of the Chambers in ICT, to start membership and the promotion of Jaco as a tourist destination both within and outside Costa Rica.

·         Support the Tourist Police, Fuerza Publica and other institutions in different areas such as kitchen utensils donations, supplies, vehicle repair, etc.

·         Support the Eco Golf Celebrities Tournament which was held at Los Sueños Marriott. During the event we collected $240 to support the Elementary School of Herradura.

·         We are part of the Solid Waste Management Commission whose main goal is to regulate the rates for garbage collection in Garabito.

·         Attendance at meetings of the Inter-institutional Environmental Commission every Thursday.

·         Attendance to the Business Breakfast and official launch of the municipal project Jaco’s Boulevard and Bike Beach Road and the disclosure in the newsletter and Facebook page.

·         Attendance at the 6th Tourism Travel Show Expo in San Jose.

·         Attendance at meetings of the very important Ecological Blue Flag Committee of Jaco.

·         Providing the CENPAC Newsletter 1 or 2 times a month where we present community projects , news of our affiliates and other upcoming events.

In addition office tasks such as:

-         Management Facebook page: Jaco Chamber,  Customer service both in the office and via telephone, Letters, Reports,  Attendance to several events and meetings,

-       Managing cenpac.chamber@gmail.com    and the Facebook page Jaco Chamber 

We appreciate the continued support during this time and we hope to see our efforts materialize in even greater advances in the future.

Lidia González Quirós

Directora / Director 

CENTRAL PACIFIC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Cámara de Comercio del Pacífico Central

website:      www.jacochamber.com

phone:       (506) 2643-2853

cenpac.chamber@gmail.com  to join.

CR Beach has been a strong supporter and contributor to the Jaco Chamber 
and urges you to get on their mailing list, and check out their website.

These people work very very hard towards the improvement of Jaco Beach,
and all of the surrounding communities. Their fine efforts are revealed every
day, and it’s a pleasure to support such a wonderful organization.

   

Stronger dollar exchange rate UPDATED MARCH 6TH, 2014
BANCO BAC HAS 551 COLONES GIVEN FOR EVERY $1.00 u.s.
TO BUY DOLLARS COST 566 COLONES:

Feb. 9, By the Retire NOW in Costa Rica staff 
Expats and exporters benefited from a spike in the exchange rate between the dollar and the Costa Rican colon.The rate has been languishing at a point nearly 20 percent lower than it once was. That has been painful for expats because much of their income comes from overseas in dollars. Exporters, too, are paid in dollars for their products and must convert the money to colons to pay local bills and salaries.
On Jan. 13, someone buying colons would have gotten about 493 for each dollar. The Banco Central rate was 493.22. To purchase a dollar would have cost 505.82 colons at the official rate.
Todays exchange rate Feb. 17, 2014:
One would get  517.07 colones for each dollar. The price to exchange colones for one U.S. dollar is listed by the Banco Central at 531.56. That's about a 5 percent increase in less than a month. Bankers attribute the increase to the tightening of the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary policy.

Numbers Show Slight Increase in 2013 tourism  Jan 17, 2013 By www.amcostarica.com

Tourism officials were congratulating themselves Thursday as they reported a 3.6 percent increase in international arrivals over the number in 2012.A look at the statistics in detail, however, reveals less than a 1 percent increase from the United States with 8,305 more visitors.

Canada was up nearly 5 percent at 160,398 visitors, some 8,830 more than in 2012. Europe also was up nearly 6 percent with an increase of 15,946 visitors for a total of 300,942.Central America was up 2.1 percent, but because there were 736,161 recorded persons from there, that percentage represents 15,112 persons. Some 802,040 persons entered at one of the ground border crossings either from Nicaragua or Panamá.
The big jump was 20.3 percent more visitors from South America. That brought an additional 27,738 persons into the country. Arrivals from Venezuela and Colombia helped boost the number to 164,224.  

Canada and the United States jointly contributed 1,089,800 arrivals, 1.6 percent more than in 2012. Canada, the United States and Europe jointly contributed 1,389,742 visitors, an increase over 2012 of 33,081 or about 2.4 percent. 
All of the arrivals do not mean traditional tourists. One troubling aspect was a decrease of 807 arrivals at the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia. This is the airport that feeds the Guanacaste beach resorts. Still, 330,309 persons arrived there in 2013, said the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The tourism institute used statistics from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. The numbers did not include Costa Ricans or individuals arriving here on temporary work permits, said the institute. In the past, the statistics included cruise ship passengers who participate in land visits at Puntarenas or Limón. Allan Flores, the tourism minister, said in a news release that his agency has worked intensely to strengthen the country's presence in the principal tourism markets such as the United States, Canada and Europe with aggressive strategies of promotion and publicity as well as entering the new market in South America, China and Russia."
The Cámera Nacional de Turismo was quick to respond to the statistics, and their new tourism plan calls for annual increases of 5 percent, said the chamber.
Costa Rica's tourism institute has engaged in experimental promotions. The institute backed the creation of murals in European railway stations. In the United States it promoted the country with a talking sloth and more recently with advertisements at movie houses.
The tourism institute placed a major bet on the 2011 $6.4 million talking sloth campaign engineered by an Atlanta, Georgia, firm, 22Squared, which is a fan of the social media. The institute gave away about 80 trips to Costa Rica. The latest campaign presents a slick video to U.S. movie audiences.The tourism announcement also praised the institute's Web site, www.visitcostarica.com.Although there is a lot of information on the Web site, the Amazon.com Web monitoring subsidiary Alexa says that 54.6 percent of the visits never go further than the first page. The Web site has a global readership rank of 156,999 and a rank in the United States of 65,745, said Alexa. By contrast, A.M. Costa Rica has a global rank of 65,894 and a U.S. rank of 62,170.

Tax on luxury homes brings in $11 million
Jan 17, 2014 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The tax this year is on homes and land that are estimated to be valued at $244,000( 121 million colones) or more. The tax is on a sliding scale with owners of more expensive properties paying a higher percentage. Owners of some 3,785 properties have paid their luxury home tax, the Dirección General de Tributación said Thursday. Some 5.5 billion colons have been collected, said the agency.The amount is about $11 million. The deadline was Jan. 15, and those who pay late face a fine of 199.700 colons, a little more than $400. The money is supposed to go toward building housing for the poor.


Costa Rica Jaco-Central Pacific News & Info up to Dec. 31, 2013


 
 

 Year-in-Review 2013: International Awards & Recognition for Costa Rica 
December 20, 2013 - By Corey Kane Tico Times Every year little Costa Rica seems to rank big with travel magazines, international news outlets and the country's beaches, jungles and even supermodels has Costa Rica among the best in the world.  Here's some of the love Costa Rica received in 2013:

Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor praise Costa Rica's beaches and nature: Lonely Planet selected Costa Rica as one of its must-visit destinations for 2013, and called it the No. 1 nature country in the world. Users of the heavyweight travel site TripAdvisor voted eight Costa Rican beaches among the best 10 beaches in Central America (Manuel Antonio National Park on the central Pacific coast topped the list).

Condé Nast Traveler places 9 Costa Rican resorts among Latin America's 15 best: The luxurious Nayara Hotel near Arenal Volcano took the top spot.

World Traveler Award gives top honor to 5-star resort near Jacó: Zephyr Palace was named the no. 1 hotel in Mexico and Central America.

Costa Rica, a most searched wedding destination: Google listed Costa Rica as the ninth most popular wedding destination search in the United States.

TripAdvisor selects La Fortuna as a 2013 'emerging destination': TripAdvisor lauds another Costa Rica destination. The site commended La Fortuna, the town at the foot of Arenal Volcano, for its sightseeing, hot springs and natural beauty.

Arenal  The area around Arenal Volcano in the northern interior of Costa Rica took home a pair of high rankings as one of the world's best travel destinations.

HelpAge calls Costa Rica the fourth-best country in Latin America to retire, tops in Central America: Costa Rica finished ahead of the United States in elderly health care. In that same category the country placed second in Latin America, one spot behind in Chile.

Costa Rica ranks 12th in World Happiness Report: Smile. Ticos are the happiest people in all of Latin America and behind only Canada in the Americas, according to this United Nations study.

Costa Rica ranks 2nd in the world for 'environmental sustainability': With its commitment to preserving the environment and producing alternative energy sources, Costa Rica ranked behind only Switzerland in sustainability, according to the World Energy Council

Costa Rica ranks in top 3 for transparency in Latin America: According to a study by Vanderbilt University, Costa Rica trailed only Uruguay and Chile for least public corruption.

Costa Rica leads innovation ranking in Latin America: The Global Innovation Index ranked Costa Rica 39th out of 142 countries, beating all its neighbors in the region.

Miss Costa Rica finishes in the top 16 at Miss Universe: Fabiana Granados, of Guanacaste, strutted to a spot among the final 16 at the 2013 Miss Universe contest. Granados was one of 86 participants in the competition.

CNN ranks Playa Nosara a world’s best travel destination in 2014: Costa Rica should keep on snagging travel accolades right on through the new year. CNN already named the exquisite Guanacaste beach – famous for its yoga retreats and surfer hangouts – as a choice destination for 2014.

Foreign ministry likes results of apostille system  Dec. 23, 2013  A.M. Costa Rica staff 
Costa Rica has sent out 124,853 documents to foreign lands under the new apostille system, the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said Wednesday.The new system went into effect in December 2011 and eliminated the need for consular approval of official documents. That also is the case of foreign documents coming into Costa Rica.The ministry said that the bulk of the documents that receive its blessing come from the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, the Dirección Nacional de Notariado, the Ministerio de Educación Pública, the Registro Nacional and professional organizations. They may be birth, marriage or divorce documents, academic degrees, property titles and similar.The apostille system, government by an international convention, is seen as a way to increase the competitivity of the country, said the ministry.Most expats encounter this system when they seek foreign documents to complete their residency application.

 Rate-setting agency predicts 2014 lower power costs
Dec. 19, 2013 A.M. Costa Rica staff
The price regulating agency came out with a surprise Wednesday and said that electrical rates would average about 5.5 percent lower next year.

But electrical customers probably should not count on that happening. The agency, the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos, said that the rates still are subject to review every three months. Just last week the agency denied a request by major power users to reduce those rates at the expense of residential customers. The agency also has trimmed rate increase requests submitted by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the primary generator.Wednesday the agency said that the rates would be lower because the estimate of the price of fuel is lower. During the dry season the major generating company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, burns a petroleum product to keep the generators moving. Lower water levels tend to restrict hydro generators.So if the price of petroleum goes up, so will electrical rates.Only customers of two cooperatives, Coopelesca and Coopesantos. will not see a rate cut.In addition to generating power, ICE distributes electricity, too. It's customers will see a 4.81 reduction, the Autoridad said.Much of the Central Valley is serviced by an ICE subsidiary, the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz.Those customers will benefit from a 8.75 percent cut.Heredia power customers will see a 7.33 percent cut. But in Cartago the reduction will be miniscule.

Active Corporation tax for 2014 increased to $400, Inactive Tax $200
Dec. 23, 2014 A.M. Costa Rica staff
The country's tax on corporations is going up about $20 for 2014.The tax is keyed to the salary of a judicial worker, as are many other fines and fees in Costa Rica. When the judicial worker gets a raise, as they all do each year, the so-called base salaries goes up, too.Lawyer Allan Garro of Cartago noted that the Registro Nacional had posted the new amount.
That amount is 199,700 colons for active corporations and half that, 99,850 colons, for inactive ones. The law that created the tax specified that active corporations will pay one half a base salary.
The Poder Judicial said Friday that the base salary will be 399,400 colons.

The tax is due at the end of January. After that the amount draws interest.
In dollars, the tax is about $400-$405 for active corporations and half that for inactive ones.

House panel asked to consider Expat Banking Situations   Dec. 23, 2013 A.M. Costa Rica     The U.S. House Financial Services Committee is being asked to hold hearings on the problems Americans are having overseas with banking.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Rep. Mick Mulvaney have asked the committee to investigate reports of Americans Overseas being denied banking access, both foreign and domestic, as a byproduct of new legislation and Patriot Act regulations. The main concern is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act that threatens foreign banks if they do not report to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service about their American clients.Many banks simply have closed bank accounts held by Americans instead of complying with the reporting requirements.

Mulvaney and Ms. Maloney head what is known as the House Americans Abroad Caucus. Their request for a hearing was reported by the American Citizens Abroad, Inc., an expat advocacy organization that has been deeply involved in lobbying Congress to loosen restrictions on overseas banking by Americans who live outside the country.

Another expat advocacy organization, the Association of Americans Resident Overseas, notes that the Americans Abroad Caucus, a bi-partisan, bi-cameral caucus is designed to represent the interests of Americans living overseas,  Ms.Maloney is a New York Democrat, and Mulvaney is a South Carolina Republican. Both expat advocacy organizations have been gathering reports of problems Americans are having in banking.They also have offered some changes in legislation that would reduce their problems.

For example they have said Congress should treat expats who live overseas different from U.S. citizens who simply stash money in an overseas account.The banking problems have been going on since at least 2008.In the U.S. banking institutions frequently have trouble with overseas customers because they cannot easily comply with the know-your-client rules.Overseas American citizens are consequently being denied the basic right to maintain normal commercial relationships with their country, says the Association of Americans Resident Overseas.

American Citizens Abroad said that it has been compiling testimonials from Americans who have been faced with issues of financial lock-out and looks forward to working with both Ms. Maloney and Mulvaney to help educate the legislature, IRS and Treasury Department on the problems and to identify potential solutions.

Second Home Owners with Rental Income Concerned 
Dec. 31, 2013  By Garland M. Baker Special to A.M. Costa Rica
 The short-term rental market and the real estate market in general appear to be improving in most areas of the country.  If one was to gauge the market by the building and traffic, especially the crazy traffic, it would appear the country is exploding as it did in 2005.

However, in all this good news, there is a dark cloud. Here comes the bad news.  Many people renting their second homes and short-term rentals are not collecting and remitting the 13 percent sales taxes, which they are required to do by law.  Some are not even paying income taxes if they make a profit.  

Questioning a few property managers revealed that they were unaware of current tax laws, especially those that pertain to sales taxes.According to Marco V. Retana, a bilingual Costa Rican attorney, and Kevin Chavarria of KCPATAX, a bilingual certified public accountant, Costa Rica’s sales tax is simple and governed by Ley 6826.  In effect, all products sold are taxable and services are not.  Except for the exceptions.Yes, the devil is in the details. Certain products are exempt from tax such as those deemed in the social interest like the canasta basica, the basic food basket.  If the law does not exclude a product or group, it is taxable.  Services, on the other hand, are not taxable, again except for the exceptions.  

What property managers do not know or are willingly evading is Section (ch) of Article 1 of the law. It reads:“Se establece un impuesto sobre el valor agregado en la venta de mercancías y en la prestación de los servicios siguientes: (ch)  Hoteles, moteles, pensiones y casas de estancia transitoria o no.”

A Google translation of the text reads, “A tax on the value added in the sale of goods and the supply of the following: (ch) Hotels, motels, boarding houses or temporary stay."

Rents and leases that are not taxable are those mentioned in Article 4 of  Ley 7527, the rental law, which reads:“Esta ley rige para todo contrato, verbal o escrito, de arrendamiento de bienes inmuebles, en cualquier lugar donde estén ubicados y se destinen a la vivienda o al ejercicio de una actividad comercial, industrial, artesanal, profesional, técnica, asistencial, cultural, docente, recreativa o a actividades y servicios públicos.”

Google translates same to: “This law applies to any contract, verbal or written lease of real property, wherever located and are intended for home or the exercise of a commercial, industrial, craft, professional, technical, health care, cultural, educational or recreational activities and public services."

No, “recreational activities” does not mean short term rentals to tourists or motel rooms. Both are taxable, along with parking spaces and storage areas. Rental agreements in Costa Rica by default are for three years. So, it is pretty easy to figure out: If a property is being rented using the rental law and there is a clear landlord-tenant relationship, the transaction does not require sales tax. However, every other property rental does.

The same law in Article 7 clearly excludes other types of rentals and it reads:“a) Los hoteles, las pensiones, las hospederías, los internados y los establecimientos similares, en cuanto a los usuarios de sus servicios,” and translates to, “Hotels, pensions, inns, boarding rooms and similar establishments, as users of their services.”

Now for the scary part of the bad news.  Recent tax modifications changed the statute of limitations on tax debts to five years.  If the tax department finds a person not paying their sales taxes they can collect up to five years of back taxes, plus interest and penalties.  Worst yet, since there is a property involved, it can be attached and ultimately auctioned off for the taxes.

It is clear that property managers and owners should be collecting sales taxes when renting to tourists and locals alike on a short term basis. If they do not, they are illegally evading taxes which carries serious legal consequences.  Anyone in this predicament should seek legal or accounting counsel as soon as possible.
Garland M. Baker is a 42-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2013.  

Considerations for Gringo Business Owners Dec. 23, 2013 by Retire NOW in Costa Rica  

A smart move for some working expats is to be here physically but keep all the financial aspects in the home country.Having a business in Costa Rica can be a nightmare. There is even a recent annual tax of about $400 levied on corporations. Then there is the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social that seeks a chunk of the payroll each month for employee medical care and retirement.The Instituto Nacional de Seguros sells worker's compensation insurance, called riesgo de trabajo. The government insurance company is quick to point out that employers without such coverage are on the hook for 100 percent of an employee's on-the-job injury or accident.And then there is the 13 percent sales tax on some transactions and the mandatory monthly report.Not only are these payments a pain, but the obligatory monthly reports are basically duplicates and take time. Some residents, even long-time business owners, have sidestepped most of these expenses and headaches.They work by themselves and take payment into their bank account, usually another form in the United States.

They could be tour agencies that rely on Pay Pal payments or stateside checks or some other financial intermediary. There also might be a corporation is the north that the expat owns.Those who work for a salary sometimes receive payment directly into their foreign bank account.Doing that with the United States does generate a tax liability, but legitimate overseas workers do receive an exemption of more than $95,000 each year on earned income.

Technically, the Costa Rica tax authorities should collect on salary for work done here, but the threshold is fairly high. Monthly salaries under about $1,500 are not taxed, plus there is no tax on work done elsewhere, like a consultancy visit.So those who wish to avoid the Costa Rica bureaucracy try to keep their labors invisible from officialdom. Most of the online or independent call center work qualifies. So does Web design.Some employers will help out by paying salaries outside the country and out of the reach of local tax authorities. They benefit by avoiding some bureaucratic entanglements themselves.

The tax agency, the Dirección General de Tributación, is making deals with major nations to turn over banking information for their nationals here. There is reciprocity, but Costa Rican laws still do not provide for taxing money earning outside the country, although that may change.For most expats, the issue is not ducking a small amount of tax but freeing oneself from the stifling bureaucracy that keeps changing the rules. Expats should pay what the law requires, but they also should consider setting up their own business in a way so that they can legally avoid much of the officialdom.

Costa Rica's tourism high occupancy rates for end of 2013 December 10, 2013 -  Tico Times By L. Arias
Hotel owners expect almost 80 percent occupancy by Dec. 24.Costa Rican hotels are filling up fast for the upcoming year-end holidays, with hotel owners expecting eight of every 10 rooms to be occupied, according to a recent survey by the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR). A similar study last year tallied barely 50 percent occupancy rates.According to the survey, this year's boost in part stems from a greater demand by foreign tourists visiting Costa Rica. But more Costa Ricans also plan to spend their holiday in local hotels."A large number of local tourists plan on taking advantage of the holidays," CANATUR President Isabel Vargas said. "We noted a greater willingness to spend money on travel and recreation."Hotel owners expect 78 percent occupancy by Dec. 24, but CANATUR said that number could increase.

The survey shows that Ticos prefer beach destinations over mountainous and other regions.

Owners of beach lodging expect 87 percent occupancy, while those in mountainous regions and the Central Valley expect approximately 60 percent.

Locations like Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, in north-central Costa Rica, and businesses in the Nicoya Gulf expect 70 percent occupancy. Locations in the northwestern province of Guanacaste surveyed at 65 percent expected occupancy, while Central Pacific locations expect 61 percent occupancy.

According to CANATUR, demand for Pacific-region destinations can be attributed, in general, to easier and better access by road and by air.

The survey was conducted among 134 lodging establishments in the regions of Guanacaste, Puntarenas, the Central and South Pacific, the Caribbean, the northern region and the Central Valley. Its goal is to monitor tourism business expectations at the start of the high season.

Costa Rica Rican cocoa among the best in the world
 November 15, 2013 - Tico Times By L. Arias
A Tico product also took first place among regional producers at a competition in France.
A sample of Costa Rican cocoa was ranked among the 50 best in the world at the 15th annual International Cocoa Awards, held in Paris, France, Oct. 30, 2013.
 
The Cocoa of Excellence program organizes the competition, which this year included 114 samples of premium cocoa beans from 24 countries.
Costa Rica’s representative was Finca La Dorada, a farm located in the Alajuela canton of San Carlos, the Agriculture Ministry reported.
The Tico farm's beans also took first place among producers from Central America and the Caribbean. Samples from Honduras, Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago were finalists.
 
This is the second time Costa Rica has placed among the world’s best cocoa in the competition, which is at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris.
Juan Pablo Buchert, president of Costa Rica’s Chamber of Premium Cocoa, noted that cocoa farming in Costa Rica is 100 percent dedicated to fine cocoa production, thanks to the new elite varieties local farmers have been cultivating since 2003.
"The recognition came really early, as we are just taking our first steps in the business," said Elkin Restrepo Mejia, one of the owners of La Dorada farm. "The award will allow us to get excellent prices for our produce, probably two or three times above the normal price."
The national cocoa production is estimated at 500 metric tons, cultivated on 4,500 hectares located predominantly in the northern and Atlantic regions. (there are also a few farms in the Southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica).Some 2,200 families produce cocoa in Costa Rica, according to Agriculture Ministry data. CR Beach Jeff says: A number of boutique chocolate makers are now selling there
delicious products in Costa Rica. We are beginning to get listings for a number of cocao farms for sale, contact 
us for more info.
 
Five months left to dump company without charge
 Oct. 29, 2013 By Garland M. Baker Special to A.M. Costa Rica 
 It is important to know that: two critical tax-filing dates for the D-151 and the D-101 are just around the corner. One that people may have forgotten or chosen to ignore is the deadline to get out of a Costa Rican company before it is too late and the country begins suing liable parties for the company tax. This should not be confused with income tax. 
 
The tax is the Impuesto a las Personas Jurídicas, Ley 9024, known to most as the company assessment tax. Many people are still unaware the law provides several bailout provisions. The cheapest and easiest one is through resignation, outlined in Transitorio IV of the law.  This provision allows anyone with judicial and extrajudicial authority in a company to relinquish the post.  It also allows anyone with a full power of attorney to resign.  One can get out without paying any current company taxes due.  Most people do not know this. They think a company needs to be up to date for them to resign. 
 
The deadline is April 1, 2014  Five months may seem like a long time, but it is not in Costa Rica with the holidays just around the corner.  That's a time little to nothing gets done. After April 1, any taxes due have to be paid before the Registro National will process a resignation.
 
This transitorio was created as a bridging mechanism to assist those not interested in being part of a company anymore and give them the ability to get out and not be liable.  The fact is everyone with legal authority and/or a full power of attorney is liable personally for this assessment.  So far, all attempts to kill it have failed in the Sala IV.
There are expats that do not even know if they are in a company or if they have legal authority or power.  It is best to check before being served a collection suit for the tax with interest, penalties and attorney’s fees added to the bounty.
 
This is what one needs to do to check standing in companies at the Registro Nacional Digital: 
1. sign up for an account or login, 
2. go to the section on the left side of the page named índice de personas físicas, 
3. fill in the fields for Nombre (name), Primer Apellido (first last name) and Segundo Apellido (second last name, if you have one), and 
4. click on Buscar (search).
 
Registro operators are not very good about inputting information from legal documents into their computers, so try different variations. Sometimes, last names are confused with first names or spelled completely wrong. So if an identification number is available, try it too.
The search lists all nominations, substitutions (called afectaciones) and powers of attorney for an individual. One will be presented with a list with green check marks and red balls. A check mark indicates a listing requiring attention, and a red ball means no record. 
The next step is a little more difficult. Only legal representatives need to worry about liability, so if a listing is found, one needs to check his or her responsibility.  To do so, one needs to buy a certification literal of the company in question to check and see if they have representación judicial y extrajudicial or judicial and extrajudicial representation.
Powers of attorney are listed in the poders section of the list. If one finds they have one, they need to purchase a Certificación Citas Poder report to find out if the power is a full power. 
Merging companies together or dissolving them completely can also reduce the company assessment burden, but to do either requires all taxes due must be paid. The bridging alternatives for these two scenarios are long past.  The only one left is resignation.
 
Here are the instructions to resign from a company: 
1. Print a current certificación literal using the Registro Nacional’s digital service.  Certificación Poderes Persona Jurídica cannot be used if taxes on a company are due. 
2. Prepare a resignation letter in Spanish to the stockholders of the company.
3. Try to deliver the letter to company’s last known address. 
4. Go to an attorney and present the certification and the resignation letter so it can be put in their protocolo or legal book.
 
Once this is done, the notary will deliver the resignation to the Registro Nacional and pay a 3,000-colon filing fee to have the document registered.  Attorney’s fees for the work are around 50,000 colons, but may vary from one legal professional to another.
One might think, “Darn this is too complicated, no one is going to do anything if the taxes are not paid.” The lawmakers put in the out clauses to give people the opportunity to get out before the wrath of the law takes effect.  
The government wants this money as they do any tax due, and Ley 9024 also has the provision necessary for its collection including, as stated above, personal liability for all legal representatives. 
Have questions?  Consult a good professional. Do not miss this window. It is the last one left in the law. Garland M. Baker is a 42-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.   Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2013 Consultantes Río Colroado S.A..
CR Beach says, contact your lawyer if you have any questions.
 
Dairy Queen invests $1 million to open four stores in Costa Rica
September 13, 2013 - By L. Arias
Local franchisee plans to open 11 stores by next year as Dairy Queen joins a long list
of U.S. fast-food franchises to target the Costa Rican market. 
Dairy Queen (DQ), the U.S. chain of soft-serve ice cream and fast food is back in Costa Rica, announcing Thursday the opening of their first store in years in the country, slated to open next Wednesday at Mall MultiPlaza Escazú, southwest of San José.
The local franchisee is Honduran company Inversiones Danube, which also operates Popeyes Chicken restaurants in the country.
Dairy Queen was prominent in Costa Rica in the 1970s, with a highly popular store on San José's Avenida Central, among other locations.
This year, the company plans to invest $1 million to open the first four new stores in Costa Rica in the next two months, employing some 60 people.
A second store will open in downtown San José by the end of the month, and in November,
two more stores will open in San Pedro, east of the capital, and at mall Paseo de las Flores
in the province of Heredia. For 2014, the company plans on opening three additional stores in San José in Curridabat, Tibás and Desamparados, plus three in the provinces of Heredia, Alajuela and Cartago. The first Dairy Queen store opened in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois, and the company's corporate offices are located in Edina, Minnesota. Currently the company has more than 5,700 stores in 19 countries, including 652 locations outside the United States and Canada. CR Beach Jeff says
that Costa Rica has very trainable employees as every U.S. franchise that has opened up one
location, shortly afterwards opens up many more.
 
Costa Rica qualifies for the 2014 World Cup
  September 11, 2013 - By Tico Times
Costa Rica's national team, La Sele, qualified for the World Cup along with the United States. A goal by Jamaica in extra time delayed the celebration — but only for 45 minutes. Shortly after Costa Rica tied Jamaica 1-1, the U.S. took care of  Mexico and Honduras drew against Panama. The result: La Selección de Costa Rica (otherwise known as "La Sele") was going to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
Fans in San José spilled into the streets to celebrate Costa Rica’s return to the World Cup for the first time since 2006. A few Ticos literally danced the samba after La Sele booked its ticket to Brazil. Mostly the fans clogged the area around the Fuente de la Hispanidad (a fountain in east San José). Several thousand Ticos waved flags, chanted songs, honked horns and banged noisemakers.
About 1,000 fans made it to 3 a.m. when they greeted the Costa Rican national squad as the team arrived in Juan Santamaría International Airport.
 
Costa Rica ranks #1 in Latin America in World Happiness Report
September 10, 2013 - By Lindsay Fendt Tico Times
Costa Rica ranked happier than Mexico, Panama and the U.S. in the UN's newly released
World Happiness Report.
Costa Rica still ranks among the world’s happiest countries according to the United Nation’s 2013 World Happiness Report released Tuesday. Ticos are ranked as the 12th happiest people on Earth out of 156 countries. Costa Rica also was ranked 12th in the 2012 report.
Its No. 12 spot puts Costa Rica’s happiness ahead of every other country in Latin America, trailed by Panama (15) and Mexico (16), and at No. 2 in the Western Hemisphere, topped only by Canada (6). The U.S. ranked 17th, a marked drop from last year’s 11th place.  
The report analyzed data from surveys conducted between 2010 and 2012. While traditional happiness indicators like per-capita gross domestic product and life expectancy were considered in ranking happiness, other factors like the availability of social support and the perceptions of corruption and generosity were also included.
This is the second year the U.N. has released its happiness report, with the authors expanding their research this year to include policy suggestions for countries to improve the lives of their citizens.
Costa Rica showed “no significant increase or decrease” in happiness between the period of 2005-2007 and the period 2010-2012 according to the data, but happiness is on the rise in the region as well as the world as a whole.
Of the 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean listed in the report, 16 showed a significance increase in happiness. Worldwide, 60 countries showed higher happiness rankings.
 
Another happiness survey, a Gallup poll released in December 2012 also ranked Costa Rica among the happiest countries. The poll surveyed the citizens of more than 150 countries, asking them a series of yes or no questions relating to their emotions. Latin Americans reported more positive responses than any other area with Costa Rica tying for fifth with Ecuador. Costa Rica also tied for fifth with Chile in the list of the world’s most "emotional" societies. 
 
 
Costa Rica up three positions in Global Competitiveness Index
September 04, 2013 - By L. Arias
The quality of the country’s public services, skilled labor force, open economy, high rate of technology and business sophistication and innovation capacity are some of the factors that helped Costa Rica improve on the Global Competitiveness Index 2013-2014, released this week by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The country ranked 54th among 148 countries, second-best in Central America behind Panama in 40th place. But in order to get closer to the higher-income and more innovative countries Costa Rica must confront at least 16 problems, the report states.  Economy Minister Mayi Antillon described the deficiencies cited in the report as “little new,” particularly on issues such as bureaucratic procedures and business climate. CR Beach Jeff says we are always waiting for the improvements to take place.
The results were presented locally by Lawrence Pratt, director of the Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development at INCAE Business School, who said that “this is the first time that Costa Rica is classified within the group of countries in transition to innovation."
Progress allowed Costa Rica to rank fourth in Latin America, ahead of Mexico and Brazil, but behind Puerto Rico, Chile and Panama. In the 2012-2013 report the country was sixth in the region.
Globally, and for the fifth consecutive year, Switzerland leads the list, Singapore continues in second place and Finland is third. Germany moved up two positions and ranks fourth, and after having declined for four consecutive years in the ranking, the United States reversed its downward trend, climbing two positions to take 5th place.
 
Costa Rica takes a step toward inclusive tourism
 September 04, 2013 - By Zach Dyer Tico Times
Raising awareness of mobility concerns, innovative design for wheelchairs and continuing efforts to make Costa Rica's national parks more accessible are poised to make the country’s national wonders available to people of all abilities and ages. 
 
Fernán González of Sistemas de Accesibilidad Total unveiled these "amphibious" wheelchairs last week during the Expo Travel show in San José. The chairs, perhaps the only of their kind here, aim to make Costa Rica's jungle trails and beaches accessible to people of all abilities. 
Costa Rica has long been known as a destination for adventure, with thoughts of surfing, hiking through rain forests and tranquil beaches coming to mind, but this iconic image of the country has long been out of reach for Ticos and tourists in wheelchairs or with other disabilities.
Fernán González of Sistemas de Accesibilidad Total, an architecture and consulting company specializing in accessible design, unveiled two unique wheelchairs, perhaps the only of their kind in Costa Rica, during the Expo Travel trade show in San José last week. At first glance, the so-called “amphibious chairs” look like something left over from NASA’s Mars rover mission. Large, balloon-like yellow tires help stabilize the chairs over uneven surfaces and keep it from sinking into the sand. Another larger version equipped with life preservers can go into the ocean, allowing others to float alongside the person sitting down.
“The topic of accessible tourism isn't really addressed here in Costa Rica because everyone focuses on buildings, not in the enjoyment of tourism,” said González. 
 
Carara National Park, 15 minutes north of Jaco beach and only a few miles from Punta Leona, is one of the few protected areas in Costa Rica designed for people of all abilities, including low-incline paved trails, Braille and other information aids, and handicap-accessible bathrooms.  
But that may be changing. With several laws in effect requiring handicap accessibility in hotels and other public places, and pending legislation that would punish those who fail to comply with accessibility requirements, there is more pressure on the tourist industry to address accessibility issues for foreign and domestic visitors. The National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) met this week with González to see how they could make Manuel Antonio, a national park on the Pacific coast, more accessible to people of all abilities. 
Cecilia Montero of SINAC told The Tico Times that there are two national parks that are up to code for complete accessibility: Poás Volcano National Park and Carara National Park. Both parks have ramps, paved pathways, wayfinding and information aids. 
The SINAC representative said that they are exploring options to develop a wheel-chair accessible walkway to Manuel Antonio’s mangroves and beach, including a gangway that would allow wheelchair access to the ocean.But redesigning national parks does not come cheap: “The most difficult thing is to find funding for these projects,” observed Montero.
The lawmaker pointed out that because the protected areas are public they too fall under the law’s accessibility requirements. Chaves added that PASE has proposed bill 18,238 that would give “teeth” to the country’s principal disability legislation, Law 7600, empowering authorities to sanction businesses or public places that do not comply with the law’s accessibility requirements.
González hopes that these considerations will make Costa Rica more accessible to Ticos and create a new tourism niche for visitors who thought the country’s rugged image was out of reach.
"You can put [a handicapped person] under a palm tree but they're not really getting a chance to fully enjoy the experience,” González said, “People need to understand that the true value of a tourist destination is that everyone can enjoy it."  
 
 
Thousands demand approval of laws to punish animal abuse in Costa Rica
  August 19, 2013 - By L. Arias of The Tico Times and AFP
"Some 80 percent of animals we receive in our shelter show signs of injures caused by humans,” said Sergio González, a ZooAve spokesman.
More than 12,000 animal lovers and their pets on Sunday marched down the capital’s Second Avenue to demand approval of laws in the Legislative Assembly that target animal abuse.
Dogs and cats of all sizes and breeds, and even a rooster and a pig, joined their owners at Plaza de la Democracia in downtown San José for various activities including a free concert.
The fifth edition of the march called for action on animal abuse, as two bills aimed at punishing those who hurt animals have stalled in the Legislative Assembly, where the Environmental Affairs Commission has yet to take them up for review and approval before being voted on by lawmakers.
Some 4,000 wild animals have been taken in so far this year by ZooAve, a nonprofit shelter that cares for abused animals, “and some 80 percent of them showed signs of injuries caused by humans,” said Sergio González, a ZooAve spokesman.
“People who abuse animals are a risk to society. We hope activities like this help raise awareness among lawmakers, that [abuse] cases have increased by 300 percent since last year," he noted.
 
Dozens of cases involving animals that were attacked with machetes, shot, mutilated and burned with acid, as well as cases of negligence and abandonment have made the news in recent months, but Costa Rican law does not consider such acts to be crimes, allowing animal abusers to go unpunished.
Members of a group called “Animal and Earth Resistance Front” also joined the demonstration, claiming that abuse goes even further.
“Abuse is not just a matter of cats and dogs, … there’s also abuse against cows, pigs and other farm animals,” said some of the group’s demonstrators, who identify themselves as vegans and vegetarians.Officials from the National Animal Health Service offered free vaccination against rabies and free deworming for several attendees.
 
German electronics company to open $10 million facility in Costa Rica
 August 14, 2013 - By L. Arias
Zollner Elektronik AG on Wednesday announced the opening of a manufacturing and support services facility in Costa Rica.
The new operation of the German electronics giant will be the first in Latin America and will be located "in a free zone at the Metropolitan Area, that is yet to be defined," the Foreign Trade Ministry confirmed. 
The company will invest some $10 million in facilities and equipment for its two main operations in the country: engeneering services and electronic device manufacturing.
In a first stage the company will hire staff for the engineering, research and development center, set to open in mid-2014. The center will provide technical support for the company’s operation in California.
Next, the company will open an electronics component manufacturing plant that is scheduled to begin operations by the end of next year.
In total, the company expects to hire some 200 people over the next three years.
Gene Lindberg, CEO of Zollner Costa Rica, said, “there will be many job opportunities for Costa Ricans in various administrative, technical and manufacturing posts."
Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González stressed that the selection of Costa Rica as a base location for Zollner "is a clear example of this administration efforts to diversify foreign direct investment sources."
Those interested in applying for a job can find more information about the company's services on their website: www.zollner.cr    Applications and résumés indicating experience and salary expectations can be sent by email to: jobs@zollner.cr
Gabriela Llobet, executive director of the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency, highlighted the company's move by saying, “It is one of the top 15 global electronics manufacturing and engineering services companies, as well as the No. 1 in Germany.”
According to Foreign Trade Ministry data Costa Rica in 2012 attracted investments from 40 high-technology companies, and a third of them came from nontraditional markets such as Japan, Korea, India, Italy or Germany.
 
Costa Rican court orders officials to protect Caletas wetlands
  August 12, 2013 - By L. Arias    Tico Times
Costa Rica's Environmental Court ordered the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) to stop a local company from causing further damage to Caletas wetlands, located in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
According to the ruling, the farming company Agropecuaria Caletas S.A. built a fence inside a protected area, or Maritime Zone, and is spraying rice fields with toxic chemicals that are damaging the wetlands. The company has rice plantations in several areas along the protected wetlands.
Local conservation group PRETOMA reported the damage in 2009, and the Environmental Court has since issued three rulings in favor of protecting the area.
The latest ruling forces SINAC to provide bi-monthly reports of actions taken to curb the damage.
It also orders Public Security Minister Mario Zamora, Civil Aviation Authority Director Jorge Fernández, Director of the Agriculture Ministry's Phytosanitary Service Magda González and President of the Commission for the Control and Regulation of Agricultural Aviation Emmanuel Villalobos to take steps to guarantee that no flights are allowed to spray chemicals over Caletas.
Officials from the Tempisque Conservation Area already were notified of the court ruling and said they would abide by the court's decision, and that lawyers and property owners also agreed to stop fumigating.
The World Wetland Network in 2010 awarded Caletas wetlands the Gray Award, which is given to wetlands that have suffered environmental damage caused by human activity.
The site is of high importance because it includes Caletas beach, an important sea turtle nesting spot since 2002, according to PRETOMA.
SINAC said officials would coordinate actions with local police to confiscate agricultural machinery if the company continues to harm the wetlands.
They also are conducting a study to determine if the fence is built inside a protected area, which according Costa Rica’s Maritime Zone Law includes all land 50 meters from the high-tide line in coastal areas.On its website PRETOMA claims that in certain areas next to the wetlands “construction exists at only 5 meters from the high tide line.” The Caletas Arío National Wildlife Refuge consists of 313.3 hectares of beaches, mangrove swamps, estuaries and Public Maritime Zone, including 19,485 hectares of Marine Protected Area.
 

Costa Rica bans Shrimp Trawling
August 8th, 2013 (InsideCostRica.com) Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court (Sala IV) has declared the practice of shrimp trawling unconstitutional, based on “extensive” scientific studies that indicate the practice causes serious harm to the marine environment.  Judge Paul Rueda made the ruling yesterday. “Based on extensive scientific studies the Court was able to demonstrate that this fishing technique causes serious harm to the marine environment, due to the amount of marine life that is incidentally captured but not used,” the Court said as part of a statement.
“In fact, the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture has compared [the practice] with the clear-cutting of a forest.”
Judges further determined that the practice “negatively affects the democratic rights” of artisanal fishermen by reducing their fishing opportunities. 
The ruling states that no new permit, authorization or license for bottom trawling will be permitted, and any existing authorization for the activity will not be renewed.

Chuck E Cheese Coming to Costa Rica
August 8th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) Chuck E Cheese, the U.S. franchise that combines pizza along with scores of games for children, will be arriving in Costa Rica soon.Corporación Álvarez y Marín is the local company that obtained the franchise rights, and says its goal is to open three restaurants over the course of four years. On average, each restaurant seats 450 to 500 and will require an investment of about $3 million each.  Each restaurant will provide direct and indirect employment for approximately 150 people. The company believes the franchise provides a unique opportunity that doesn’t currently face competition in the country.

COCOS ISLAND AND PUERTO VIEJO AMONG THE BEST DIVING DESTINATIONS IN THE WORLD, July 30, 2013 ICT visitcostarica.com
According to the ranking of the ¨85 Best Places to Dive in the World,¨ on the website 20minutos.es, a renowned online site that publishes detailed lists by its users, Costa Rica has two ideal destinations for this sport. 
They are Cocos Island and Puerto Viejo, which hold the 20th and 35th positions worldwide, respectively. 
The famous Cocos Island, which is also one of the former nominations for the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, is described as a place with abundant Costa Rican marine life. It is home to a variety of species such as sharks, manta rays, Moray eels, dolphins, turtles, octopus and a wide range of fish. On occasion some types of whale species can be found, including the impressive whale shark, among others.  It also mentions the warm tropical waters with extensive coral formations, with colorful gorgonians, sponges, and endemic species.
As for Puerto Viejo, ranking number 35, its warm waters and coral reefs were highlighted, as well as its diverse marine species such as dolphins, sharks, large manta rays, Moray eels, turtles, octopus and other fish. It also mentions that it is possible to find whales and shark whales. 
 To view the complete ranking you can click on the following link:  http://listas.20minutos.es/lista/los-mejores-85-lugares-para-bucear-del-mundo-364666/
 
COSTA RICA OBTAINS 9 WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS™ 2013, July 23, 2013  ICT visitcostarica.com 
The ceremony for the 20th edition of the World Travel Awards for the South and Central America was held Saturday night, July 20, 2013 in Lima, Peru and Costa Rica received awards in nine different categories. Eight awards were for lodging companies and one for a tour operator.
Among the big winners of the night, the “Westin Resort Playa Conchal” was the highlight, taking the award for "Best Resort All Inclusive" in the Mesoamerican area. Furthermore, within this region, the hotel "Barceló San Jose Palacio" and the "Real InterContinental San Jose" won the categories of "Best Airport Hotel" and "Best Business Hotel", respectively.
Meanwhile, the "Parador Resort" in Quepos was recognized for "Best Resort in Mexico and Central America" and the "JW Marriott Guanacaste" was the winner of "Best Resort and Spa in Mesoamerica". For this region, the green hotel category was won by the "Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort" located in La Fortuna de San Carlos, this site has a Level 4 Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST).
The World Travel Awards™ are referred to as "the Oscars of the travel industry" by the "Wall Street Journal". The global ceremony will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, date to be announced in the coming months.
These are the awards according to the World Travel Awards 2013 in the category Costa Rica:
1. Best Golf Resort: Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort
2. Best Hotel: Zephyr Palace
3. Best Resort: JW Marriott Guanacaste
4. Best Resort & Spa: JW Marriott Guanacaste
To see the other winners of the region you can access the following link: http://www.worldtravelawards.com/winners2013-7
 
Expedia Insider’s Select 2013: HOTEL ARENAS DEL MAR IN MANUEL ANTONIO IS THE SECOND BEST IN THE WORLD , July 17, 2013 ICT visitcostarica.com
The prestigious travel magazine, Expedia, revealed its list of the "World's Best Hotels" from a global survey of its users: Expedia Insider's Select Top 100. For the year 2013, Hotel Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio took the second place worldwide. Additionally, it is the only resort in Costa Rica in the ranking.
Part of the description of the resort highlights that the rooms offer all the technological facilities, bathtubs, and other features. Also, it describes Manuel Antonio as a place of wildlife beside the ocean with extreme and ecological adventures, not to mention hiking through the Manuel Antonio National Park. Finally, sunbathing is recommended on the beach or spending the day relaxing at the spa at this hotel.
The Hotel Arenas del Mar offers the Tourism Declaration of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) and the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism (CST).
Expedia Insiders’ Select is an annual survey that is performed by thousands of online users and travel agencies of Expedia magazine. The "Top 100 Best Hotels of 2013" also enlists hotels located in France, Mexico, India, Italy, USA, and Greece, among many others. To view the full list you can access the following link:
http://www.expedia.com/p/hotel-promo/insiders-select.htm
 
According to Travel and Leisure: FIVE OF THE TOP RESORTS ARE IN COSTA RICA,
July 17, 2013  ICT visitcostarica.com
The prestigious, International magazine, Travel and Leisure, listed the ranking of the "10 Best Resorts of Central and South America", in which Costa Rica tops with five luxury resorts. The first position is occupied by the "Nayara Hotel Spa and Gardens" in La Fortuna de San Carlos, which also was crowned the "Fourth Best Hotel in the World" in the list of the "50 Best Hotels of the Planet" in the same journal.
In the third position is the "Four Season´s Resort" on the Papagayo Peninsula. The description of this luxurious resort highlights that the design is simple but luxurious; bamboo, stone, local wood and Costa Rican art are part of the decor. In addition, tourists can ride horses, take relaxing mud baths or simply enjoy the golden beaches.
Meanwhile, the "Hotel Punta Islita" on the Nicoya Peninsula took hold of the fourth place. It is described as an eco-resort with private bungalows, villas and beautiful views. In the fifth place ranking is "Arenas del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort" located in Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas.
Last but not least, is the "JW Marriott Guanacaste" in Hacienda Pinilla, which graces the eighth position in the ranking. The description mentions that the resort has rooms with a fresh breeze, dark wood and spacious balconies overlooking the sea and gardens.
All Costa Rican resorts included in the ranking are in compliance with the Costa Rican Tourism Institute’s (ICT) Tourism Declaration. The list of the "Top 10 Resorts in Central and South America" also includes hotels located in Peru, Argentina, Uruguay and of course, Costa Rica, who leads the list. To see the full ranking access the following link:
http://www.travelandleisure.com/worldsbest/2013/hotels/resorts-latin-america/524
 
Spanish Magazine Highlights Costa Rica’s , July 8, 2013   ICT visitcostarica.com
The renowned Spanish magazine ABC Viajar (ABC Travel) highlighted six landscapes that Costa Rica has and that tourists should not miss while visiting the country. The first is the majestic Rio Pacuare, listed by National Geographic as one of the "10 best in the world for rafting", besides being the wild and scenic river of the country. Finally dense vegetation is highlighted, home to jaguars, monkeys, tapirs, sloths, ocelots and hundreds of tropical birds. 
Second place is held by the Trimbina Biological Reserve in Sarapiqui, a territory of rivers and ancient forests that inhabits 56% of mammals from around the country, such as jaguars, tapirs, sloths, anteaters, and 60 types of bats, in addition to nearly 400 varieties of birds, some migratory and 180 amphibians, among many others. Tirimbina Biological Reserve dedicates its 345 hectares to preserve its tropical rainforest, scientific research and environmental education.
Third place exhibits the Poas Volcano, which is categorized as one of the most important American volcanoes and is accessible throughout the year thanks to the road that leads up to its own crater, the largest in Central America measuring 1.5km in diameter.
In the fourth and fifth place are the landscapes: Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Natural Refuge and the Arenal Lake and volcano, respectively. Both sites are listed as unique landscapes and can be visited by tourists throughout the year. Lastly, they highlight the Central Valley, specifically the Casa Turire Hotel in the Turrialba Valley a destination for nature lovers, in a place where the Spaniards first settled and established the first cocoa plantations.
The list of the "Six Natural Landscapes to Dream About" shows beautiful pictures of the recommended destinations, as well as a comprehensive description of each one. ABC Travel is an online magazine of the digital newspaper ABC España (ABC Spain), one of the most renowned in the Old Continent. To view the full article you can access the following link:
http://www.abc.es/viajar/centroamerica/costa-rica/abci-costa-rica-desconocida-201306071427_1.html
 
JETBLUE LAUNCHES NON-STOP SERVICE BETWEEN FORT LAUDERDALE AND SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA, July 1, 2013  ICT visitcostarica.com
– Today begins non-stop daily flights between the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and the Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, Costa Rica - 
– Clients can make reservations with promotion rates as low as $135 each way from Fort Lauderdale, starting today until July 2 at www.jetblue.com/new for travel between September 6 and December 13, 2013 -  JetBlue Airways (Nasdaq: JBLU) launches today its direct service between the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), celebrating the airline’s most recent route. Starting today until July 2nd, flights from Fort Lauderdale are on sale starting at $135 each way for travel between September 6 and December 13, 2013 (a). 
“This new service is a direct result of our focus in increasing our presence in Fort Lauderdale and to stay relevant, also to continue adding flights to cover the needs of our travelers. This new route will help connect two dynamic cities that have much to offer the visitors and residents, alike.” 
“The new route from Fort Lauderdale, which we are inaugurating today, allows the increase in the availability of seats from the United States to the Juan Santamaría International Airport, doubling the air offer towards our country from the state of Florida, which ranks third when it comes to client concentration considered as best prospects for Costa Rica,” highlighted Flores. 
The airline offers flights to two cities via three routes the diverse and beautiful country of Costa Rica. 
JetBlue began its service between Orlando and San José in 2009, and it also offers non-stop service to Liberia from the JFK Airport in New York. 
The JetBlue flight itinerary between Fort Lauderdale and San José is: 
Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to San José (SJO): San José (SJO) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL):
Departure – Arrival Departure – Arrival
9:45 a.m. – 10:38 a.m. 1:20 p.m. – 6:24 p.m.-
The JetBlue flights to San José will be operated with its comfortable fleet of Airbus A320 planes and its prized customer service, offering conveniently assigned seats; a first checked bag free of charge (b); complimentary and unlimited brand snacks and drinks; comfortable leather seats, and more leg room in Economy class than any other airline in the United States (c). 
 
DELTA AIRLINES CELEBRATES 15 YEARS OF UNINTERRUPTED SERVICE TO COSTA RICA WITH ADDITIONAL GROWTH, July 1, 2013   ICT visitcostarica.com
The increase in services to Liberia and San José highlight Delta´s strength and commitment with the Costa Rican market.
Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) celebrates 15 years of uninterrupted service to Costa Rica with an increase in services to San José and Liberia, offering additional alternatives for business travelers and for those who travel for pleasure. The new daily non-stop service between Los Angeles and San Jose will start July 1st from Los Angeles to San José and the following day from Costa Rica to the west coast of the United States. 
 
Conde Nast Traveler: Costa Rica Heads the List of the “15 Best Resorts of Central and South America”, June 17, 2013   ICT visitcostarica.com
- Costa Rica has 6 of the 15 best resorts of the ranking. 
The renowned international magazine, “Condé Nast Traveler” published on their website a list of the “15 Best Resorts in All Central and South America” chosen by its readers, where Costa Rica stands out with six resorts located in different parts of the country. 
Second place in the ranking belongs to the Xandari Resort & Spa, located in Alajuela, a former coffee plantation. As part of the description of this establishment, its innovative design stands out; its closeness to the Juan Santamaría International Airport, although simultaneously being away from the city. Its ample and spacious villas have wooden curved roofs, private gardens and terraces with magnificent views of the Central Valley. It is also recommended to tour a small farm and hike through the trains surrounded by rivers and waterfalls. 
Following this resort in third place is the Four Season’s Costa Rica in the Papagayo Peninsula, which the publication describes its rooms as decorated in neutral tones with blue and green detailing, and tree houses inspired in nature and imported marble from 18 different countries. The golf course and its seafood that can be tasted at the hotel are also highlighted. 
Other Costa Rican lodgings that appear in the publication are the Hotel Punta Islita in Guancaste and El Silencia Lodge in Toro Amarillo in the eight and ninth placement, respectively. In addition to conclude the list are Los Sueños Marriott in Herradura, Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio and the Westin Playa Conchal in the 11th, 12th and 15th placements, respectively. 
The ranking of the “15 Best Resorts” have resorts from Argentina, Belize, Peru, Uruguay and Costa Rica, which houses the largest quantity of hotels on the list. All the Costa Rican lodging establishments of the publication have the Tourist Declaration from the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) and the Certification of Sustainable Tourism (CST). 
http://www.cntraveler.com/readers-choice-awards/central-south-america/top-15-resorts-central-south-america
 
Travellers' Choice Destination Awards COSTA RICAL  6 of THE BEST PLACES IN CENTRAL AMERICA, June 11, 2013  ICT visitcostarica.com
Six places in Costa Rica were the winners of the Travellers' Choice™ 2013 Destination award. This recognition was given by the users of the prestigious virtual travel agency TripAdvisor, to the top destinations of Central America.  Here is the list:
1. Antigua, Guatemala
2. San José, Costa Rica
3. La Fortuna of San Carlos
4. Tamarindo, Costa Rica
5. Granada, Nicaragua
6. Jacó, Costa Rica
7. San Pedro, Belice
8. Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
9. Quepos, Costa Rica
10. Placencia, Belice
TripAdvisor is the largest travel site with more than 60 million traveler reviews and opinions around the world, and where you can find the best restaurants, hotels and things to do around the world. It provides recommendations on hotels, resorts, hostels, vacations, vacation packages, travel guides and much more.  More information on the following link: 
http://www.tripadvisor.com.mx/TravelersChoice-Destinations-cTop-g291958 . 
 
COSTA RICA IS THE SECOND BEST DESTINATION FOR SUMMER TRAVEL 2013,
June 10, 2013  ICT visitcostarica.com
The renowned US magazine, Smarter Travel, named Costa Rica as the “Second Best Destination” for Americans to visit during the summer (June-August). The recently published article on their website highlights the important competitive advantages that the Costa Rica market has, which makes it attractive for Americans at this time of year. 
“We love Costa Rica at this time of year,” starts the narrative, although it talks of the July rain, it emphasizes that it is all part of the country’s green season, the prices are great, great flight offers and activities, less people and an agreeable climate make this time of year ideal for vacationing in this country. 
The ranking of the 5 best options for travel in the summer, ranked South Africa in first place, followed by Costa Rica, Saint Lucia, Salt Lake City in the US and Baja California. To view the complete article click on the following link: 
http://www.smartertravel.com/photo-galleries/editorial/top-five-off-peak-destinations-for-summer-2013.html?id=446
 
NORTH AMERICAN TRAVEL AGENCIES UNITE TO PROMOTE COSTA RICA,
June 10, 2013   ICT visitcostarica.com
Two North American travel agencies united to offer an exclusive luxury package for families traveling with children to Costa Rica. They are Ciao Bambino Travel and Kensington Tours, these two agencies decided to complement each other by offering families a unique experience in Costa Rica, under the name, “Kidtastic Ciao Bambino Costa Rica Adventure.” It was published on the site prweb.com with the title “A Family Ticket to Pura Vida.”
 
As part of their description, they classified Costa Rica as the most qualified destination of Central America, with a long list of thrilling adventures and an extraordinary wildlife, which makes it difficult for tourists to decide on their itinerary with so many options to choose from. The package is ideal for children of all ages, with a large variety of exciting activities for teenagers.
 
As part of the experiences that the families can enjoy are a walk through a coffee plantation in San Jose where the tourists can feel the country’s cultural inheritance and one of the main products that is marketed. The Arenal Volcano will be another stop, where for three days the families will enter a safari through rivers and visit local farms. They will also relax at the hot springs and enjoy horseback riding tours, mountain biking, a climbing wall, among other attractions. The trip will end at Manuel Antonio. 
 
Ciao Bambino! Inc., is a travel brand and leading editor in global travel planning resource for families, while Kensington Tours offers personalized, guided trips to more than 90 countries worldwide, winner of the “Award for the Best Travel Agency in the World 2011” by Travel+Leisure magazine and named one of the “Best Adventure Travel Businesses of the World” by National Geographic Adventure.
To view the complete article click on the following link:
http://www.prweb.com/releases/kidtastic-costa-rica/family-itinerary/prweb10771684.htm  
For more information on the package click the following link:
http://www.kensingtontours.com/tours/central-america/costa-rica/costa-rica-family-adventure
 
ICT´s publicity campaign swept Gold Effie in the Travel, Tourism and Destinations category, May 24, 2013   ICT visitcostarica.com
• Maximum award is one of six international awards obtained in 2012 by the success of strategies. 
• The advertising actions for 2013 and early 2014 include the promotion of Costa Rica in 1345 movie screens in the U.S. and Canada, creating an app for Ipad, launching on Pinterest and Instagram platforms, extending the reach of new influencers, reinforcing actions to promote visits during the green season and to San Jose.
Once again, the success of the international adverting campaign “Costa Rica´s Million Dollar Gift of Happiness,” is recognized by prestigious international organizations and in this case the campaign stood out by earning a Gold Effie – being the maximum award earned – in the “Travel, Tourism and Destinations” category. This acknowledgment was awarded yesterday in the 45th Annual Effie Awards, in New York. 
For Minister of Tourism, Allan Flores, this important international award, considered an Oscar in the advertising industry, is a true sample of the positive impact that the international advertising campaign´s effect has had on our main outbound markets such as the US and Canada. 
“The objective of this campaign was to generate conversations about Costa Rica and to contribute to the exchange of experiences, mainly among the social networks to contribute with the positioning of the country as a tourist destination, increasing the recommendation and the magazine,” highlighted Flores. 
The Effie Awards have been consolidated worldwide to recognize the efficiency of the communication and marketing strategies, with innovative marketing ideas that emphasize the creative work and the efficiency of the communication strategies. 
According to Silvia Rodríguez, ICT’s Head of Promotions, “Costa Rica´s Million Dollar Gift of Happiness” campaign was awarded with such prestigious brands like Procter & Gamble, InterContinental Hotels Group, Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Mustang, and American Express, among others.   For the selection of winners, the judges analyzed a database of effective communication marketing cases worldwide, including the strategy, ideas, and the results, with what is obtained from The Effie Effectiveness Index.  According to Rodríguez, this important award reinforces the scope that the campaign has achieved, with 914 million impressions, more than 629 thousand interactions on social networks, coverage on different media and on television programs, as Anderson Cooper and Ellen DeGeneres; reaching massive exposure to 7 million people, among others. 
Also, the campaign was awarded in 2012, with six of the most prestigious awards by renowned organizations internationally, such as: 
 
• Gold WOMMY Award in the Measurement Category for the innovative manner in which the word of mouth impressions (paid, won and own) were measured, before, during and after the campaign. It was awarded by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).
• The Enviromixer app won a GOLD ADDY® Award in the Application for Mobiles of Atlanta Ad Club category. The app went on to the district level, where it was awarded a SILVER ADDY® in the Applications for Mobiles category. 
• The Enviromixer app won a Plata award in the Applications and Entertainment category and the campaign won an Honorable Mention in the Integrated Campaign Media Awards category, in the 42nd Annual International Creativity Awards (Creativity Competition and Interactive Media). 
• The Enviromixer app received an acknowledgment at the HOW Interactive Design Awards.
 
According to Rodríguez, for this year and the beginning of 2014, the publicity actions contemplated within the campaign cover the promotion of Costa Rica as a tourist destination in 1345 movie screens located in the principal cities with major best prospects concentration in the US, such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles (in April, May, and June), San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta, West Palm Beach, Dallas, and Houston (in June); as well as Montreal, Canada (in November), for a total of 10 weeks of exposure with an estimated 8 million 500 thousand impressions, meaning, the amount of times that people will be exposed directly to captivating and amazing images displayed in 60-second ads to be screened in movie screens, which will ensure a wide exposure to our best prospects located in these markets. 
Also, the publicity actions for this year include the creation of the Go Costa Rica app, which will be designed with the iOS platform for Ipad; the launching of popular social platforms and of exponential growth like Pinterest and Instagram; extend the reach of the new influencers, the reinforcement of actions that promote visitation in the Green Season and to San Jose. 
Costa Rica bets on incentive, meeting and events niche in Frankfurt, Germany, May 21, 2013
Costa Rica has one of the best new hotels in the world 2013, May 13, 2013
According to the world famous magazine Travel and Leisure, Costa Rica boasts one of the 60 best new hotels on the Planet for 2013. It is the Rustic Kura Design Villas in the Osa Peninsula, which occupies the 26th position of the world ranking. 
The description for this hotel details the exuberant beauty of the tropical forest surrounding the location, and from where the jungle and beautiful beaches can be observed. Also, it highlights rooms that function based on solar energy, with glass-walled showers and bamboo ceilings. Moreover, it is recommended to swim in the salt water pool, which is found in the center of the complex and from where sunsets can be observed.
The Kura Design Villas hotel is the first property of its class in the town of Uvita, being the project of a local couple that partnered with a sustainable hospitality group, Cayuga Collection. Today they offer their hotel to the most exclusive and eco-friendly tourists.
The list of the best new hotels in the world in 2013, brings together hotel complexes from India, the US, France, Japan, Brazil, and Puerto Rico, among many others. To view the article you can click on the following link:
http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/it-list-the-best-new-hotels/25

 

 

Costa Rica Jaco News & Info updated May 7, 2013


 

President Obama's visit to Costa Rica means a five-day weekend

April 30, 2013  A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is a week filled with activities and perhaps salted with a little confusion.

Wednesday is a legal holiday, and those with gripes will parade through the downtown.  

 

Costa Rica is favorite regional destination for European tourists   May 07, 2013 –Tico Times By L. Arias  European visitors to Central America increased by 16 percent last year.

Costa Rica received 248,996 European tourists in 2012, and it's their favorite tourist destination in the region, followed by Guatemala with 172,160 visitors from that continent.The figures were published in a report released this week by the Central American Tourism Promotion Agency, adding that the region as a whole increased tourist arrivals by 16 percent in 2012.
According to the report, 717,883 European tourists arrived in the region in 2011, while in 2012 the number rose to 832,576.
Germany and the United Kingdom are the countries that most contributed to these figures, as visitors from those countries accounted for 9.7 and 7 percent of visitors in the seven countries of the region.Spanish tourists are third, as they increased their visits to Central America by four percent.

Regional business leaders, Obama agree on need for better infrastructure and cheaper energy         May 04, 2013 - By Tico Times L. Arias 
Central American business leaders presented U.S. President Barack Obama and Central American presidents with a list of recommendations to make the region more competitive.
U.S. President Barack Obama wrapped up a two-day visit to Costa Rica on Saturday by talking business before taking off in Air Force One a few minutes after 12:30 p.m., bound for the United States.
Obama’s last activity in Costa Rica was a meeting with Central American business leaders at the Antigua Aduana facilities in downtown San José, where he received a list of recommendations drafted during discussions on Friday and early Saturday. Those talks were organized by the Costa Rica-based INCAE Business School and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).Although no official agreements were signed, business leaders presented proposals including a priority request for the U.S. to support alternative energy initiatives to lower production costs for companies.
“[Alternative] energy sources must be developed as part of a regional effort,” INCAE Rector Arturo Condo said. Condo served as moderator of the Saturday meeting, attended by Obama, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina. The region's other presidents returned home on Friday night.
Obama said his government "is willing to support these issues, along with the help of the Inter-American Development Bank.” He added that “an energy market would benefit the region’s economy, as it would free up resources that then can be invested in education."
Costa Rican Environment Minister René Castro told The Tico Times that one of the main strategies the U.S. government can implement to support clean energy projects in the region is “spreading the word to U.S. universities and research centers on the advances of our research to encourage investment.”
Castro said Costa Rica currently is researching the use of hydrogen and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), but he noted that the research is still in its early stages, and collaboration from U.S. universities is crucial for the efforts to move forward.  “If we can get appropiate help, the transition to hydrogen could start in 5-10 years," Castro said. For LNG, “it could take up to 20-25 years,” he added.

Tico astronaut and entrepreneur Franklin Chang agreed with Castro and stressed that "everything that is good is also hard to achieve," referring to the use of new energy sources. “In some cases the technology already exists, but in others it is still under development. So, the participation of private, academic and scientific sectors is vital,” Chang said. (It was because of Chang that Costa Rica changed its constitution to allow for dual citizenship, as Chang also became a U.S. citizen!)

Obama said that Central American summits tend to heavily focus on security and immigration issues, and he had set out to emphasize trade and development opportunities during this week's meetings.

He also said that in coming months his administration would decide if the U.S. will begin exporting Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), a move that wouldn't happen at least until 2020.

Another popular proposal discussed Saturday was a request for help from the U.S. in building a gas pipeline that would extend across the isthmus and allow Central America to become more competitive by reducing energy costs.Lowering energy costs would “allow countries to establish an energy market to buy and sell energy," business leaders noted in their list of recommendations.

Chinchilla said buying LPG gas from the U.S. is a priority for the region, as it is one of the most viable options to reduce high energy costs. She and her colleagues also hope to study the creation of a regional electricity market, a project supported by the IDB.
Recommendations also included improving infrastructure, adding investment and adopting better customs legislation to improve trade. Towards that end, business groups hope the U.S. will finance improvements to highways that connect the countries of the region, as well as programs for better technology at border facilities. Central American legislators also must improve trade laws to expedite customs procedures, the report added.  Obama said he agreed with the recommendations, and that modernized legislation would make it easier to ship goods from any Central American country to the United States, instead of first transporting them through Central America.
He also mentioned the need to improve access to education, including for children “0-5 years old.” Better schooling should start at birth and aim to keep students engaged until they are prepared for college, the U.S. president said.  Chinchilla called Costa Rica a pioneer of educational improvements, including a national daycare program that was expanded under her administration, starting in 2010.

 

Bill to exempt coastal residents from Maritime Zone Law passes first-round vote       May 01, 2013 – Tico Times By Lindsay Fendt

A majority of lawmakers voted to pass a bill known as “TECOCOS,” which would protect them from demolition of property in coastal areas. The Coastal Territories Bill, or “TECOCOS,” passed a first round of debates at the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday after the ruling National Libertarian Party delayed voting Monday night.

The bill would permit exceptions to the current Maritime Zone Law, which restricts construction of buildings within 200 meters of the coastline.
TECOCOS would allow towns near the coast to be designated as coastal communities and to create zoning plans. With a zoning plan, these communities could give concessions for buildings within the restricted zone in areas where development has already occurred within the designated coastal limit.

The issue over the Maritime Zone Law, adopted in the 1970s, has become problematic in recent years, as judges have ordered the destruction of buildings in several coastal communities, which would affect thousands of mostly poor Costa Rican residents. If the current law were enforced, it would mean the demolition of approximately 60,000 homes. Businesses within 200 meters of the high tide line would also be affected.  “TECOCOS gives us the legitimacy to continue living and working in coastal territories and creates mechanisms to strengthen our economic activities,” National Front for Coastal Communities Coordinator Wilman Matarrita said after the vote. The bill still faces another round of debates in the Assembly before it can be passed on to President Laura Chinchilla for signing.

Holiday Schedule for the Week & Obama's Visit

Public offices will be closed, as will embassies. The holiday is International Labor Day. 

Then Friday U.S. President Barack Obama comes to town during the afternoon, and much of the downtown will be off-limits to the average citizen. The Instituto Nacional de Seguros already said it would give its workers a holiday. The headquarters, among the tallest in San José, overlooks the foreign ministry to the east. Obama will visit there to meet with President Laura Chinchilla. Workers were putting up tents at the ministry Monday in anticipation of stormy weather.

Many public employees in the central cantons will have a day off Friday, too, and many are making the weekend a five-day one by ducking work Thursday.

Lawmakers also will not work Thursday, purportedly to digest the state of the nation speech given Wednesday night by Ms. Chinchilla.  

Security officials are supposed to outline today the steps they have taken to protect Obama and other visiting Central American presidents. One measure that is likely is restricting access to that area four blocks around the foreign ministry. Expats will be unlikely to await Obama on the sidewalk.

Fuerza Pública officers already have compiled lists of those who live and work in this area. Some businesses, such as A.M. Costa Rica, will close offices for the day. This newspaper's office overlooks the foreign ministry.  The local police will be supervised by U.S. Secret Service agents who are not known for their humorous approaches to security.

Even credentialed reporters are likely to be herded into roped off sections like they were when George Bush's wife visited for the Óscar Arias inauguration. Spanish-language television and the major newspapers are trying to obtain face-to-face access with Obama for a few minutes.

Typically the White House favors U.S. reporters and television personalities even when the president is overseas. Obama is not expected to say anything earthshaking in public.

James Carney, the U.S. presidential press secretary said Monday that Obama's visits to the region "are always significant because of the president’s commitment to expanding our economic ties to the countries of Latin America.  That's very much a part of this trip.  Obama will be in México Thursday, although the White House has not yet released a full schedule. 

In advance of such visits the groundwork is prepared by aides, so Obama is expected to confine his discussions to general terms. Some businessmen hope Obama will champion U.S. companies that are facing problems in Costa Rica, such as a Denver oil firm that now faces a ban on drilling even though it has a concession.

Obama leaves Saturday afternoon, but Juan Santamaría airport is still closed to general aviation until midnight that day. Commercial flights might be delayed when the U.S. president actually is at the airport coming or going. Obama will be staying at the Hotel Real Intercontinental, which has been rented exclusively for the stay of the President.

Tourism institute makes a big bet on the silver screen
April 29, 2013  A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's tourism ministry is turning to the Atlanta, Georgia, ad firm of 22 Squared to put an ad campaign in 1,345 movie theaters across the U.S. and Canada. This is the same agency that created the talking sloth that was the central figure in the "Gift of Happiness" campaign that consumed a third of the ministry's annual ad budget by giving 100 couples free trips to Costa Rica. Although not charting new territory this time, the ad agency has selected a medium that is under attack from Netflix, iTunes, YouTube and a host of other online video purveyors. 

In addition, the movie audience is skewed to persons younger or older than those likely to be Costa Rican tourists.

The Nielsen Co., the authority on advertising demographics,said the makeup of the moviegoing audience has remained relatively consistent over the last couple of years, but the proportion of younger moviegoers (12 to 24 years) and oldest moviegoers (65 to 74 years) has grown gradually at the expense of middle-aged moviegoers (25 to 54 years). Said Moviephone, which tracks attendance, "The studios are still geared toward making expensive event movies for young men under 25 (and overseas audiences for whom spectacle translates better than well-written dialogue), to the near exclusion of all other fare aimed at different audiences."   

In a YouTube summary 22 Squared said that there were 372,000 entries in the sloth contest and that Costa Rica received $6 million in media exposure for an investment of $1 million. It cites such events as giving away a free trip to a couple on a show with Anderson Cooper and a gift of a free trip to a weather reporter in a snowy state.

22 Squared is heavily into new media. Another aspect of the new campaign is an  iPad application, calls the Enviromixer, that lets users hear the sounds of Costa Rica.

Atlanta ad executive John Stapleton, the creator, received notice in The Wall Street Journal for "enabling users to create their own jungle music, syncing the sounds of howling monkeys, frogs, rain, fish and streams into a rhythmic symphony, free for children and potential adult visitors to download as a window into Costa Rica's biodiversity." Stapleton was quoted as saying he was working on a campaign for three weeks until he finally traveled to Costa Rica that he got the idea of making an ad based on something other than words.

 

Digital parking meters begin operating this week

 April 29, 2013 – Tico Times, By L. Arias

Drivers can use debit and credit cards, or pay via text messages from cellphones.

The new digital system aims to eliminate the parking ticket system in the central canton of San José.  Some 1,500 digital parking meters began operating on Monday in the central canton of San José, starting at 10 a.m.

The new system for parking on public roads, implemented by the municipality, aims to eliminate the parking ticket system in the central canton of the capital.

Digital parking meters accept debit and credit cards, and those not wanting to use personal bank accounts can pay by sending an SMS from cellphones.

In order to use cellphones as a payment method, motorists must first create a parking account at a local bank, which will assign a Personal Identification Number (PIN).

Public officials inaugurated the new parking system at 10 a.m. in a brief act in front of the Foreign Ministry in downtown San José.

 

U.S. will distribute $1,850,000 for green energy projects

April 26, 2013  A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States will donate $850,000 to support five different clean energy policies and projects in Costa Rica, U. S. Embassy officials said Thursday. This is in addition to $1 million for another project. 

These grants are part of a promise made by President Barack Obama to partner with energy and climate initiatives in the Americas during the 2009 presidential summit, they said. 

'”Our countries are making efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and promote technologies and policies of clean energy, as well as greater energy efficiency in all sectors,” said Ambassador Anne Andrew.   A regional contest was held last year to decide who would receive the donations.  Applicants submitted plans to develop clean energy technologies and clean energy policies.  Universidad de Costa Rica, Yo Emprendedor, the Academia de Profesionales Solares de las Américas, Purdue University and the Organización de Desarrollo de Holanda are the winning organizations.

The projects are as follows:

Yo Emprendedor (meaning "I, the entrepreneur") will receive $100,000 to help entrepreneurs design and obtain funds for green startups, processes, and policies.

Universidad de Costa Rica will receive $200,000 to develop a sustainable model for Central American coffee producers.  This model will implement, test and disseminate the best practices related to three alternative sources of energy: Solar, wind and biomass.

Academia de Profesionales Solares de las Américas will receive $190,000 to train professionals on how to better use solar energy.

Purdue University from the ambassador's home state of Indiana will receive $150,000 to deploy solar power distribution systems in the Caribbean.  This project is in conjunction with the Universidad de la Antillas in Puerto Rico.

SNV/Organización de Desarrollo de Holanda will receive $210,000 to generate electricity from bio-gas.

The United States will also donate $1,000,000 to Michigan State University to work with the Universidad de Costa Rica to develop solar bioengineering technology.  This system is scheduled to be presented the beginning of May next year. 

Costa Rican exports increase by 3.5 percent in first quarter 

April 22, 2013 – Tico Times By L. Arias

The U.S. is the main destination for Tico products.

Costa Rica exports of goods during the first quarter of 2013 slightly surpassed $3 billion, which is 3.5 percent more than that recorded for the same period last year, when the figure reached almost $2.9 billion, the Foreign Trade Ministry said on Monday.

Trade Minister Anabel González said in a press release that "the international economic situation is not the best," and Costa Rica should keep looking for new markets in Latin America and Asia.

"We must take advantage of opportunities in regions and countries where we have established a trade platform, and where growth rates are more robust, such as those in Asia, Perú, Chile and Colombia," González said. The report indicates that Intel microprocessors lead the numbers with $776.9 million in export revenue, an increase of 24.8 percent compared to the first quarter of 2012.

Costa Rica is the safest country in Latin America 
March 21st, 2013 InsideCostaRica.com 
Costa Rica is the safest country in Latin America, according to a study published yesterday by publisher-analyst, Latinvex.  It uses the latest available data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, The World Bank, Transparency International, Heritage Foundation and the World Economic Forum.

The index of 19 countries looks at six factors that measure a country’s law and crime environment: Homicide rates, reliability of police, judicial independence, corruption, property rights and overall rule of law.  Mario Zamora, Costa Rica’s Minister of Public Security said that the data matches the fact that authorities here have seen a decrease in reported crimes in recent times. Meanwhile, Minister of Communication, Francisco Chacon said that the government is fulfilling its promise of citizen security.

The study positions Venezuela and Haiti as being the most violent countries in the region.  Venezuela has seen a constant increase in its homicide rate, still the highest in Latin America after Honduras.
The ranking of 19 countries is based on data from public security departments, local police, governments, NGOs, and institutions responsible for crime investigation.  

What’s open, what’s closed during Semana Santa    
March 22, 2013 - By Tico Times L. Arias

Most public institutions will be closed all week. Others will open Monday through Wednesday.

While many folks flock to the beach and other destinations to enjoy the Easter Holy Week holiday, others just stay home.
Here’s a list of schedules for public offices, business and other services throughout the country:

Hospitals and pharmacies:  Public hospitals will remain open all week. Emergency services at all public hospitals and clinics in Costa Rica will be available to treat patients. Community health clinics, or EBAIS, also will keep normal schedules, as well as pharmacy and lab services, specialist consultations and maternity units. The Red Cross will attend emergencies at all hours.The emergency rooms and pharmacies at private hospitals Clínica Bíblica (2522-1000), in downtown San José, Clínica Católica (2283-6616), in the northeastern suburb of Guadalupe, and CIMA (2208-1000), in the southwestern suburb of Escazú, also will be open 24 hours a day.

-Central government offices and ministries will be closed all week. Lawmakers also will be on vacation, and the Legislative Assembly will be closed.

-The main facilities of the National Insurance Institute will close all week, as well as regional offices across the country. INS health services in San José will work Monday through Wednesday to attend to work- and traffic-related injuries.

-The  National Registry will be closed all week. Any procedure for personal IDs, property certificates, etc. will not be available. The National Registry will only be attending people in need of a birth certificate for traveling outside the country, at its main facilities.

-Most banks, private and public, will keep normal hours Monday through Wednesday.

Banco Nacional reported all branches will keep a normal schedule Monday and Tuesday, and limited hours on Wednesday, from 8:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m. The bank will close Thursday through Sunday.

-All Judicial Branch offices and courts will keep regular hours through Wednesday. They will close Thursday through Sunday. The Judicial Investigation Police and the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court will keep a normal 24/7 schedule. The Comptroller General's Office will be close on Friday, March 22, and reopen on April 1.Either way, if you're in Costa Rica you should be aware that as of August 2012 all local governments are entitled to decide whether to apply a dry law or not during the holiday. It is up to each municipality or district council to prohibit the sale of alcohol from midnight Wednesday until midnight Saturday. These are the communities that will not be enforcing a dry law this year: (It appears from the following list that the Jaco
and surrounding areas will be sort of preventing liquor sales, so stock up before Wed. 12am. This generally does not affect hotels that cater to Tourists seeking alcohol.)

In Puntarenas: Osa, Aguirre, Guácimo, Coto Brus, Buenos Aires, Corredores and Parrita.
In Guanacaste: Tilarán, Cañas, Nicoya and the district of Monteverde.In Alajuela: San Ramón, San Carlos and Guatuso. In Limón: Talamanca, Guácimo.
In San José: Central Canton, Curridabat and Desamparados.

However, officials from the Municipality of San José noted that the absence of a dry law does not allow the consumption of liquor in public spaces or at religious activities. Those failing to comply with this regulation will be fined ₡157,000 ($315).

 

Seasonal transition beginning at start of April
By Kayla Pearson of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Costa Rican summer is coming to an end, as indicated by the first big storm of the season Thursday afternoon in the Central Valley.  Residents can expect the rainy season to officially begin next month in the Pacific regions.
The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional is predicting that  all the areas are expected to have rain 20 percent above average. The Caribbean coast and the northern zone are always out of step with the rest of the country and generally have rain when the rest of Costa Rica experiences a dry season. The weather institute is predicting rains through June from 5 to 15 percent below average.

This 2013 prediction is more positive than what happened last year, said Juan Carlos Fallas, general director of the weather institute.  2012 had a rain deficit that ranged from 31 to 70 percent, the highest being in the north Pacific where there was drought.

There is also a high probability that there will be  no El Niño or La Niña phenomenon, but a neutral climate, said Fallas. In the Atlantic Ocean, temperatures will be slightly warmer, but normal, he added. Also, when compared to the last 10 years, the number of cyclones is also predicted to be normal.
For the Caribbean, the prognosis is around 4 tropical cyclones, Carlos said.

Next week, the country will celebrate Semana Santa or Holy Week.  It will be a time of religious celebrations and vacations.  The weather prediction is that most of the country will be warm and clear and cloud cover at the beaches.Estimated start  of 2013 rainy season*
Central Pacific  April 21 to 25     Central Valley  May 1 to 5   South Pacific  April 1 to 5
North Pacific  May 6 to 10       *Source: Instituto Meteorológico Nacional

 

Delta airlines announces new daily L.A.-San José flight
Posted: Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - By L. Arias
The new nonstop flight is already available for booking at the company’s website.
Delta Air Lines will offer a new daily nonstop flight between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Costa Rica’s capital starting July 1, the company said in a press release.
 The route will be operated by a Boeing 757-200 with capacity for 180 passengers, including 24 first class seats and 21 seats in economy comfort class.
The flight from San José will depart at 6:55 a.m. and is expected to arrive in Los Angeles at 2:20 p.m., while the flight from LAX will depart at 11 p.m. and will arrive in San José at 5:45 a.m.
The new service is already available for booking through the airline’s website.
Delta offers service to 32 countries and 49 destinations in the region, with more than 1,000 weekly flights between Latin America and the United States. By summer, the company will operate 118 peak-day departures to 40 nonstop destinations.
 
Costa Rica sets new record with 2.3 million visitors in 2012
March 04, 2013 - By Tico Times L. Arias
Tourist arrivals increased for the third consecutive year, tourism officials said.
Tourism keeps showing positive figures in Costa Rica.
The number of people traveling to Costa Rica from abroad in 2012 totaled 2,343,213, according to data released Monday by the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) and the Immigration Administration.
 
That number is 7 percent higher than that registered the previous year. For the third consecutive year Costa Rica has received more visitors than the previous year.
North Americans registered the largest number of arrivals with 1,062,522, representing an increase of 8.9 percent compared to 2011. There were 864,340 visitors from the United States last year, 136,261 from Canada and 61,921 from Mexico.
Most visitors – 66 percent – entered the country by air, mainly through Juan Santamaría International Airport, north of San José, which admitted 1,217,569 travelers. Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, saw 331,116 arrivals.
 
The second most important route of entry is by land, which represented 33 percent of international arrivals.
According to Tourism Minister Allan Flores, the increase in arrival of Mexican travelers this year (27 percent) was due to the announcements of new flights by airlines from that country.
ICT figures exclude temporary work permits issued by the Immigration Administration as well as those from Tico travelers.
 

Young singers from Calgary will perform next week in Jacó 
Feb. 14, 2013 A.M. Costa Rica
The Youth Singers of Calgary, a group from Alberta, Canada, will perform for the first time on a Costa Rican stage Tuesday at Teatro Jacó. 
At this venue the theater will present a talent night where individual and small groups of the ensemble will show the audience their talents, a release said.
Shirley Penner formed Youth Singers of Calgary in 1985.  Darlene Dusevic and Tricia Penner joined her team, and together they developed a program that allowed youth to communicate through music, dance and theater.
The Youth Singers of Calgary have won numerous awards and competitions and have performed with such stars as Roch Voisine, Reba McEntire, Sarah Brightman, Kenny Rogers and Paul Brandt to name a few, spokespersons said, adding: “Their international tours have taken their productions across Canada, the United States, Europe, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, Bahamas and South America.”   Talent night begins at 8 p.m. and is free to the public.  After the performance, the group will tour the country. For more information about The Youth Singers of Calgary visit www.youthsingers.org.

P&G selects Costa Rica for new $5 million regional planning center    
 February 4, 2013 Cinde.org
Procter & Gamble (P&G), the largest company of consumer products in the world, will open the headquarters of its Regional Supply Chain Planning Center for Latin America in Costa Rica.  This new Center will direct the planning processes to supply each plant and market in the region.  Thus, Costa Rica becomes the control center for Latin American experts in managing the supply chain for P&G.  This expansion will represent an additional investment of approximately US $5 million.

“Costa Rica is now the undisputed leader in the services sector whose exports, according to estimates based on data of the Central Bank, reached the amount of US $5.577 million in 2012.  P&G’s recent decision to continue growing and diversifying its operations in the country is the result of a wide-ranging and competitive process in which the company appraised various destinations and is also a clear sign of Costa Rica’s strengths in this area.  To be selected as the intelligence headquarters for the supply chain of this consumer goods giant, evidences the capability, the outstanding performance and the great potential Costa Rica enjoys.” stated Anabel Gonzalez, Minister of Foreign Trade.    

Evolution and growth in Costa Rica:  P&G employs more than 1300 specialized associates in the finance, accounting, computing and procurement areas.  By opening this new center, P&G will create 500 new jobs for professionals in the fields of industrial engineering, logistics, customs and other related engineering disciplines.

The new Regional Planning Center joins the Financial Services Center and the Business Transformation Center of P&G which have been in operation in Costa Rica since 1999 and 2008, respectively.  

“The success achieved by P&G in Costa Rica during more than a decade, its solid relationship with the government and communities, as well as the economic and political stability and good quality of life, are some of the determinant factors P&G considered when deciding this ambitious and innovative project could be successfully developed in Costa Rica.”, affirmed Alejandra Cobb, Associate Communications Director of P&G. 
According to the Director General of CINDE, Ms. Gabriela Llobet “Costa Rica competes against countries of the entire world in order to attract important value added strategic projects within the operations of the companies.  It is greatly satisfying and a very important achievement that a leader such as P&G keeps on selecting us to continue growing in the country and opening important employment opportunities for Costa Rican professionals”.

U.S. agency donates $1 million to Tico NGOs 
February 05, 2013 Tico Times By L. Arias  
The U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative on Monday made ​​a donation of $1 million to five nongovernmental organizations operating in Costa Rica. Fundavida, Acción Joven, World Vision, MarViva and Boy with a Ball, received funds for their work with at-risk youth.
The donation will be used to develop programs to combat violence, illicit drug use and school dropout rates.  The NGOs must use the funds on programs that benefit at-risk youth and to fight poverty across the country.
U.S. Ambassador Anne S. Andrew stressed the importance of the work performed by these agencies: “As an embassy, our goal is to partner with innovative organizations that are achieving a sustainable impact. By offering opportunities for at-risk youth and to support activities that create economic opportunities for communities, you are sowing the seeds of a more prosperous and secure future for Costa Rica.”

Cirque du Soleil coming to Costa Rica  
February 05, 2013 – Tico Times  
No official date here has been announced. World-renowned entertainers Cirque du Soleil announced on their website an upcoming visit to Costa Rica, likely following a performance in Colombia on March 21.
No official date here has been announced for their show “Varekai,” but the circus group will perform in Lima, Peru, in coming days.
Founded in Quebec, Canada, as a blend of circus art and street entertainment, Cirque du Soleil has become one of the world’s most popular touring shows. It was created by two former street artists in 1984 and currently employs 5,000 people in 10 different traveling shows.
Varekai is a story about a fantasy world located in a forest atop a volcano. A boy falls from the sky and discovers a mysterious and magical world where “anything is possible.”
According to the online daily crhoy.com, the show will be promoted and sponsored by Credomatic and OCESA.  See a trailer of Varekai at: http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/varekai/default.aspx.

 


Costa Rica Jaco News & Info updated Jan. 22, 2013


 

Costa Rica tops Latin American ranking of outsourcing services
 January 16, 2013 - Tico Times By L. Arias
“San José is one of the most impressive services destinations in the continent,” study says.
The “Top 100 Outsourcing Destinations Report 2013” places Costa Rica as the best country in Latin America for outsourcing operations and 13th worldwide.
 
The private study released by global consulting and investment firm Tholons indicates that Costa Rica climbed five positions from the 2012 index and is “a key player in the corporate services industry and information technology in Latin America and the world.”
 
“San José, Costa Rica, remains one of the most impressive destinations in the region. It surpassed bigger cities like São Paulo and Buenos Aires, consolidating the city as one of the big winners in the 2013 list,” the report cited.
 
Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González said Wednesday in a statement that this prominent position is a direct result of the work done to develop and consolidate the services sector in Costa Rica.
 
Gabriela Llobet, executive director of the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency, added that the Tholons ranking also reflects that the country now competes not only with continental leaders but also directly with global giants such as India, Poland, Ireland and Malaysia.
The only two countries in Central America that made the list besides Costa Rica were Nicaragua and Guatemala, appearing at the bottom of the ranking at 95 and 96, respectively.

Exports Higher than Expected for 2012
January 2nd, 2013   Costa Rica News –

Costa Rica export numbers was 7.25 percent higher than the projections for 2012, reaching an $16.9 billion in revenues. Exports in November 2012 increased from $9.7 billion in 2011 to $10.4 billion this year, according to the Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER).

The main reasons for this growth in exports is the European Free Trade Association (Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland, EFTA), which accounted for 95.2 percent to the same period in 2011, and exports increased by 8.7 percent to the European Union (EU).

Increases in coffee, bananas, palm oil, and medical devices showed the highest gains.

The majority of Costa Rica’s exports go to the US, 38.9%, Holland second with 7.6 percent; Panama third with 5.2 percent of domestic goods, PROCOMER reported.Exports exceeded the projection of $15.7 billion by $1.1 billion, the Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX) reported.

Many analysts were surprised by this growth in light of the global economic slowdown and further indication of strong positive growth for Costa Rica in 2013.The Costa Rica News (TCRN)

Costa Rica Closes 2012 with Positive Economic Numbers
January 2nd, 2013 Costa Rica News –
Costa Rica closes 2012 with positive economic numbers, even though the poverty rate has not dropped significantly and a persistent fiscal deficit close to 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP).

“Economic growth for 2012 could be around 5%, slightly higher than expected in the macroeconomic program,” said the Central Bank of Costa Rica (BCCR).The Central Bank of Costa Rica noted that the average annual rate of monthly economic activity index was up 5.7% in September, driven by growth in sectors such as manufacturing and service industries.

Inflation reached 4.3% in November and 5.2% as annual rate, which remained within the target Central Bank of Costa Rica close the year between 4% and 6%, the bank said.
Regarding exports of goods in the first eleven months of 2012 totaled U.S. $ 10.45 million, up 8.2% compared to ammount accrued in the same period of 2011.

Foreign Trade Minister, Anabel González said a few weeks ago to Costa Rica in 2013 will focus on legislative approval of free trade agreements (FTA) has already signed with Singapore and Peru, and to end the negotiation an FTA with Colombia and have commercial approaches with South Korea, Brazil, Qatar and Kuwait.

Among the main challenges for the government of President Laura Chinchilla for 2013 include reducing poverty, and the push back against fiscal deficit to be around 4.5% of GDP.

Poverty in 2012 amounted to 20.6% of households in the country, representing a decrease of one percentage point compared with 21.6% in 2011, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) .That 20.6% of poor households is equivalent to 1.1 million people (23.6% of the population), while extreme poverty amounted to 6.3% of poor families, a figure similar to last year when it was of 6.4%.
Meanwhile, the accumulated deficit in November totaled approximately $ 1,771,000, which represents 4% of GDP and remained within Government projects did not exceed 4.7% this year.

Old banknotes lose their value from January 1, & only to be accepted in banks     December 31, 2012 - By L. Arias Tico Times
Beginning January 1, 2013,  Ticos can pay only using the new bills introduced by the Central Bank of Costa Rica (BCCR). “As for this Tuesday Jan. 1 and until April 30, 2013, old bills can only be redeemed at branches and agencies of local banks,” said the BCCR in a press release. From May 1,  the old banknotes may be exchanged only at the BCCR offices.

This measure completes the transition in which all Costa Rica’s banknotes were renewed. Last August the BCCR introduced new ₡5,000 and ₡10,000 bills, the last two of the "new family."  Central Bank in 2010 began phasing out the old bills and put into circulation new ₡1,000, ₡2,000 and ₡20,000 banknotes.
All include security features to prevent counterfeiting, such as translucent watermarks, color-changing shapes and textured images.
They also have features that facilitate recognition by the visually impaired.

Higher corporation tax will be 189,700 OR $380  $190 FOR INACTIVE CORPS

Dec. 26, 2012 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
As expected, the base judicial salary on which the tax on corporations is figured has increased.

Owners of active corporations will have to pay 189,700 colons by Jan. 15 to avoid interest and the freezing of the company. That is about $380. ASK YOUR ATTORNEY OR ACCOUNTANT!

Those owning inactive corporations include many expats who hold vehicles and real estate is sociedades anónimas or limited liability corporations. The tax bill for inactive corporations will be half that for active entities or 94,850 colons, about $190.

Costa Rica law sets many fines and taxes on what is called base salary. It is the salary of an auxiliar administrativo 1 who works in the Poder Judicial. When the president signed the bill for the new tax in 2011, the base salary was 316,200 colons or about $622. So the tax on corporations, which went into force this April 1 was half that, $311.

But before the ink was dry, judicial workers got a raise to 360,000 colons a month, so the tax increased, too.  This is the first year that owners of corporations will pay the full tax.The base salary affects many other aspects of daily life. The base salary system is used so that taxes and fines keep pace with inflation.

Judicial officials are generous to employees. The 19,400-colon raise to the auxiliar administrativo 1 represents an increase of about 5.4 percent. That is more than the annual increase in the nation's minimum wages and for salaries elsewhere in the government.

United to fly non-stop between Chicago and Costa Rica
December 20, 2012 - Tico Times By L. Arias 

The airline also plans to launch a Washington-San José flight in coming days.

United Airlines announced plans Wednesday to begin new non-stop service on several international and domestic routes in the spring, including weekly year-round service between Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport and San José, Costa Rica, scheduled to begin April 13.
 
The flight is subject to government approval and will operate using Boeing 737-800 aircraft, the company said in a release.
From other hubs, United also will begin international service between Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport and San José, subject to official approval.
The airline is set to launch new domestic services from Dulles to Vancouver, British Columbia, between Newark and Edmonton and between Denver and Fort McMurray, Alberta.
 
Here's what's open and what's closed for the holidays
Dec. 21, 2012 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
BANKS: BAC San José (2295-9595), closed Dec. 25 and Dec. 30-Jan. 1. Open Dec. 24 until 1 pm. Banco Proamérica (2519-8090, 2258-2212) open Dec. 24 until 3 p.m., closed Dec. 25 and Dec. 30-Jan. 1; normal business hours over the holiday period. Banco de Costa Rica (2287-9000) branches will be closed at 4 p.m., Dec. 24, and will be closed Dec. 30-31. Banco Nacional (2212-2000) branches will close at 3:45 p.m., Dec. 24 and will be closed Dec. 30-31. Banco Popular (2211-7000) will close Dec. 24 and 31. Mutual Alajuela (2437-1000) open until 3 p.m. on Dec. 24, closed Dec. 25 and 31. Scotiabank (2210-4000) open until 3 p.m. on Dec. 24, closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. DAVIVIENDA (2287-1111) call for holiday business hours. 
 
EMBASSIES: Holiday closures at major embassies are as follows: British Embassy (2258-2025) closed Dec 24-26 and Jan. 1. Canadian Embassy (2242-4400) closes Dec. 24 at noon, through Dec. 27, also closed Jan. 1. French Embassy (2234-4167) closed Dec. 24-25, 31 and Jan 1. Japanese Embassy (2232-3787) closed Dec. 25 and Dec. 29-Jan. 3. U.S. Embassy (2220-3939) closed Dec. 24-25, Jan. 1.
 
Government offices: Most government offices will be closed Dec. 23-Jan. 2. The Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) and Supreme Court will have a limited area open 24 hours a day for emergencies, although all administrative areas will be closed. For emergencies, dial 911.
 
Hospitals and Pharmacies: Rest assured that hospital emergency rooms will remain open 24 hours a day. The Red Cross (tel. 128) and National Insurance Institute (800-800-8000) also attend emergencies at all hours. Those who over-eat Christmas dinner can find Alka-Seltzer and more 24-7 over the holidays at Clínica Bíblica Hospital drugstore and emergency room (2522-1000) in downtown San José, La Católica Hospital drugstore and emergency room (2246-3000) in Guadalupe and Farmacia Sucre Los Angeles (2262-3111) in Heredia.
 
Mail and Shipping: Aerocasillas (2208-4848) and DHL (2209-0000) will be open during normal business hours, except Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Correos de Costa Rica (2202-2900) will be closed Dec. 25-Jan. 1.
 
Movie Theaters: Most theaters throughout the country report no closures during the holidays this year. CitiCinemas Grecia (2444-1779) and CitiCinemas Jacó (2643-2100) will close at 7 pm. on Dec. 24 and 31. 
 
Museums: The Central Bank Museums (home to the Gold Museum, 2243-4202) underneath Plaza de la Cultura and the Children’s Museum (2258-4929) at Ca. 4, Av 9 will be closed Dec. 24-25 and 31 and Jan. 1. The National Museum (2257-1433) at Ca. 17, Av. Central will be closed Dec. 23-26 and Dec. 31-Jan.3 The Contemporary Art and Design Museum (2257-9370) at CENAC, Av 3/5, Ca. 15/17 will close Dec. 24 and reopen Jan. 7. INBioparque (2507-8107) in Santo Domingo de Heredia will be open Dec. 26, 9 a.m.- 5:30 pm. and will be closed Dec. 24-25, 31 and Jan. 1. 
 
Supermarkets: Most Auto Mercado (2257-4242) stores will be open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Dec. 25 and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 31 except Herradura, Tamarindo and Coco, which will be open 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Dec. 25 and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Jan 1. Walmart (2286-0033) stores in Heredia, Escazú, Guadalupe, San Sebastián, Cartago and Curridabat will close at 9 pm. Dec. 24, and remain closed Dec. 25, 31 and Jan. 1. Stores will be open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Dec 26-30. Most Mas x Menos (2243-7100) supermarkets will be open until 9 pm. Dec. 24 and 31 and from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. MegaSuper (2246-0400) will be open until 10 pm. Dec. 24 and 31, and 9 a.m. -7 p.m. Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Muñoz y Nanne (2253-4646) in San Pedro will be open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Dec. 24, 30 and 31 and will close at 6 p.m. Dec. 29. Pali (2243-7100) stores will be open 8:30 a.m.-7:30pm. Dec. 24, 30 and 31 and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec 25 and Jan 1. PriceSmart stores in Escazú (2288-0008), Heredia (2262-4848) Zapote (2283-9464) and Tibás (2297-2343) will be closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1; on Dec. 24 and 31, stores will open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saretto (2228-6703) supermarket in Escazú will be closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 and will maintain regular business hours all other days.
 
Theaters: Arlequín (2221-5485) at Ca. 15, Av. 2/6, is closed until Jan. 11. Teatro Torres (2256-4295 at Av. 8, Ca 11/13, closed Dec. 24 and 31 with the play Divorciados y Angelicas. La Esquina Theater (2257-0223) at Av. 1. Ca 21, reopens Jan 5. El Triciclo Theater (2222-2624) Ca 15, Av 8/10, will be closed until Jan. 6. La Máscara Theater (2222-4574) at Av. 2, Ca 13 bis, reopens Jan. 14.
 
Veterinarians: The National University Veterinary Hospital (2260-9234) in Barreal de Heredia will be open 24 hours and requests that visitors send and email to hospitalespeciesmenores@gmail.com before arriving, unless it’s an emergency! Dr. Bitter’s clinics (2227-5017, 2228-1753 in San José and Escazú will be closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Dr. Adrián Molina (2228-1909, 2288-1716, emergency 2225-2500) in Escazú closed Dec. 24-25, 31, Jan. 1-2.
 
Here is a partial list of what will be open and what is closed for the holidays.
 
Poder Judicial
The administrative offices of Poder Judicial will be closed from Friday to Jan. 7.  All other offices will be open during this time with the exception of Christmas, which is Tuesday, and New Year's Day, Jan. 1, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  However, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve the offices will only open in the mornings.  
These offices include Juzgado de Pensiones Alimentarias, Tribunal Penal, Juzgados de Calle Blancos y San Jose, Juzgados Penal Juvenil, Juzgado Contravencional, Juzgado Violencia Domestica, Regristro Judicial, Fiscalia Judicial, Defensoria Publica and the Sala Constitucional.  Sala Constitucional will only receive complaints to the Sala IV.  For more information, call 2295-4942.
 
Municipalidad de San José
The administrative offices for the San José municipality will be closed from Friday to Jan. 7.  Special sections such as business licensing, construction, Policia Municipal, cobros, cemetery services, street cleaning and park guards will only close Christmas and New Year's Day.   For more information, call 2547-6000. 
 
Municipalidad de Escazú
The Escazú municipality will be closed from Friday to Jan. 6.  For more information, call 2208-7500.
Municipalidad de Liberia, Guanacaste
The Liberia municipality will be closed from noon Friday until Jan. 7.  For more information, call 2266-0169.  
 
Banco Nacional
Banco Nacional will be closed Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's day.  The Desamparados branch will be closed Dec. 27 for the carnival in that canton.  For more information, call 2212-2000.
Banco de Costa Rica
Bank employees will work Christmas Eve until 4 p.m. Normal hours will be maintained from Wednesday to Dec. 29. The bank will be closed Tuesday, Christmas Day, and Dec, 31 and Jan. 1.
 
U.S. Embassy
The American Embassy will close Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year's Day.  For the rest of the holiday season the embassy will be open its regular hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
A.M. Costa Rica
The country's most successful English-language newspaper will publish every day except Christmas and New Year's Day and will update readers on the Web site and by email in case of emergencies. The Barrio Otoya offices will be closed to the public today at 4 p.m. and will reopen Jan. 2. In case of emergencies, the number 8832-5564 will be available the entire vacation.
 
Despite the office being closed, advertising will be accepted as well as news items and tips. All emails will be monitored, but the preferred address is editor@amcostarica.com.
 
Instituto Nacional de Seguros
The Instituto Nacional de Seguros will be closed from Saturday until New Year's Day.  Health services will be closed New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.  However the services for Casa de Salud and call centers will not close.  Services will return to the regular hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 2.
 
Walmart
Walmart will not close for the holidays but will have special hours.  Christmas Eve, Monday, it will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m, and Christmas it will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. From Wednesday to Dec. 30, the store will operate its normal hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Finally on New Year's Eve, the store will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m and on New Year's Day the store will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
 
Multiplaza
The Centro Comercial Multiplaza Escazú will be open daily from the hours 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. until Saturday.  Christmas Eve, Monday, Multiplaza will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.  It will be closed on Christmas Day, Tuesday, and New Year's Day.  On New Year's Eve the Multiplaza will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
 
Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad
The 112 agencies of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad will have normal hours from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except that they will be closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Another exception is the the agency in Sabana Norte will be closed from Friday to Jan. 7. Agencies in commercial centers, such as Centro Comercial Multiplaza Escazú will be open during the times established by the mall management. The bulk of the telephone services like international calls, electrical outages and other services will be in operation 24 hours a day.
 
Episcopal Parish of The Good Shepherd
Anglican/Episcopal services:
Sunday, Fourth Sunday of Advent, English 8:30 a.m. and
         Español 11a.m.
Monday, Christmas Eve. Bilingual 6 p.m. with pageant
         presented by the children of the Sunday School.
Christmas Day. 9 a.m. English and Español 9 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 30, first Sunday of Christmas: English 8:30 a.m.
         and Español 11 a.m.
Monday, Dec. 31, New Year's Eve: Bilingual 6 p.m.
The Church of the Good Shepherd is on Avenida 4 between Calles 3 and 5 opposite the Colegio Superior de Señoritas. Further information is available via e-mail to pbuenpastor@hotmail.com or by calling 2222-1560.
International Baptist Church
The Guachipelín, Escazú, church will hold at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve candlelight Service and a concert at 4 p.m. Dec. 31.
 
Costa Rican exports surpass annual goal
 December 20, 2012 - Tico Times By L. Arias
More goods sold to Europe boost November accumulated figures.
Pineapple sales to Europe had a positive performance in export figures.
 
Costa Rican exports in November increased from $9.7 billion in 2011 to $10.4 billion this year, representing an 8.2 percent increase, according to data released Wednesday by the Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER).
 
One of the main reasons for the increase is the growth of exports to the European Free Trade Association (Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland, EFTA), which accounted for 95.2 percent (compared with the same period in 2011), while exports to the European Union (EU) increased by 8.7 percent.
The increase in exports to EFTA mainly is due to the positive performance of coffee, bananas, palm oil, and medical devices. Meanwhile, growth to the EU was driven by products such as integrated circuits, medical supplies, pineapple, coffee and palm oil, among others.
 
The majority (38.9 percent) of Costa Rican exports go to the United States, followed by 7.6 percent to Holland; Panama is third, receiving 5.2 percent of domestic goods.
Costa Rica's figures exceeded by 7.25 percent the projected goal of exports for 2012, achieving an estimated income of $16.9 billion.
“This amount is higher by $1.1 billion than the $15.7 billion goal projected by the current administration in 2010,” the Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX) stated.
Last Saturday, COMEX officials concluded a trade negotiations round with EFTA, while the Association Agreement with the European Union received approval by the International Relations and Foreign Trade Commission of the Legislative Assembly and is expected to be discussed by lawmakers on Jan. 21.
 
Human rights court orders Costa Rica to legalize in vitro fertilization
 December 20, 2012 - Tico Times By L. Arias
 
The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights brought Costa Rica before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights last September.
 
The San José-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a ruling Thursday night against the government of Costa Rica condemning its ban on in vitro fertilization. The court ordered the country to legalize the practice, which was outlawed in March 2000 by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV.
The ruling is obligatory for the country, Communications Minister Francisco Chacón said.
In 2001, a group of 18 affected families filed an appeal before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, and in September 2010, the commission recommended Costa Rica reverse the Sala IV’s ruling.
 
Costa Rica failed to implement the recommendation, and in October 2011, victims’ families filed a suit in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The ruling also demands the state indemnify, within one year, all of the18 couples who filed the lawsuit with amounts ranging from $5,000-$20,000.
The court found that there was a violation of victims’ rights, as well as psychological damage. The court ordered the state to provide up to four years of free and immediate psychological treatment for victims.
"The ruling will be complied with in its entirety, as our country is respectful of international law. … In the coming weeks, we will report on the government’s actions," Chacón said.
Ileana Balmaceda, executive president of Costa Rica's Social Security System, said in a release that "the institution is not prepared at this time to assume a situation like this, and therefore, we need time to acquire the appropriate equipment and to train our staff."
 

Costa Rica to close year with a record number of tourists December 18, 2012 – Tico Times, By L. Arias
Increase in flights and promotions boost 2012 figures.The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) estimates that by the end of 2012, 2.3 million tourists will have visited the country.If the projections are correct, that number could break the record set in 2011, when 2.1 million tourists entered the country, according to the ICT.

Tourism Minister Allan Flores said in a press release that one of the reasons for the improvement is the increase in the frequency of flights, as well as the arrival of new airlines into the country. According to ICT figures, most foreign visitors arrived by air.

This year, several airlines increased flights to Costa Rica, including Iberia Airlines (5 percent increase in the number of flights from Madrid to San José), AeroMexico (two new daily flights between San José and Mexico City), and Copa Airlines (two weekly flights from Liberia to Panama).Flores also noted that between September 2011 and June 2012, Costa Rica participated in 27 international events to promote itself as a tourist destination.One of the government projects for next year is the construction of the National Congress and Convention Center, which could also help increase the number of tourists.However, some groups dispute the official tourism numbers released by the ICT, saying they include temporary workers and other non-tourism visitors.

 

Foreign direct investment from high-tech companies to reach $574 million

  December 12, 2012 – Tico Times, By L. Arias 
Technology services and medical supplies firms are the most important.Foreign firms from the high-technology sector in Costa Rica generated some $574 million and created 8,236 direct jobs in 2012, government officials said on Wednesday.

Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González and the president of the Costa Rican Coalition for Development Initiatives (CINDE), José Rossi, reported that these figures establish a new record for Costa Rica, as they exceed those obtained in 2011, when the country reached the highest numbers of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for the sector in the last decade.

The previous year, high-tech FDI was $470 million, and 7,728 new jobs were created.

One of the factors that helped achieve the record was the arrival of 40 new high-tech investment projects that set up operations in Costa Rica. The new firms belong to the Technology Services, Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing and Clean Technologies sectors.“Most of them come from the United States, India, Korea, Japan, Germany, Spain, England and Colombia,” González added.

 

A new website offers detailed information of 125 doctors in Costa Rica

 December 14, 2012 – Tico Times By Alberto Fony
The new digital company HuliHealth is helping link patients and the country’s top doctors through an online format that allows users to comment and rate the quality of private health care services.Need a doctor in Costa Rica and don’t know where to look? Want to know if the doctor you chose is recommended and trustworthy?
The digital company HuliHealth, now online, provides patients help with choosing the best doctors and specialists in all areas of health in the country.

“Our mission is to provide the tools necessary for both Costa Ricans and expats to find the best health professionals based on personal criteria. You can find a doctor by specialty, treatment, cost and location, and then view a doctor’s profile and comments from other patients. You also can make an appointment,” HuliHealth founder Alejandro Vega said.  HuliHealth began as an idea a year and a half ago, when Vega realized that Costa Ricans and foreigners living or visiting here had difficulty finding information about specific doctors.The HuliHealth founder took his idea and applied for the 2011 “Intel Challenge,” a competition to promote entrepreneurialism and the use of technology in Latin America.

Through the program, participants receive training, mentorship and access to the best practices of Silicon Valley, one of the most technologically important regions on the planet. Vega won the Intel Challenge in Costa Rica with his idea for HuliHealth.

He then sought alliances, built a team and starting creating the site www.hulihealth.com. He selected the country’s best doctors and added them to the online database. To find them, Vega worked with what he calls “leaders of opinion” in different specialties. They in turn recommended the best doctors.

“We met with the heads of post-graduate studies in cosmetic surgery, dentistry and other fields at the University of Costa Rica, and they helped us choose the doctors. Once doctors are part of the HuliHealth network, they can recommend other doctors. “We only accept doctors through references from other members,” Vega said.In addition to reading up on doctors, making appointments and other useful tools, users also can ask doctors questions to help narrow their search. After an appointment, they can rate care and leave comments. Doctors with the best reviews are strategically placed on the site. Plus, patients who make appointments through HuliHealth receive a 5 percent discount on treatment. To date, some 125 doctors are registered at the site.

“There are advantages to belonging to a group that is recognized on a national and international level,” Padilla said. She added that patients also win: “One advantage to HuliHealth is that membership is not completely open [to doctors]. You have to meet certain standards, including commitment to providing quality health care and medical ethics, and that says a lot.”

Ophthalmologist David Flikier said he joined HuliHealth because he found the team that created it responsible and well organized. “The tendency is to drift toward the digitalized and globalized world, and we believe that HuliHealth is an option that can put us in contact with more patients and allow us to reach a wider audience, not only in the country, but also in other countries,” Flikier said.He said it’s also important to him that HuliHealth only accepts the most recognized and respected doctors, which ensures trust between patients and doctors. Down the road, HuliHealth plans on expanding to other countries and managing electronic medical records. Said Vega: “We’re constantly improving the site and adding the best doctors.”

 

New wind farm in Santa Ana will go into service Thursday
Dec. 12, 2012 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, S.A. will put into service Thursday its wind farm in Pabellón de Santa Ana with a ceremony involving dignitaries.
The 17 wind generators are designed to provide enough electricity to feed 5,700 homes.

The wind farm is part of a government strategy to use the windy months of the Costa Rican summer to augment the generating capacity of the various hydro plants when the water level is low. These would be from December until about May, depending on the year.The turnkey project was done with a German firm and financed by the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica. The project has the support of the municipality of Santa Ana, said the electric company.
Officials also hope that by using wind instead of petroleum-fired generators during the dry season that amount of carbon dioxide released into the air will be lessened. Electric generation, mostly by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, has become expensive as the price of petroleum increases.ICE has a large wind complex that has been in service for years at Tilarán in Guanacaste near Lake Arenal. The government and the electrical utilities also are installing solar arrays to general power.

Smashburger opens first Latin American restaurant in Costa Rica

  December 03, 2012 – Tico Times By L. Arias

 The U.S.-based fast food chain Smashburger opened its first Latin American restaurant in Costa Rica on Dec. 1.   The restaurant, located at Lincoln Plaza mall northeast of San José, is the first of 18 franchises planned for the region by partner Richard Eisenberg of QSR International. Eisenberg plans to open other locations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

The new restaurant marks the third international market for the brand. It currently operates locations in Kuwait and Canada, and plans to open its next international locations in Saudi Arabia in early 2013, Smashburger CEO David Prokupek said.

“Our expansion into Latin America is an important milestone for Smashburger,“ he said. “We’ve built a brand that has a strong, passionate following well beyond the borders of the United States. Costa Rica is certain to be a great market for us.”

 

Carl's Jr. to open five new restaurants in Costa Rica in 2013

Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 – Tico Times By L. Arias
The burger chain will invest some $4.5 million in the venture.
California-based hamburger chain Carl’s Jr. opened its first-ever location near the Central Park in downtown San José a year ago.
After opening its sixth restaurant in Costa Rica earlier this month in the province Heredia, California-based hamburger chain Carl’s Jr. now plans to open five more locations here next year.

The fast food franchise arrived in the country in 2011, and by 2013 plans to open new restaurants in Curridabat (east of San José), San Francisco (Heredia), Alajuela, Escazú (southwest of San José) and Tibás (northwest of San José).
General Manager Andrés Fachler told the weekly El Financiero that the expansion of the franchise means an investment of some $4.5 million, as it includes four free-standing locales and one located in a food court.   According to Fachler, “the chain’s sales have exceeded company expectations, and combined with commercial sector growth, [the company] will boost its expansion in Costa Rica.”
The burger chain, which operates 3,182 restaurants worldwide, plans to open 25 locations in Costa Rica during the next five years, Fachler said during the opening of their first location near Central Park in San José, in November 2011.

 

ICT RECOGNIZED IN WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS™ 2012,
Official ICT Website  October 24, 2012

• Costa Rica receives nine acknowledgements in various categories during the award ceremony

The World Travel Awards 2012,held on September 14th, in Italy, awarded Costa Rica in nine categories within the Mexican and Central American region, among them was an award given to the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) as the ¨Primary Tourism Board or Institute,¨ which was the first time the institute received this award.
Costa Rica was up for 41 nominations, of which they won nine. The hotel, Barceló San José Palacio, was the winner of the “Primary Airport-Hotel,” and the Tabacón Resort & Spa in La Fortuna, won in two categories, “Best Green Hotel” and “Primary Luxury Resort”. The Hotel Real Intercontinental won the “Primary Business Hotel” of the area.

The Westin Resort & Spa Playa Conchal won the “Primary Family Resort”. The JW Marriott Guanacaste came away with the “Best Luxury Hotel” in Mexico and Central America. Rounding out the list was the Four Seasons Guanacaste, winner of the “Best Golf Resort” and the Hotel & Reserva Gaía in Manuel Antonio, won the “Best Boutique Hotel”. 
Some of the more notable nominations were the Juan Santamaría International Airport, which won the “Primary Airport” of the area, which it also won in 2008 and since then, has been nominated every year in this category.

The World Travel Awards™ has been held every year since 1994, which honors the best of the best in the tourism industry. According to The Wall Street Journal, winning in this event is equivalent to the Oscars of the tourism industry.To see the complete list winners and nominees of the World Travel Awards™ 2012, go to the following link: http://www.worldtravelawards.com/winners2012-7

 

COSTA RICA SWEEPS CONDÉ NAST TRAVELER’S 2012 READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS,   Official ICT Website: October 24, 2012

The Costa Rica Tourism Board is thrilled to announce that Costa Rica was the most celebrated destination in Central America in the 2012 Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards released this week. The top honors went to the region’s favorite hotels and resorts, as voted by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler.
In the list of the top resorts in Central and South America, seven of the 15 properties were from Costa Rica, and two Costa Rican properties made the list of top hotels in Central America. The winners highlight the country’s various regions and offerings, showcasing a broad view of Costa Rica’s attractions appealing to every type of traveler. The list takes into account factors such as rooms, service, food, location, design and activities, and the winners ranged from beachfront properties in Guanacaste, to a honeymooners’ favorite in Manuel Antonio National Park, to a sustainable and highly acclaimed resort and spa in the Central Valley, to one of San Jose’s most beloved treasures, and many more.
Among the top resorts in Central and South America are:

- Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort – Herradura, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

- Xandari Resort & Spa – Alajuela, Costa Rica

- Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo – Guanacaste, Costa Rica

- Hotel Punta Islita – Guanacaste, Costa Rica

- El Silencio Lodge & Spa – Alajuela, Costa Rica

- Arenas del Mar – Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

- Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal – Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Among the top hotels in Central America are:

- Hotel Grano de Oro – San José, Costa Rica

- Hotel Villa Caletas – Puntarenas, Costa Rica

“We are honored to see how readers of Condé Nast Traveler rate their experiences in Costa Rica, and how their favorites cover various corners and climates of the country’s landscape showing how there really is something for everyone and considered the best of the best,” said Ireth Rodriguez, Deputy Marketing Director for the Costa Rica Tourism Board.

The Readers’ Choice Awards, now in its 25th edition, drew a record number of reader participation this year with 46,476 readers voting for their favorite hotels, resorts and cruise lines. This annual survey ultimately awarded 1,306 winners what is considered to be one of the industry’s most esteemed recognitions.

CAFTA Passes 5 Years in Action 
October 29,  2012 11:25 Written by Rod Hughes, Fijatevos
It has been five years this month since the free trade pact with the United States (CAFTA) was narrowly approved by the country's first national referendum.

Since that time, when a hard-fought political battle convulsed and riveted public discussion, none of the disasters or panaceas hysterically predicted by left and right have occurred. Certainly, the trade picture is bright with exports fairly brisk to the nation's favorite trade partner, the United States. But it falls far short of the promises of CAFTA's biggest booster, then-President Oscar Arias.
But the treaty has not resulted in the dire predictions of the U.S. dumping a flood of goods on the local market, nor cultural dominance of that country that would shortly swallow the Tico way of life.

Two of the most important changes were to break the state-owned ICE telecommunications monopoly and the INS insurance deadlock on that market. Yet, today, INS is strong because it adapted well to the free enterprise market place, although ICE -- which initially resisted -- still struggles.
The harshest critic of CAFTA is economist Luis Paulino Vargas who laments that the treaty did not result in a promised spike of jobs which remains at 10.3% unemployment, 13% under-employed and another 30% in "informal" activities such as door-to-door sales.

But, in an interview with Minister of Foreign Trade Anabel Gonzalez (who lauded the treaty for increasing trade and foreign investment) she praised the treaty for forcing the offering of choices for Costa Ricans of a variety of insurance policies and prices as well as cell phone companies.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue in the third round with Colombia over a yet another free trade pact with a fourth round envisioned for December and January. But the devil is in the details in such talks and those have delayed the negotiations a bit.

 

Nation Easier to Do Business, Study Says
 26 October 2012  Written by Rod Hughes, Fijatevos
Almost unnoticed in the turmoil surrounding numerous scandals, the Chinchilla Administration's vow to make Costa Rica an easier place to do business seems to have borne some fruit.

The nation jumped 12 places in the Doing Business ranking by the World Bank. Vice President Luis Liberman, among others in both the Oscar Arias and Chinchilla administrations, have been working on the problem. Previously, the survey has given Costa Rica a very low ranking due to difficulties caused by stifling bureaucracy for running a business here. But both administrations, spanning 2006-12, have cleared away some underbrush.

For 2013, the country is ranked at 110 out of 185 countries, a lot better than their 2012 ranking of 122 but a long way from where Liberman would like to see the nation.

The country jumped 14 places in the obtaining credit category, 11 in ease of granting construction permits, 11 in international trade and 10 in payment of taxes. The last undoubtedly because of on line methods put in place.

But the country backslid three places in the opening of a new business, something that is vital for brisk foreign investment. But Economy Minister Mayi Antillon notes that a new electronic access, www.crearempresa.go.cr reduces to 20 days the time needed to establish a new firm--if there are no unexpected complications.  Shirley Saborio, director of the Costa Rican Union of Private Sector Chambers and Associations, while happy with the improvement, says the most urgent work needs to be done with obtaining environmental and health permits. 

Tourism industry has fingers crossed for the high season

October 16th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica– Costa Rica’s tourism industry, especially hotels, have had a difficult low season this year, but operators have their fingers crossed for a recovery as December approaches.
The “low season blues” were different this year depending upon the area of the country.  In La Fortuna, San Carolos, hotels reported an average occupancy rate of just 20%, whereas in the southern zone the situation was quite better, with average occupancy above 50%. Low numbers in La Fortuna are likely the result of factors that have been at play for a few years (which no doubt include the slumbering state of the Arenal Volcano), while the positive results in the south are the result of newfound popularity for the area’s uniqueness and novelty, as well as improved access.
In Guanacaste, most operators say the September 5th earthquake had little impact on the sector.  Still, the mayor of Nicoya, Marco Jimenez, sent an official document in which he is requesting the state banks give tourism companies a grace period on some obligations.
The Caribbean has seen quite a “low” low season as well, with hotel occupancy running an average 20%.  However, the downturn seems to especially have affected those hotels and lodges catering to local tourism.   Local tourism makes for a sizable portion of demand in many parts of the country from May until the first two weeks of December. 
 
The tourism sector is currently between its low and high season, and October, generally the slowest month of all, is often used to provide maintenance, renovations, and other preparations for the high season.
Sofia Elizondo, director of CANATUR (National Tourism Chamber), explained that hotels generally book their rooms prior to the start of high season, and so far they appear to be doing well.
Elizondo also says tourists have been booking their vacations with less advance reservations in recent years.As a result, CANATUR and operators alike are feeling cautiously optimistic about the high season come December.
(CR Beach Jeff says: Even though this article failed to mention the Central Pacific areas of Jaco beach, Los Suenos, Punta Leona, Playa Hermosa, Esterillos, it must be noted that this past weekend, the streets of Jaco were absolutely jammed, and all bungalows were rented out at the Hermosa Beach bungalows!)
 
 
Sea Shepherd says shark-finning decree is toothless
Oct. 16, 2012 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The Sea Shepherd Conservation society has come out with a scathing critique of President Laura Chinchilla's decree last week on shark fins. The shark-finning ban is toothless and a largely symbolic gesture rather than a true commitment to sharks and their environment, said the environmental organization.  The statement Monday echos similar concerns in Costa Rica where opponents of shark finning wonder how the decree will be enforced.
“Sea Shepherd is not buying it,” says Julie Andersen, Sea Shepherd’s director of shark campaigns in a release. “The supposed ban is smoke and mirrors by President Laura Chinchilla. Costa Rica is simply trying to do damage control for all the attention focused on shark-finning since it issued a warrant for the arrest of our founder Captain Paul Watson in May of this year,” she said. The organization argued if President Chinchilla were genuine in her desire to ban shark-finning, she would also ban the trade, possession and sale of shark fin as has been done in a handful of other forward-thinking nations. It added:
If President Chinchilla were genuine, she would ban shark fishing in its entirety — a demand for shark meat has been created that provides a very real loophole for shark fishermen to exploit. 
If President Chinchilla were genuine, she’d ensure that Cocos Island was adequately protected and those protections enforced, to prevent illegal shark fishing. 
If President Chinchilla were genuine, she’d drop the bogus charges against marine conservationist and Sea Shepherd president and founder Captain Paul Watson and stop siding with the shark fin mafia.  
If President Chinchilla were genuine, she would have enacted legislation and enforcement to protect sharks before their numbers were down by up to 90 percent. Instead, in 2011, she allowed 400,000 sharks to be slaughtered and permitted the export of some 30 tons of shark fins, permitting private docks belonging to foreign interests to operate in violation of the country’s policies.
 
Sea Shepherd said that the Isla del Cocos, a U.N. World Heritage Site and one of the most important shark aggregation centers in the world, is filled with dozens of fishing boats illegally laying longlines.
By enacting this toothless ban, President Chinchilla is simply trying to appease the tourist industry by creating the illusion she is getting tough on the shark fin industry, said the organization, adding:  
Shark fins are big business in Costa Rica. Indeed, one of the reasons there has been very little outcry from the shark fishing industry over this ban is because they know it will continue to be business as usual. Legislation and marine protected areas are only as good as the political will and available funds required to enforce them. Sadly, history proves the protection of Costa Rican waters is  under-funded and/or managed by corrupt officials who are quick to turn a blind eye to what is really going on in their waters and have no intention of enforcing local laws.
 
The organization also said that if Costa Rica is really serious about saving sharks, the government should ban the trade, possession and sale of all shark fin; institute an immediate ban on shark fishing, as was done in nearby Honduras; step up enforcement; demonstrate some real conservation efforts at Cocos Island; tally up some actual arrests and seizures, and drop the outlandish charges against Captain Paul Watson. The people of Costa Rica want shark finning to stop, said Sea Shepherd. 
 
President Chinchilla must understand that she is not fooling anyone with this announcement and that conservationists, park rangers, members of the coast guard, politicians, and members of the public in Costa Rica will continue to report the truth, it said.And the truth is that Costa Rica remains one of the most environmentally destructive and shark-destroying countries in the world, the organization added.
 
Watson is the environmentalist who was detained in Germany at the request of Costa Rica. Sea Shepherd and Watson argued that Costa Rica was only serving as a proxy for Japan, a country that seeks to prosecute Watson for the activities of Sea Shepherd in hampering the country's whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. Watson left Germany and is not a fugitive.
The decree by Ms. Chinchilla last week bans the importation of shark fins. Commercial shark-finning already was illegal in Costa Rica, but the practice continues. Small-scale fishing for shark also is permitted.
Puntarenas hosts major wholesalers of shark fins, and after Costa Rica cracked down on the docking of shark fishing boats, the crafts unloaded in Nicaragua and the fins were trucked to Costa Rica.
 
Costa Rica bans shark finning with Richard Branson looking on
October 10, 2012  Tico Times- By Steve Ercolani
At 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, President Laura Chinchilla, flanked by Environment Minister René Castro and noted conservationist and billionaire owner of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson, signed a presidential decree that bans the practice of shark finning, as well as the importation and transportation of shark fins.
In a symbolic act, the event was held at the Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the nation’s most treasured protected areas.
 
“This government is making a grand investment in the strengthening and protection of marine resources, an investment of about $10-15 million for a new radar system that will cover 100 percent of our marine territory,” Chinchilla said to an audience that included the ministers of environment, agriculture and livestock and public security, as well as local school children.
Castro, who also signed the decree, noted, “This decree will allow us to stop the fishing of sharks in Costa Rican waters, which is intolerable for a country that defends its natural resources.”
“Our message,” added Chinchilla, “is that of zero tolerance for shark finning.”
Environment Minister René Castro spoke during the event held at the Manuel Antonio National Park.  Courtesy of MINAET
Newly appointed Waters and Oceans Vice Minister José Lino Chaves estimated that in Costa Rica up to 400,000 sharks were caught in 2011 with the intention of selling the fins.
Of the decree’s five articles, the first explicitly prohibits the practice of shark finning of any species in Costa Rican waters, as well as the dismemberment of fins from the body of the shark from the moment the shark is caught.
The second article bans the importation of shark fins from any other country unless in possession of a certificate that states the sharks were landed with the fins naturally attached.
The third article outlines new rules for the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (Incopesca), stating that all sharks must be inspected upon landing, verifying that all fins correspond to the correct species of shark and that fins are attached naturally.
The fourth implements a strict zero-tolerance policy for any boats found transporting shark fins, which will result in the cancelation of the vessel’s fishing license.
The ban is the result of more than a decade of work by many of the country’s nonprofit conservation groups, including the Marine Turtle Restoration Project (Pretoma), MarViva Foundation and others.
 
One of those at the forefront of the fight to end shark finning in Costa Rican waters is Pretoma President Randall Arauz. Pretoma, a small conservation group with a budget of $300,000 annually, has worked tirelessly in the past decade to draw attention to the highly lucrative global shark fin trade.
Costa Rica has long battled political maleficence in controlling the international trade of shark fins, due in part to conflicts of interest within the nation’s primary marine resources agency, Incopesca.
“The problem with Incopesca,” said Arauz, “is that it is autonomous and politically led, not by a minister or elected official, but by a board of businessmen with ties in the fishing industry. Long liners and shark finners are on the board.”
In July, Chinchilla vowed to work towards improving the management of the country’s marine resources and signed a number of decrees that created the Waters and Oceans Vice Ministry and the National Marine Commission. Conservationists hope that the new decree puts to bed what Branson said had put a stain on Costa Rica’s environmental image.
“Now they’ve gotten rid of that stain,” Branson said on Wednesday. The British tycoon also stressed the importance of youth participation in conservation efforts.  “I think it is up to young people if they ever see any [environmental violations] happening to shout very loudly,” he said. Branson also called on residents to help the effort by supplying boats and other resources.
On his blog, Branson wrote, “I saw the film ‘Sharkwater’ a few years ago and it shook me to the core. Here we were decimating 1.5 million sharks per week – all for a bowl of soup.”
The film Branson references, Sharkwater, is a 2006 documentary that follows Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society confronting shark poachers along the Pacific Coast of Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Costa Rica’s problem with shark finning received international attention when Watson was arrested in May in Germany on a warrant from Costa Rica over a high-seas incident in 2002. A Costa Rican fishing vessel accused Watson of attacking them (TT, May 18, 2012). Watson said the boat’s crew was shark finning.
 
Other attempts at shedding light on shark finning have generated negative publicity for a country that markets itself abroad as environmentally conscientious. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey allegedly was covered in gasoline and held at gunpoint when trying to film illegal finning activity in Puntarenas in 2011. Ramsey told the Daily Mail, “[Shark finning] is a multibillion-dollar industry, completely unregulated. We traced some of the biggest culprits to Costa Rica. These gangs operate from places like forts, with barbed-wire and gun towers.”
Since 2010, more than 15,000 kilograms of shark fins have entered Costa Rica. Many conservationists, such as Arauz, believe that China’s recent interest and investment in Costa Rica is not at all coincidental, and that in return for heavy investment in Costa Rican infrastructure Costa Rica remains lax on implementing those laws in place to prevent the practice. In China, a bowl of shark fin soup can fetch up to $150.  After signing the decree, Chinchilla noted that, “We have added additional measures to control the commercialization of shark fins in the country, joining the current fishing law we already have with the prohibition of the importation of shark fins.”
But even now as the decree has been signed and Costa Rica continues to impose laws against this lucrative trade, conservationists are concerned about the entrance of fins by land from Nicaragua. Arauz takes issue with the decree’s second article, which stipulates fins can be transported across the border with a certificate signed by Nicaraguan officials stating the sharks were landed with fins attached.
“I don’t know why we decided the Nicaraguan government has so much credibility. It’s a sign Costa Rica has sold out,” Arauz said.
Other skeptics wonder how the decree and other fishing laws will be enforced. “Do you trust the Costa Rican justice system to monitor the new decree faithfully?” one reporter asked Branson on Wednesday.  
“All of the young people I have spoken to in Costa Rica have been outraged for a long time about the slaughter of the species in the oceans,” Branson responded. “I think the public of Costa Rica will monitor it for the government.”
 
 
New way to avoid trips, long lines at government agencies, banks, and more
October 12th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica – In Costa Rica, there is a new method to avoid trips and long lines to government agencies, banks, insurance institutes, and others that used to require paperwork be done in person.  Thanks to a new “digital signature card”, available now, many in-person trips may now be done remotely, from your home computer.
The digital signature card contains a special chip, and when connected to your computer, will allow you to perform many tasks that otherwise would have required your presence and physical signature in the past.
31,000 ticos and foreign residents have already purchased the card.
According to Carlos Melegatti, of the Costa Rican Central Bank BCCR), the digital signature is like a “cedula” (Costa Rican identification card), that can be used to conduct many forms of business without having to be present.
National Banks are not currently obligated to accept the digital signature, however, according to Melagatti, it is certainly practical for financial institutions to make use of the new card, in addition to government agencies, and it is expected that most financial institutions, if they haven’t already, will begin accepting its use.
Currently, 25 institutions accept the digital signature. Some of these are the “Poder Judicial” (Judicial branch), through which criminal reports and judicial files can be requested, the INS, in which policies and other business can be conducted, and the Engineers Professional College, in which blueprints can be requested, among many others.
There are currently 31 institutions in the country where one can obtain the card, which has a cost of $30-$35.  Some of these institutions are the Banco Nacional, Banco Popular, Banco de Costa Rica, Banco Central, and INS (National Insurance Institute).
The process takes approximately 15 minutes and the card is issued on the spot.
The digital signature card is available to all Costa Ricans as well as foreign residents who have a valid DIMEX-standard cedula.
 
Colon Value holds steady till 2015
October 9th, 2012  Inside Costa Rica– Eight out of ten economists believe that factors causing the appreciation of the Costa Rican colon will continue or hold steady until at least 2015.
While some economists are concerned about the colon’s higher value on exports, others believe the export community has already absorbed the majority of the pressure.
What seems likely, though, according to economists, is that the dollar exchange rate will remain at around 500 colones to the dollar until 2015.
These are the results of research conducted by the economist Ronulfo Jimenez, as part of a project called “Inteligencia Financiera” (Financial Intelligence), for the national financial periodical, El Financiero.
Some economists are also blaming the over-abundance, and hence the downward pressure on the value of dollars on the high interest rates paid on colon investments in Costa Rica, which is attracting foreign investors and foreign exchange of dollars for colones.
Another large percentage of the economists surveyed believes that the main cause is actually the expansive policies of the United States Federal Reserve. At an international level, these policies are expected to continue until mid 2015, which would have further effect on the exchange rate.
Some of the respondents also believe that despite the fact that the export sector already absorbed part of the impact of the decrease in dollar value, one sector that will continue to be affected is the agribusiness export sector, which has less capability to react to the exchange rate.
For the time being, the problem does not seem to be reflected in overall export numbers. Exports in products in 2011 increased 21%, and in the first semester of 2012, export growth had already reached 22%.
 
 October will see less rain this year
October 7th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica– The “El Nino” phenomenon is a quasi-periodic climate pattern that occurs across the Pacific Ocean roughly every five years.  According to the National Meteorological Institute, the phenomenon will cause less rains in Costa Rica this “rainy season.”
September and October are usually considered the rainiest months of the year in Costa Rica.
Rebecca Morera, specialist at the National Meteorological Institute, explained that as usual, October will see more than other months of the year, but it will be less than the typical amount of rainfall usually seen in October.
 
Canadian airline announces new flights to Costa Rica
Posted: Tico Times Thursday, October 04, 2012 - By L. Arias
The company also will offer guided tours to beach and city destinations.
Canada’s Sunwing Airlines announced the launch of new flights to San José in addition to current flights to Liberia, provincial capital of the northwestern province of Guanacaste. Flights from Toronto, Ontario, will depart weekly on Fridays starting Dec. 21.
In a press release, the company said that due to the popularity and success of its Costa Rica program, it also will be offering vacation packages for destinations in Guanacaste, the Pacific province of Puntarenas and the capital, San José.
“We are delighted to add flights to Costa Rica,” said Andrew Dawson, president of tour operations. “Not only will travelers be able to enjoy vacation packages to beach resorts in the Central Pacific region, they will also be able to take advantage of affordable flights into San José to join independent tours beginning and ending in the city, as well as connect with flights to other Central American destinations,” he added.
 
Medical tourists to spend some $300 million in Costa Rica this year
Tico Times Thursday, October 04, 2012 - By L. Arias
Ninety percent of medical tourists come from the United States and Canada.
Data released this week by the Council for the International Promotion of Costa Rica Medicine (PROMED) indicate that 2012 will close with a figure of 45,000 foreign tourists who chose the country for some type of medical procedure.
Medical tourists, according to the report, pay some $7,000 for an average stay of 15 days, which represents an income of $300 million annually for the country. These tourists usually travel accompanied by at least one person, which increases travel expenses.
Regular tourists on average spend some $1,200 per visit, the report said.
PROMED said that 90 percent of medical tourism visitors come from the United States and Canada, attracted mainly by lower rates on services such as dentistry, plastic surgery and orthopedics.
These procedures can reach an average cost of $30,000, to which must be added additional costs, such as recovery therapies, nursing, food and others.
It is projected that by 2015, the U.S. will spend more than 20 percent of its annual gross domestic product on medical services.
 
Costa Rica’s service exports continues to grow
October 4th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
 The Costa Rican Foreign Trade department said yesterday that Costa Rica exported $2.92 billion in services during the first semester of this year, 12% more than the same period last year.
Service exports are those related to computers and information – such as software and digital animation, amongst others; as well as professional services such as payroll services, customer service, and human resource management.
Last year, service exports were $2.59 billion during the same period.
Anabel Gonzalez, Foreign Trade Minister, explained that the export in services has become very important and has shown continued growth in the Costa Rican economy. The sector continues to grow at a 9.5% average yearly increase. In 1999, service exports were $1.68 billion, and has quickly grown since, to $4.97 billion last year.The service sector in Costa Rica represents 32% of the country’s total 
 

U.N. agency forecasts a 5 percent growth rate for Costa Rica
Oct. 3, 2012 By Aaron Knapp of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An international assessment of Latin America’s economic status found that Costa Rica is among the countries with highest projected growths in 2012 of all nations in the region.

Researchers who compiled the report expect that Costa Rica will grow by about 5 percent in its gross domestic product this year.

At the beginning of the year, researchers expected that the economy of Latin America overall would grow by 3.7 percent, but they lowered that number to 3.2 in this report.

The report was created by a subsidiary of the United Nations called the Economic Commission for Latin America, also known as ECLAC or CEPAL in Spanish. Commission administrators released the study Tuesday at a conference that took place at their headquarters in Santiago, Chile.

The report mostly dwelled on why researchers had concluded that the economy of Latin America would not grow as much as they initially expected.

They laid the blame on three economic punches over the last four years that began in the global economic powerhouses of the United States, China and Europe and spread to other countries around the world. These difficulties were the global increase in food and fuel prices in 2008, the economic recession in late 2008 and 2009 and the international uncertainty that slowed the global economy late in 2011.

However, the researchers said in the report that increased private demand in most countries’ local markets have kept 

economies progressing slowly but surely. Additionally, the study says that many governments initiated policies that have kept economies stable.  

Overall, the report predicts that Central America will grow far more than the rest of Latin America. It indicates that the region will grow by 4.4 percent of its overall gross domestic product while South America will grow by 2.8 and the Caribbean by only 1.8.

Panamá is expected to lead the growth by far with 9.5 percent, followed by Haiti with 6 and Peru with 5.9. Nicaragua is also expected to grow at the same rate as Costa Rica at 5 percent. 

The downgrade of Latin America’s expected economic growth overall is attributed to particularly a slow year in the regional commercial powerhouses of Brazil and Argentina. Additionally Paraguay is the only country that researchers expect to shrink this year, by 2 percent, because of an extremely poor soy harvest.

Costa Rica’s growth since 2010 has been fluctuating according to the study, falling from 4.7 that year to 4.2 in 2011. This year researchers expect that growth will shoot up again to 5 percent and then slow again next year to 4.

Researchers wrote in the report that they expect that most countries with higher than average growth this year to slow down next year, while those countries with less growth will speed up at the same time. This excludes Haiti, whose economy they expect to continue skyrocketing since it was devastated by an earthquake in 2010.

 

Hooters, Chili’s, Applebee's expanding in Costa Rica

Posted: Monday, October 01, 2012 - By Tico Times

A pair of foreign franchises opened their first restaurants in Costa Rica in the past month. Several other restaurants have announced plans to increase their number of locations.

Before the end of this year, Hooters will open its fourth Costa Rican restaurant – in Paseo Metrópoli in Cartago, east of San José. Owners invested $1 million in the location, according to El Financiero. The franchise hopes to double the number of Hooters in the country by 2014. The first Hooters opened in Escazú, in west San José, in 2005.  In addition, Hooters plans to add a Costa Rican headquarters. The site will train employees, store food and standardize recipes. Hooters General Manager Veronica Caballero told El Financiero that construction on the site begins this month at a cost of $200,000.  Hooters restaurants also plan to start offering frequent customer cards that provide discounts to clients.

 

In September, restaurant Chili’s and El Salvadoran sports bar BW Buffalo Wings opened their first Costa Rican locations.

The first Chili’s opened in Multiplaza Escazú. Chili’s announced plans to open a second franchise before the end of the year in Plaza Lincoln in Moravia, and five total in the next three years.  

BW Buffalo Wings debuted last weekend in Plaza Tempo in shopping center Avenida Escazú, after an investment of $700.000. The restaurant plans to add four more franchises by 2014.

Applebee's signed a contract to start on a new restaurant in La Aurora in Heredia, El Financiero wrote.

The Tico Times reported in May on the influx of U.S. chains entering the country in the past couple of years. Some of the new franchises include Starbucks, Pollo Tropical, Smashburger, Carl’s Jr. and Moe’s Southwestern Grill.

Other long-time staples in Costa Rica include Subway, Quizno’s, McDonald’s, KFC and Teriyaki Experience. All continue opening stores. 

Correction: The original story stated the U.S. franchise Buffalo Wild Wings is opening in Costa Rica Buffalo Wild Wings is not opening in Costa Rica. The El Salvadoran wing chain BW Buffalo Wings opened its first Costa Rican franchise in September. The story has been modified to reflect this change.

 

 

Expats 65 and older can get immigration amnesty

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff  Sept 17, 2012

Expats 65 years and older who have lived in Costa Rica illegally for five years or more can become legal residents under the current amnesty program.

That was the word Monday from Javier Zavaleta of Residency in Costa Rica. He provides a service for foreigners who wish to become residents here.

Zavaleta said his firm has studied the regulations that apply to the amnesty and discovered the loophole that might help North Americans. Until now the general belief was that the amnesty program was geared mainly to help Nicaraguans living here illegally become legal. There are several categories specified in the regulations that do not seem to apply to most expats. For example, persons under 25 who came to Costa Rica as children are eligible. Also eligible are parents of Costa Rican or resident children.

Already reported is that foreigners who let their residency lapse since 2003 could bring their paperwork up to date.

Zavaleta said that the deadline for filing for the amnesty programs is Nov. 17.  He said the application is paperwork intensive, similar to that for pensionado and rentista applications. Birth certificates are required for each applicant as well as a police clearance letter from the overseas residence.

The Nicaraguan Embassy on Avenida Central has been flooded with citizens from that country seeking birth certificates and other documents to apply for residency. Also flooded has been the security ministry office that provides fingerprinting, which also is required.

The regulations released by the Dirección General de Migración do not specifically say a person 65 years or older. 

The rules use the terms persona extranjera adulta mayor, which is generally accepted to be someone that age or older.

 

 

Costa Rica Makes Strong Presence at International Tourism Fairs

Sept 18, 2012 Emerging Terrains News 

Article Summary:Original Article Text From Prensa Grafica via Google Translate :

Costa Rica will promote its natural attractions in 26 international tourism fairs in the next eight months, as the country tries to attract visitors and enter into new tourism markets.

The state Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) said in a statement that the fairs will be held in the United States, Canada, Spain, Germany, France, Holland, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Russia, Sweden and Belgium.

This “fair season” attend at least 89 representatives of Costa Rican tourism companies, in order to promote their products and services.

The Costa Rican Tourism Minister, Allan Flores, said international fairs represent a “great showcase” to promote Costa Rica as a tourist destination in key markets.

   
  

Miracles do happen: San Jose to get street signs
 September 26th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
 Have trouble finding your way around San Jose?  Well, it might get a little bit easier when tomorrow the municipality of San Jose begins to put up street signs to identify the streets and avenues of the city.

The municipality says the idea is to have a more precise and easier system to locate addresses in San Jose.
A total of 16,000 signs will be placed within the capital city.
Once the main roads are identified, buildings and homes will also be assigned numbers so that they can be more easily located.
The project was financed by the Banco Nacional and Banco de Costa Rica, and as such will carry the banks’ logos.  The cost of the project will be 600 million colones (about $1.2 million USD).
 
Costa Rican president signs tax and Eurobonds laws
 September 25, 2012 – Tico Times By Fernando Quirós
President Laura Chinchilla also announces a turnkey highway project. 
Tuesday was a good day for President Laura Chinchilla and her National Liberation Party government. After a brief speech by Finance Minister Edgar Ayales, Chinchilla signed three tax and finance bills into law.
The first two, the Fiscal Transparency Bill and the Bill for Strengthening Tax Administration, are aimed at providing better government access to taxpayers’ financial information, closing tax loopholes, putting in place stronger sanctions to force better cooperation with tax authorities, and getting Costa Rica off the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's “gray list” of countries not up to First World standards in international sharing of tax information.
The last of the three new laws is the Eurobonds Bill, to allow the Costa Rican government to issue up to $4 billion in dollar-denominated 10-year bonds, to obtain financing from the Eurodollar market.
Vice President Luis Liberman, back from a recent trip to China, had good infrastructure news for Costa Rica. The Chinese government has agreed to finance and build a widening of a 237-kilometer stretch of Route 32, the highway linking San José and the Atlantic port of Limón. The two-lane stretch of highway between Rio Frío and Limón has for years been inadequate for the heavy container truck traffic generated by 80 percent of Costa Rica’s exports and imports channeled through Limón port.
The government, constrained in infrastructure spending by its fiscal deficit problem, has negotiated this project as the best way to address what has become not only a commercial but a public safety problem.
 
 
Ultra-broadband Internet coming to Costa Rica in 2013
September 26th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica – Tired of slow Internet service?  Well, RACSA says they will soon introduce ultra-broadband, fiber-optic Internet service in Costa Rica – with speeds that reach the Gigabit range.  This comes after an agreement between RACSA and the Swedish company, ViaEuropa.
The fiber optic network is expected to be ready by January 2013, although statements did not reveal what areas of the country would be included in the initial rollout.  Costa Rica would become the first country in Latin America offer such a service.
In addition to consumers, businesses and corporate campuses will benefit from the availability of ultra-broadband service.  Orlando Cascante, general manager for RACSA, said the service would also pave the way for new services such as television over IP.
President Laura Chinchilla said the fiber optic network was another step towards developed status for the country, and will allow Costa Rica to continue moving towards a service-based economy.
Consumers and businesses can pre-register for the service now, at www.racsa.co.cr.  Rates and speed options are expected to be announced soon.
 
RIU to Open Its First RIU Palace in Costa Rica
September 24th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica – / Based on Press Release / – On November 2nd of this year RIU Hotels & Resorts will open its second hotel in Costa Rica and the first of the Riu Palace luxury range: the Riu Palace Costa Rica. This elegant resort will be situated in the region of Guanacaste,  just next to the Riu Guanacaste hotel. Within three years of opening, this hotel has become one of the favorites amongst RIU guests. Testimony to this is the recent ‘Crystal Apple Award’ for the ‘Best Staff and Service’ in Central America awarded by the major US tour operator, Apple Vacations, thanks to the opinions of its guests. The Riu Palace Costa Rica extends and complements the range of hotels RIU has to offer in the destination with its luxury service and facilities.
Situated on the seafront, the Riu Palace Costa Rica will offer 538 rooms with free Wi-Fi internet and 24 hour room service.  The luxurious 5 star resort will boast four pools, one of which will have a swim-up bar and a children’s pool, as well as a miniclub for kids and entertainment programmes operating day and night. The resort also includes the street ‘El Poblado’ where guests will find boutiques, a kiosk, souvenirs and photographic shop, as well as a fully equipped Renova Spa where guests can enjoy free use of the gym, sauna and jacuzzi. On the same street, you will find the casino, the ‘Pacha’ nightclub and the complex’s Conference Centre.
 
 

New Traffic Laws for Costa Rica
September 19th, 2012 – The new traffic law (Le de Transito) has been approved in 2nd debate, and therefore, traffic fines will be changed once again.

The most expensive tickets will be for reckless driving, illegal overtaking, invasion of lanes, and driving under the influence of drugs or drunk driving. These will each result in a fine of 280,000 colones (approximately $560). Authorities say these infractions are responsible for up to 75% of the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Costa Rican roadways.

Seven other infractions will carry a fine of 189,000 ($378) colones. These include running a red light or not respecting a stop sign, and exceeding the speed limit by 40km/hour or more, among others.  The remaining 90 infractions will have fines that vary between 20,000 ($40) and 94,000 ($187) colones.

The alcohol limit for drunk driving will also be lowered for “professional drivers” as well as “inexperienced” motorists. Professional drivers are those who drive buses, taxis, and heavy vehicles, among others and Inexperienced drivers are those who have possessed a driver’s license for less than 3 years.

These two classes of drivers will receive a fine when found to have over 0.2 grams of alcohol per liter of blood, and are penalized with jail when this amount is over 0.5 grams.

For other motorists, the fine will be applied when having more than 0.5 grams of alcohol and will be penalized with jail when the amount is over 0.75 grams of alcohol per liter of blood.

Not known is how the law may apply to foreigners who have possessed a Costa Rican driver’s license for less than three years.

Costa Rica ranks 42nd in World Economic Freedom Index
September 19th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica – Costa Rica obtained a 7.3 grade out of on a 1 to 10 scale in the most recent world economic freedom report.  The country ranked in 42nd place, amongst 144 participating countries. Those judged to have the most economic freedom were Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Australia, whereas Angola, Congo, Zimbabwe, Birmania and Venezuela ranked lowest.

The world average was 6.83, compared to 6.79 last year.

The study is produced by the Washington Cato Institute and the Fraser Institute in Canada, and uses data from two years ago. As such, the current study is based on data from 2010.

The United States ranked in 18th place, 10 spots lower than last year and behind countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Finland and Estonia.  Among the most common variables that the study uses is the size of government, legal system, property rights, freedom of foreign trade, freedom from corruption, and regulations to open new businesses. In Latin America, Chile is in 1st place.

Costa Rica largest importer and exporter in Central America 
September 17th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica – The Secretariat of the Central American Economic Integration council reports that Central America’s exports were valued at $10.5 billion dollars during the first four months of the year.
 
This figure is almost 7 percent higher than that recorded a year ago. The category that most contributed to buoyant sales were coffee, tea, fruit, appliances and electrical equipment, and sugar.
 
In that period, Costa Rica was the Central America’s largest exporter, with $3.8 billion dollars in exports, as well as the region’s largest importer, importing some $5.5 billion dollars in goods.
The intelligence director of PROCOMER, Francisco Gamboa, explained that in the early months of the year the country was able to increase its sales despite difficult international economic conditions.
 
The main export destinations of the region during the period January-April 2012 were the United States, other countries in Central America, the European Union and Mexico. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are the countries that follow Costa Rica in export quantity.
The United States remains the region’s largest trading partner.
 
Costa Rica seeks technology investors in Chicago
September 18th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica – Representatives from the Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX, in Spanish) and the Coalition Initiative for Development (CINDE) arrived in Chicago yesterday, promoting the country as a competitive destination for foreign companies in the technology sector.
Anabel Gonzalez, Minister of COMEX, will be attending four meetings with companies in the life sciences sector, which already have operations in the country.
Today, CINDE is organizing a breakfast meeting with 30 investors and consultant firms. The minister will be exposing the competitive advantages of Costa Rica and the significant evolution of its high technology industry.
Gonzalez emphasized the position that Costa Rica obtained in the latest competitiveness ranking.
The tour adds to the list of promotional efforts made by Costa Rica to attract direct foreign investment this year. In 2012, promotional events and visits to companies in China, Korea, India, Germany, North Carolina and now Chicago, have been made.
CINDE landed 34 investment projects in 2011, of which, along with established companies who expanded their operations, generated 7,700 new jobs.

New regulation forces banks to quickly resolve complaints  
September 19th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica – A bank client should have to wait no longer then 2 weeks to receive an answer regarding a complaint, according to new regulation that came into effect last month. Banks must now also offer complete information regarding the prices of the services that they offer.

According to the regulation, all complaints must now be resolved within ten business days.

If by the 9th day, the bank has not resolved the issue, it must inform the client that the matter will take additional time. All banks must also have information on their websites regarding commissions for services such as payment of public services, transfers, account fees, and debit and credit card fees, amongst others. The majority of banks already comply with this measure.The regulation provides a 6-month period, which began last month, for all financial institutions to adopt the new standards.

Costa Ricans also felt the pain of September 11th
9/11 2012  Inside Costa Rica
In the early 1970’s, a Costa Rican man, Roberto Sevilla, left his country to follow his dream of living in the United States. He did not miss a single detail of the inauguration of the magical Twin Towers in 1972 (North Tower) and 1973 (South Tower). Soon afterwards, he started working in the World Trade Center, where he became a supervisor in an office supply company.
The day of the attacks Roberto happened to be in the basement in one of the towers where he worked. He was having his morning coffee while reading The New York Times, when he suddenly heard a huge roar. He quickly got up, and tried to reach the building lobby, which became a very difficult task, as he found himself suffering from a sudden asthma attack. When he finally made it to the lobby, and went outside, he could not believe what his eyes were seeing: dozens of bodies falling from above…
Roberto ran that day as he had never run before. A few blocks down, he saw as a second plane crashed against the South Tower, and, a little bit further down, watched as the offices where he worked for so many years fell to the ground.
On this day in 2001, the iconic Twin Towers were destroyed at the hands of terrorists.  The Pentagon was seriously damaged, and a total of almost 3,000 people died, and nearly 6,000 were injured. The entire world was shaken, scared, and stunned by the horrifying event.
The feeling was shared in the heart of the Costa Ricans. Watching those two planes crash against the mighty Twin Towers, seeing how dozens of people jumped from above, and the way those two buildings, in a matter of seconds, collapsed into the ground, still gives Costa Ricans a feeling of anguish that weighs heavily in their hearts.
Two Costa Ricans lost their loved ones in this sad event. Sylvia Loria Quiros, married to Kevin Connors, an American who worked on the 84th floor of the South Tower, was one of them. Kevin’s body was buried in the debris. His body was never found.  The other was Gladys Meza, the mother of a brave police officer, Jerome Dominguez. Jerome was an officer working for the New York Emergency Unit, and, although he was working in another emergency at the time, the moment he found out about the incident, he quickly moved to the scene in order to help. Police officers who survived say that Jerome did not want to abandon the buildings, even after orders were given to do so.
Other Costa Ricans were close to the event, some closer than others. Karla Pericon, who worked on the 11th floor in the North Tower was in her office when the first plane crashed. She was able to leave the building safely.
Pilar Madrigal, who was working for CINDE ( Costa Rican Coalition Initiative for Development) , was travelling in the subway train when the first explosion occurred. She got off the train one station before her final destination, the World Trade Center, as someone on the speaker said something like “smoke in the Twin Towers block.” As she came out from the station, she watched in complete astonishment as the second plane crashed against the South Tower.
Like them, many other Costa Ricans suffered from the events of 9/11 in other ways. 11 years ago, an approximate 60,000 Ticos lived in New York.  A year later, 3,000 families had abandoned the country and returned to Costa Rica for fear of more attacks.
Many lives have been changed and scarred for life. Some have been more affected than others. However, 11 years later, there is still a general feeling across the country in regards to these events – Costa Ricans become sad, scared, and angry when 9/11 is mentioned.
 
Today, Costa Ricans and U.S. citizens will gather at a small park in Sabana Norte to mark the tragedy that changed their lives.
The Marine Corps League will be conducting a ceremony at 11 a.m., in which United States embassy staff will be attending, as well as members of veteran groups.
The park, called ”11 de Setiembre” was named after the date of the tragic event. It is located 200 meters north of Subway, east of the ICE building.

Foreign Investment in Costa Rica continues to Grow
 Tico Times September 07, 2012 - By Fernando Quirós  
Costa Rica has had great success in attracting corporate foreign direct investment.FDI is projected by CINDE, the very successful nongovernmental organization in charge of investment promotion, to grow 7 percent in 2012 and fulfill the Central Bank’s target of $2.25 billion for this year.

This country’s well-oiled FDI promotion machine is so successful that the Financial Times Group’s FDI Intelligence Unit named Costa Rica the “Best Country of the Future for Foreign Direct Investment in Central America and the Caribbean” in its “FDI Countries of the Future” report for 2011-2012. The bulk of corporate FDI investment is high-tech and in industrial parks, with favorable tax treatment and simplified regulatory requirements.
This new business start-up success at the corporate-exporter level is all well and good. Unfortunately, there is a huge gap in Costa Rica between the well-paved regulatory highway that CINDE and the government have set up for deep-pocketed foreign companies, and the pothole-filled obstacle course that ordinary Costa Ricans who just want to start up a mechanic’s shop or a restaurant are forced to navigate.

On the World Bank’s “Doing Business”  rankings, which measure the ease or difficulty of the nuts and bolts of starting and growing a business for ordinary citizens – things like legally incorporating, registering property, dealing with construction permits, enforcing contracts – Costa Rica ranks 121st of 183 countries. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Costa Rica ranks 25th out of 32 countries, behind every other Central American country except Honduras.
These figures only confirm what is obvious to anyone who tries to get business done here: Costa Rica is drowning in red tape. So how can ordinary Ticos, as well as entrepreneurial expats, better deal with the maze of requirements that gets in the way of starting businesses and creating jobs?

Laura Chinchilla’s National Liberation Party administration has started a low-key project to apply technology to help get government off ordinary citizens’ and entrepreneurs’ backs. Called the Digital Government project, it is operationally a division of ICE, the country’s power and telecommunications utility, but answers to a government commission presided over by Chinchilla.

The project seeks to leverage the information technology expertise of ICE to put as many government processes online as possible. The basic building block, the “digital signature,” is already developed.
This is a card with a chip on it, which is inserted into a reader connected to a computer. Anyone who has downloaded pictures from a photo data card to a computer using a USB card reader will recognize the set-up.
Although the card is called a “signature,” a “digital cédula” (the ubiquitous national ID card required for any transaction in Costa Rica) would be a more accurate description. Each digital cédula is unique and personal for its owner, whether a person or a company, and is protected by a pin number which must be typed in, along with the card computer connection, to log in and do online transactions. The cards are issued by banks, two state-owned (Banco Nacional and Banco Popular) and two private (BAC San José and Banco BCT).
Digital cédulas are already in use by banks for clients that move large amounts of money electronically. For chartering companies, an online system for notaries (lawyers) is already being implemented, with the idea of future expansion so that ordinary citizens can track progress of their paperwork.
The government’s goal is to set up and activate a company in 20 days.

For individuals, no end of online transactions is planned: residence permits and cédulas, passports, drivers’ licenses. For municipal governments, ICE is working on putting construction permits, business permits (patentes) and activity zoning (uso de suelo) processes online.  

One Digital Government project, On- Time Positive Silence, definitely cuts in favor of ordinary citizens and businesspersons. In March 2002, Costa Rica passed law 8,220, the Law for Protection of Citizens against Excessive Requirements and Administrative Processes. Article 7 of this law introduces the concept of Positive Silence: that once all paperwork is presented, the government authorization requested will be deemed granted if the government institution does not respond within three days.This potentially game-changing law, which makes approval the default outcome if the organization does not respond (Positive Silence), has been a dead letter because ordinary citizens cannot drag a notary around to certify presentation of every paper required in bureaucratic processes. But if presentation is online, digitally documented by means of a digital cédula, the government authorization game could change radically in favor of ordinary citizens. 

Costa Rica Receives Recognition Award for Protecting the Ozone Layer September 2nd, 2012   The Costa Rica News In August, the Ozone Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Program gave Costa Rica a recognition award for the protection of the ozone layer, as part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that seeks to protect the earth’s Ozone layer by decreasing the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances.

Costa Rica has earned this distinction by being actively involved in the processes of reduction of theses substances. This has been accomplished thanks to the changes that have been implemented in the production systems as well as the changes in legislation controlling ozone depleting substances.

For instance, in December 2009, Costa Rica implemented an import licensing system which has lead to the complete elimination of chlorofluorocarbon use.

In addition, through the use of alternative technologies, Costa Rica has managed to reduce the use of methyl bromide, a substance used in agriculture, primarily for soil fumigation. The country plans to completely eliminate the use of this chemical by the end of this year.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete de Ozone Layer was created on September 16th, 1987. With 197 parties, it is the most widely ratified treaty in United Nations history,

and have, to date, enabled reductions of over 97% of all global consumption of controlled ozone depleting substances, as reported in the official website of the UN Environment Program.For more information visit http://ozone.unep.org 

 

Costa Rica’s competitiveness rating up 4 spots 
 September 7th, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
The Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum placed Costa Rica in the 57th spot, up a few spots from the last study where the country ranked 61st.

The United States scored 7th, Hong Kong, 9th, and Japan earned the number 10 spot.

According to the report, Costa Rica must resolve the bad shape if its roads, bridges, and general transportation infrastructure, which the report describes as poor. Other weak areas, according to the report, is the availability of commercial financing and the processes required to start a new business in the country.

In reaching their conclusions, the Economic Forum analyzed the potential for growth and prosperity of each country. In Costa Rica’s case, it was recognized for its improvements in macro economic conditions, as it decreased the internal shortage of money and lowered its level of debt. The Forum also highlighted Costa Rica’s increased use of Information technologies and its capacity for innovation.

Switzerland tops the list
According to the competitiveness ranking, Switzerland is the leader, followed by Singapore and Finland. This is the 4th year in which Switzerland ranks first place.  Countries in Europe, Germany, and the United Kingdom occupy the top 10 places.

In regards to Latin American countries , Chile occupies the 33rd spot, Brazil 48 and Mexico 53. In Central America, Panama stands out with a ranking of 40, and the rest have less favorable spots such as Guatemala, 84th place, El Salvador, number 101, Honduras, 90, and Nicaragua, 108.  

 

Why wasn't this Quake more Destructive?
Inside Costa Rica September 6th, 2012 -
At 8:42 yesterday morning, while a few were still sleeping, others in school and many at work, a strong earthquake shook the Costa Rican land. Many ran out of their houses, while others stayed put, not sure of what to do. Mothers picked up their children, trying to keep them safe, and neighbors gathered in the safest locations they could find. Costa Ricans describe the earthquake as “extremely long and very strong,”  and, although the population is familiar with earthquakes, it unnerved the country, nonetheless.
Despite what appears to be limited damage, the powerful quake has rattled both Costa Ricans, tourists and foreigners who have relocated in the country.
But Costa Rica suffered remarkably little damage from yesterday’s earthquake – a few blocked highways, some collapsed houses and two deaths, one of a heart attack caused by fright and another from trauma, and approximately 20 injured (according to the CR Red Cross), none of whom were Americans (according to American Embassy). 
The earthquake lasted 1 minute and 10 seconds, and was of 7.6 magnitude in the Richter scale. The quake was 25 miles below the surface, and was followed by 3 strong aftershocks of magnitudes above 4.
 
Why is it that an earthquake of this magnitude caused so little damage in Costa Rica?
If the conditions of the earthquake itself seem to be so similar, why is it that in Costa Rica, the damages were so few in comparison to Haiti 2010? 
Well, to begin with, tremors that occur deep underground tend to be less damaging, but their shaking can be felt over a wider area. Costa Rica’s earthquake was 25 miles below the surface, while Haiti was only 8.1 
 
The relatively little damage was also due to strict building codes in Costa Rica, a country that has long enjoyed more stability, better governance and stronger economic development than many of its Central American neighbors, and certainly, than Haiti.
 
Olman Vargas, president of the National College of Architecture said, “ we have a culture of concrete and steel. Years ago we abandoned building in mud and adobe, something that’s caused a lot of problems and that they’re continuing in other countries.”
Costa Rica’s anti-earthquake structural codes have been updated in line with the latest international standards three times since they were enacted in 1974, most recently last year.
“I can assure you we comply with all global standards- the same as in California and Japan, places well known for their high tectonic activity,” added Vargas.
 
About 500.000 American tourists travel to Costa Rica each year, according to the US State Department, adding to the tens of thousands of retirees who have relocated here. Choosing to live, work, and retire abroad always entails weighing pros and cons. But the stakes are higher when Mother Nature strikes in the form of hurricanes or earthquakes.
Most expatriates choose to stay put despite natural disasters, as will likely be the case of Costa Rica.  In a way, many feel that the minor damage and clearly good constructions have made them feel more secure.
 
 
Major morning quake rattles nation
Sept. 5, 2012   A.M. Costa Rica staff   .
A major quake estimated locally at 7.6 magnitude took place at 8:45 a.m. today, Wednesday, near Sámara on the west shore of the Nicoya Peninsula, the region where more quakes are reported
than any other.
The quake was of long duration, perhaps as much as 30 seconds. The quake was felt strongly all over the country. Lesser quakes followed. There were no initial reports of serious damage.
The estimate of a magnitude by the U.S. National Earthquake center was 7.6. That agency said the quake was just 41 kilometers deep, some 25.4 miles. Shallower quakes generally cause more earth movement on the surface.
The Central Pacific area felt it, but little damage is reported.
Some communications failed in the Central Valley, perhaps due to thousands of persons being on cellphones and land lines.
The U.S. center said the epicenter was 53 kilometers (95 miles) west of San José.  
There were reports of some damage even in the Central Valley where many homes suffered at least falling objects. There were reports of trees falling elsewhere.  Initial reports from the Nicoya peninsula were delayed due to communication failure. There were some reports of small landslides.
Tsunami warnings were posted briefly for areas along the Pacific then quickly withdrawn.
 
 
Costa Rica-Canada Free Trade Agreement updated
 Tuesday, September 04, 2012 - By Tico Times
Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Ministry expects to complete negotiations by mid-September.
Costa Rica and Canada finished a fifth round of negotiations to modernize a free trade agreement between the two countries.
Last week, foreign trade officials from the two governments reached agreements on technical barriers to trade, provisions, objectives, administration of the treaty, financial services, government purchases and customs procedures.
They also completed chapters on cooperative agreements, monopolies and state enterprises, and an agreement on telecommunications and investment is almost ready, pending review.
 
Issues on market access, tariff elimination for products from free zones, more flexible rules for textiles and Canada’s interest in greater market access for agricultural products are still being discussed.
“There are very few pending issues, and our plan is to finish them during a meeting in mid-September,” said Costa Rican Foreign Trade Vice Minister Fernando Ocampo.
The free trade agreement between Costa Rica and Canada was implemented in 2002. Since then, total trade between the countries has increased from $102 million to $273 million in 2011, a cumulative increase of 168 percent.
 

Amazon opens third operations center in Costa Rica
Aug. 31, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) opened its third call center operation here in Costa Rica with a fresh supply of 300 new jobs to service several countries including Spain as well as Portuguese-speaking countries.

The inauguration was attended by President Laura Chinchilla; the foreign trade minister, Anabel Gonzalez, and Gabriela Llobet from the Coalition for Development Initiates, known by its Spanish acronym, CINDE.
Amazon Inc.’s Vice President of Customer Service expressed the satisfaction the online retailer has found with its existing operations in Costa Rica. 
Further Amazon operations serving other markets are expected in the future

Costa Rica celebrates National Parks Day    
August 31, 2012 – Tico Times By Hannah J. Ryan 

Twenty-five percent of Costa Rica’s land is protected, thanks to conservation efforts that have created 28 national parks, including Carara National Park, the northernmost region of Costa Rica’s Pacific rain forest.

 Aug. 24 was National Parks Day in Costa Rica, and numerous protected areas celebrated significant anniversaries. Manuel Antonio National Park, on the central Pacific coast, and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, in the Tilarán Mountains in north-central Costa Rica, marked their 40th birthdays, while La Amistad International Park, in southern Costa Rica, turned 30.Costa Rica has 126 protected areas. Of those, 28 are national parks and three have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. These areas encompass 25 percent of the country’s total landmass.

To commemorate National Parks Day, the United States National Park Service and Costa Rica’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) renewed a memorandum outlining projects within national parks and protected areas. A press release from SINAC said the agreement also includes cooperation in fire management, adaptation to climate change and the development of public educational information on the preservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage.

“This kind of cooperation between the U.S. and Costa Rica is not new, our relationship dates back decades,” said U.S. Ambassador Anne S. Andrew. “In a visit to Juan Castro Blanco National Park, I learned that the U.S. Agency for International Development had a role in the development of this and other parks. The U.S. continues as a partner in preserving forests of Costa Rica through the Law of Conservation of Tropical Forests.”

The signing of the memorandum resumes collaboration established May 9, 1997, during a visit by U.S. President Bill Clinton to Costa Rica. At the time, Clinton signed the Declaration of Braulio Carrillo, which established a framework for cooperation between SINAC and the National Park Service.The history of cooperation between SINAC and the U.S. National Park System dates from the 1960s and ’70s, when two young Costa Rican students – Álvaro Ugalde and Mario Boza – traveled to the U.S. to work and study with the National Park Service. These partnerships have identified conservation priorities such as the need to protect bird species that migrate each year from the Rockies to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Exports Increased 10% This Year
August 21, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
Costa Rican exports grew 10% during the first seven months of the year as compared to the same period in 2011, with total exports of US$6.74 billion dollars.
The sectors with the largest exports growth are livestock and fisheries, agriculture and manufacturing.
 
According to the Promotora de Comercio Exterior (PROCOMER) - Foreign Trade Promoter - from January to July of this year, exports to China have grown 107%, as Costa Rica sends to the Asian nation electronic components for microprocessors, orange pulp, electrical cables, wood and fruit juices and concentrates, among others.
"We seek to promote greater use of the trade agreement which is opening the doors to other products, such as meat and dairy products," said Foreign Trade Minister, Anabel González.
Livestock and fisheries exports grew 19.2% this year over last, while the manufacturing sector saw an increase of 12.9% in exports. Pineapple exports say only a 0.8% increase.
 
North America continues to be the main destination for Costa Rican goods, with 42% of all exports going to the United States and Canada, while 18.% when to Europe, 13.8% to other Central American countries and 13% to Asia.
 
Courtyard by Marriott Opens Second Hotel in Costa Rica          
August 14, 2012 - 
Marriott International announced today that the new hotel Courtyard San Jose Airport , located five minutes from Juan Santamaria International Airport, has opened its doors to the public.The 127-room hotel is the second Courtyard by Marriott in San Jose and has a modern lobby follows the brand concept of Courtyard by Marriott Refreshing Business (business and relaxation), where travelers will have free access to wi -fi and find spaces easily adaptable to work, socialize or relax.
The design, construction, operation and maintenance of the hotel are fully sustainable for the property gaining certification LEED , which means that the hotel will have an energy saving of 18% savings in water consumption by 35%, use of 30% regional materials and renewable energy use 5% (through solar panels to preheat water).  To commemorate the opening, the hotel is offering its standard room at a price of $ 93 plus tax. The promotion is available for travel between August 11 and December 31, 2012, using the key reserve MR5.
 
Each of the 127 rooms, including five suites, offers free high speed internet, modern workspace, safe, LCD televisions and linens of high quality.
The Courtyard San Jose Airport is located just minutes from the Juan Santamaria International Airport and offer free shuttle service to and from the airport. The hotel features five meeting rooms, all located on the first floor of the property, rooms for disabled guests, parking itself, pool, fitness center with the latest technology, and a screen "Go Board" in the lobby where guests may check the status of their flights, the news and weather on destination traveling. 
"The opening of this fantastic new hotel demonstrates our commitment to Costa Rica and reflects the popularity and brand recognition Courtyard by Marriott offers style, comfort and quality service at an affordable price," said Rob Steigerwald, Chief Operations Officer of Marriott International for the Americas.  Marriott International operates six hotels in Costa Rica under four different brands: Marriott Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott Hotels, Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn. All are designed by Zürcher Architects, a Costa Rican firm.

U.S. franchise to invest $40 million in new Costa Rica hotel
August 20, 2012 - By Tico Times  
A Las Vegas-style 24-hour casino will be built in Escazú.
Sonesta Collection Group this month began the main construction of its first hotel in Costa Rica (and their first in Central America), expected to open by the second half of 2013.

The company earmarked an investment of $40 million for the hotel, which will have 171 rooms and will be located near Multiplaza Escazú, southwest of the capital.
The new facilities will include three bars, two restaurants, and a Las Vegas-style casino, said Johnathan Raineau, president of the new Sonesta Hotel Casino Escazú. “The idea is to offer the visitor different entertainment alternatives: disco and lounge bars with DJ music, live latin music at the disco and a 24-hour casino,” he said.  The company has 15 hotels in the U.S., 15 in Latin America and 13 in Egypt.
 
Arrivals Increase 7.4% Over Last Year
August 2012  Inside Costa Rica
In the first six months of the year a total of 1.285.599 arrived in Costa Rica by air, sea and land. The number of arrivals is an increase of 7.4% over the same period last year.  The Liberia airport in Guanacaste saw the largest increase in arrivals, 26% over last year.
The San José airport had 655.000 arrivals of the 900.000 (70%) of all arrivals by air according to the immigration service figures .
The majority of the arrivals were from North America, representing some 610.000 arrivals, most of them for tourism purposes.
 
Forging new ties with China
 August 17, 2012 By Matt Levin and Laianer Arias  for The Tico Times, Andrés Bermúdez of  AFP
In Costa Rica’s second official visit to China, Chinchilla has been on a mission to show the Chinese how serious her country takes its blossoming relationship with the Asian powerhouse. 
 
A week into the trip, Chinchilla can boast several major investments. After the meeting with Chinese president, the countries finalized accords on the topics of education, business, security, agriculture, aviation and infrastructure. China agreed to construct a $25 million police academy for Costa Rica and donate 4,800 computers for students and teachers. The Chinese government also gifted $8 million for Costa Rica to use at its own discretion.
The leaders also discussed building a large industrial park inside a Costa Rican free zone, a move that would put more investment dollars into the Central American country and give China a hub in the region for producing and selling its products.
 
Costa Rica remains the only country in Central America to establish diplomatic ties with China, after former President Oscar Arias severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 2007. Arias traveled to China in 2010. Two years later, Chinchilla’s eight-day tour serves to bolster those ties. 
Costa Rica is looking to become a model for Chinese companies that export to developing nations. “We believe that Costa Rica has the best conditions to become the main logistics platform site for Chinese investment in the Western Hemisphere,” Chinchilla said at the end of a business and investment forum in Beijing earlier in the week. To achieve this, the Costa Rican government plans to build a tax-free industrial park for Chinese firms, which could guarantee them commercial advantages in developing markets, thanks to a network of trade agreements signed by the Central American country. 
 
 Costa Rica, the third country in Latin America to sign a free trade agreement with China, has found benefits from the deal elusive. But the industrial park could be a solution for how both sides could profit from the pact. One of the models studied by the Costa Rican delegation during the visit was at the Suzhou Industrial Park. The business center was established in 1994 through a joint effort between the governments of China and Singapore, and the park houses more than 4,000 foreign enterprises. 
Special Economic Zones have been an integral part of China’s economic model to maintain high growth rates in recent decades, and Chinchilla highlighted her government’s interest in replicating the model.
 
With the construction of the industrial park, Costa Rica would further enhance its own system of free zones, which process 50 percent of Costa Rican exports. “The model of free zones has been quite successful in terms of exports, job creation and technology transfer, but we view further innovation as essential for growth. We want to promote a greater linkage between industrial parks and the academic sector,” Costa Rican Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González said. 
 
The Suzhou complex, said the minister, includes 23 research and development centers for industrial production. Traditionally, businesses from China have been reluctant to settle in foreign countries if they cannot hire Chinese labor, but the Chinchilla government seeks to take advantage of Beijing’s latest five-year plan to internationalize their countries. 
“China is encouraging its companies to go abroad, while Costa Rica has free trade agreements with Canada, United States, Europe and several Latin American countries. As Chinese companies set up their production facilities [in Costa Rica], the two countries will benefit,” said Chai Yu, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who will lead a mission of professors and businesses to San José in September. 
Promoting Chinese investment in Costa Rica also makes sense after China this week named the Central American country the host of a China Business Summit in Latin America in 2014. On the issue of security, China agreed to fund the construction of a National Police Academy in Costa Rica for an estimated $25 million. The academy will be located in the Caribbean canton of Pococí, and investment could reach $25 million. The donation is similar to the construction of Costa Rica’s National Stadium – a $100 million gift from China – in which a Chinese company will build the facility, and once completed, it will be officially donated to the Public Security Ministry. On the second day of her Asia tour, Chinchilla expressed her gratitude to China, saying the construction “is something we’ve long waited for.”
 
The Costa Rican government also continues to negotiate investment terms with China’s oil industry for a much-needed refinery upgrade. At start of the trip, representatives from the Costa Rican company GreenerSys signed an agreement with Chinese company GeSolar to build a solar power plant.
Chinchilla said on Monday she was pleased with the negotiations. “This is an excellent example of how we can unite the strengths of both countries to develop projects of mutual benefit,” she said. 
The president and her entourage also spoke at a forum on trade, investment and tourism in Costa Rica, organized by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and Costa Rican officials.
 Chinchilla leaves to Seoul for a two-day tour of South Korea, also focused on promoting investment. 
The Costa Rican delegation will return home next week.
 
Tax revenues increase in Costa Rica, while Government spending slows
Posted by Marcel Evans on August 17, 2012 in Costa Rica Star 
In the first 7 months of 2012 revenue increased by 11.3%, but government spending continues to increase at a rate of 9.6% growth, just below the 10.4% recorded in the same period in 2011.
 
A statement from the Ministry of Finance of Costa Rica reads:
-The fiscal deficit persists despite efforts to increase revenue and reduce expenses.
-Eurobonds are still a necessary source of funding.
 
Tax revenues continued to grow steadily in July, supported mainly on the strength of the income tax and general sales tax. In the first seven months of the year tax revenues increased by 11.3% compared to the same period last year, while revenue from income tax and sales tax grew by 13.4% and 14%.
 
On the other hand, central government expenditure through July, is slowing down, with growth of 9.6% compared to the same period in 2011. This slowdown is despite strong growth in current transfers to the public sector (10.2%), mainly explained by the resources transferred to the Social Security Department throughout the year. In contrast, the category of salaries is under control with a growth of 8.8%, reflecting the conservative increase in public wages the first half of the year.
 

Wendy's Expands
Aug 17, 2012 AM Costa Rica    

The fast food chain, Wendy’s confirmed the opening of six new restaurants in the San Jose metropolitan area between 2012 and 2013. Food courts at the Multiplaza (Escazu) and Lincoln Plaza (Moravia) malls will also receive Wendy’s restaurants. The franchise expects to have a total of 15 to 16 locations in Costa Rica by the close of 2013.

Costa Rican inflation: The 2007 breakthrough
  August 03, 2012 - By Fernando Quirós Tico Times
Costa Rica is now operating in an inflation range that was an impossible dream for two generations.

Inflation in Costa Rica is more than double the rate in the United States. But the Costa Rican economy is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the U.S. economy. Economists partially attribute the success to a 2007 Central Bank decision to float the colón. Source: Prof. Rudolf Lucke, Institute for Investigation in Economic Sciences, UCR
 
Overall inflation in Costa Rica for 2012 has varied from 4.6 to 5.1 percent in April, May and June, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) annual forecast. If there are no extraordinary changes in the economy, inflation should continue in this range for the rest of the year. 
By comparison, U.S. inflation was at a 1.7 percent annual rate in June. Costa Rica has more than twice the U.S. inflation rate, but the Tico economy should grow more than twice as fast as the U.S. economy this year – a trade-off any entrepreneur will take.
 
On Tuesday, the Central Bank forecast growth for 2012 at 4.8 percent, higher than previous estimates of 3.8 percent.
Despite inflation numbers that are high in relation to the U.S. economy, Costa Rica is now operating in an inflation range that was an impossible dream for two generations.
Before 2007, the Central Bank would have broken out the champagne if overall price increases could be kept to less than double digits in any given year.
 
In 2007, the Central Bank changed its method for fixing the exchange rate, from a predictable, mini-devaluation scheme- to floating the colón and letting private buyers and sellers of dollars determine the exchange rate. To be sure, it’s a “dirty float,” with the Central Bank setting exchange rate floors and ceilings that trigger its intervention if the exchange rate gets too low or too high.
But so far, the rate has been more or less stable since 2007, with Central Bank intervention only on the low end of its target range: {500 to the dollar. 
 
But at the time the Central Bank made the change to a floating exchange rate, it looked like a gamble – after 24 years, from 1983 to 2007, the economy had become accustomed to the relatively predictable mini-devaluations. During those years, total yearly devaluation averaged 11 percent. 
 
What happened to cause the Central Bank to want to fix a system that wasn’t broken? In hindsight, based on success with the floating colón, it would seem that the Central Bank was telling Costa Rica’s exporters that, after 24 years of coddling them with steady devaluation to make exports more competitive, it would now seek to stabilize the exchange rate and concentrate on what should be the No. 1 goal of every central bank: exchange stability with low inflation. 
 
In an open economy like Costa Rica’s, where exports and imports total more than 60 percent of gross domestic product, an 11 percent devaluation every year builds a big fraction of that into increased money supply (as exporters change dollars into colones to pay their local production costs), and the full devaluation rate increase into the price of imports. No wonder the country struggled to crack a 10 percent minimum inflation rate in those years when devaluation averaged 11percent.
 
What emboldened the Central Bank to float the colón in 2007? Most likely, the answer is changes in the Costa Rican economy. A generation ago, the big dollar earners for Costa Rica were coffee, sugar, bananas and beef – all agricultural commodities, in which Costa Rica competed on a price-only basis with lower-cost producers all over the world.
 
With those products and that competition, yearly devaluation was necessary to remain competitive. But today, Costa Rica exports mostly services and high-tech goods, and agriculture is only one-sixth of exports. For its modern export product mix, Costa Rica’s educated workforce provides the competitive edge, and the pricing crutch of yearly devaluation is no longer necessary.
 
Rudolf Lucke, a professor at the University of Costa Rica’s Institute for Investigation in Economic Sciences, a think tank, put together the chart pictured above left. Though it starts in 2009, not 2007, the chart shows the Central Bank’s success in bringing down inflation. The graph breaks annualized CPI changes down into component parts: regulated and non-regulated products, and exportable and non-exportable goods and services. 
 
In January 2009, the range of inflation components was all over the place, from a low of 11 percent for exportable goods to a high of 17 percent for non-exportable goods. In three years and four months, all the inflation-rate components have converged to between 4-6 percent – a stunning achievement, and the greatest help the government and the Central Bank can give to the poor, who are hardest hit by the inflation tax.
 
Costa Rica To Start Refinery Construction In January
August 17, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
With the financial support of the government of China, Costa Rica is expected to start in January 2013 the construction of a new oil refinery, that will go into operation by mid 2015.
The new plant will replace the old Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo (RECOPE) facilities in Limón, at a cost of US$1.4 billion dollars, according to a statement by RECOPE general manager, Jorge Rojas.
The project is part of a "fluid" cooperation between San José and Beijing, following the formalization of diplomatic relations in 2007, which also included China's donation of the national stadium and China's buying of Costa Rica bonds for US$300 million dollars and other initiatives.
Rojas said the new refinery will have a capacity of 65.000 barrels daily, covering the current domestic demand and up to 15 years.
The construction of the refinery will be by the consortium named SORESCO, comprised of RECOPE and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which will provide US$491 million dollars for the project.
The rest of the funding, US$900 million dollars, will coming from a loan by the Chinese Development Bank (CDB).
According to Rojas, the new refinery will give Costa Rica independence from international distributors of refined oil products.
Today, RECOPE - the national refinery - imports all fuels for distribution in the country. Local retailers (gasoline stations) buy from RECOPE and sell to consumers at prices established by the government regulating authority, the ARESEP.
The construction of the new refinery is expected to create up to 1.000 temporary jobs and 300 permanent jobs once the plant goes into operation, in the province of Limón, one of the most economically depressed regions in the country.
 

Walmart in Costa Rica Begins Construction of Mega Distribution Center

Aug. 17, 2012 Inside Costa Rica

Walmart announced the start of construction of the largest distribution center in the region, a building with an area of 49.493 square metres, located in Alajuela. 

The new center, which will begin operations in the fist half of 2013, comes at a cost of US$68 million dollars and will generate more than 200 direct jobs in the next five years.

The company says the facility located in Coyol (west of the San José airport) will allow greater centralization of suppliers and provide greater product availability in the stores for client satisfaction. The project also includes a modern logistical support team, to optimize performance and increase efficiency according to Aquileo Sánchez, director of corporate affairs for Central America.

"With this new CEDI, which will be the largest in Central America, we meet the growing demand of our Walmar, Masxmenos, Maxi Pali and Pali stores in Costa Rica, and thus give them greater supply and availability of product to meet the needs of customers, " said Sanchez.

The Mayor of Alajuela, Robert Thompson, said he was very pleased that "a company as responsible as Walmart has decided Alajuela choose to make this important investment".

In a company blurb, Walmart Mexico & Central America says its mission is to help families save so they can live better.facilities.

Walmart de México y Centroamérica is one of the largest private employers in Costa Rica, with more than 9,000 associates working in distribution centres, agro-industrial plants, offices and 203 stores across the country.

 
Lady Gaga Confirms Costa Rica On Nov 3
August 15, 2012 Tico Times
The Lady Gaga official website added the Costa Rica date confirming local promoter RMPTV that the pop queen is coming to town on November 3, 2012 and the venue will be the Estadio Nacional (National Stadium).
The announcement comes days after the Lady Gaga website had announced its Latin America dates in which Costa Rica was absent.
The news of Lady Gaga coming to Costa Rica generated controversy on Monday, some say that "Born This Way Ball" lacks content and the cost of the tickets that range from ¢33.000  (about US$66) to ¢102.000 colones  (a little over US$200).
Tickets for the general public go on sale on August 20 at http://laboleteria.co.cr/eventos/details/50-lady-gaga-en-costa-rica-the-born-this-way-ball-.html.  Credimate cardholders can purchase tickets for the event starting Friday (Aug. 17) up to Sunday (Aug 19).

 

 

Costa Rica Gets Its First Electrical Code
August 14, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
Hard to believe, but finally it is here, the first ever electrical code in the country as executive order 36.979 takes affect on Thursday.
The document is a safety manual for professionals and traders.
The code aims to eliminate the sale of inferior quality products and ensure electrical installations are safe.
From Thursday on, all electrical installations must be done by a professional or a professional to oversee the work, stopping the practice of any handyman passing himself as an electrician.
The code empowers the Ministerio de Economía to a regular review of the quality of materials used in electrical installations and considers buildings were more than 100 people gather, such as churches, hospitals and schools, as high risk buildings and subject to inspections every five years.
A sizable number of ignitions of structures are due to electrical faults associated with wiring or with wiring devices. 
Hector Chaves, head of the Bomberos de Costa Rica (Fire Department) noted that more than a 1.000 people on average each year are left homeless due to fires caused by faulty electrical connections.
Poor electrical wiring can cause many different problems. One of the most common problems in electrical wiring is loose connections. From the electrical panel all the way into the home's lighting and outlet circuits, poor connections can not only be an irritation but can actually be dangerous. 
Other problems with electrical wiring can range from improper installation of the wires themselves to worn out or damaged electrical panels. 
Another problem is the use of poor quality or inferior products. Using cheap or inferior products and opting of a cheap installation can result in damage or death.
 
 
Costa Rica: New Laws regarding Alcohol and Liquor Patentes
August 12, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
We've seen them at the topes, the parades, in the beach towns, coming out of a bar, all with a beer or drink in hand, a practice that many in Costa Rica have taken as custom. However, drinking in public now comes with a fine of ¢180.000 colones (US$355), due to a new law published this past Wednesday in La Gaceta.
 
The new sanction is included in Ley N.° 9.047, de Regulación y Comercialización de Bebidas con Contenido Alcohólico - the new liquor law that went into effect this past week - which calls for a fine of one half of a base salary which today is ¢360.000 colones.  The approved legislation establishes a new legal framework that regulates the licensing for the sale of liquor and sanctions.
Article 9 prohibits the consumption of alcoholic beverages in public places, except during civic festivals.
 
The new law allows more powers to municipalities, which will have more control and authority over liquor sales and receive more economic benefits from businesses that dispense liquor.
Gone are the "patentes", as municipal leaders put it, so far have been a loss for municipalities and other government institutions and fostered a "black market'.
Now municipalities may issue liquor licenses and classify establishments where alcoholic beverages will be sold.
San José mayor, Johnny Araya, calls the new law "very good, allows more flexibility for municipalities and will be able to adjust revenues and control on liquor licenses".
 
Under the old system of "patentes", a few held the master rights in a specified boundary, in turn would 'rent' the right to a bar or restaurant. So, in fact, few bars and restaurants actually had a liquor license, paying a fee to the license holder and not the municipality, for the right to dispense.
The license holder, in many cases, paid a small amount to the municipality, passing on the license to heirs or selling it to others for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Nomura Securities Gives Costa Rica Economy The Thumbs Up 
Tuesday 10 July 2012 Inside Costa Rica

Amid the gloom of the world economy, Costa Rica sparkles like a little gem. The country is famous for having no army and working hard to protect its environment.

And now Nomura Securities has polished Costa Rica’s halo with a report that says its economy is “flying”. First-quarter growth was 6.9 per cent year-on-year, while foreign investment rose by 10.4 per cent.

As a result, Nomura has raised its projection to 5.5 per cent this year for Costa Rica’s gross domestic product, up from an earlier estimate of 4 per cent. “For the first time in recent memory, Costa Rica is poised to show real GDP growth that exceeds its inflation rate,” says Nomura.

The ratio of investment to economic growth is likely to rise to almost 21 per cent, says Nomura. And it adds: “Public consumption in real terms grew by only 1.8 per cent; this confirms the Chinchilla administration’s commitment to fiscal prudence.”  The Chinchilla in question is Laura Chinchilla, the president, and there’s the rub. Costa Rica was recently rated the happiest country in the world, yet Chinchilla has also been rated as the most unpopular leader in Central America. Quite why Chinchilla is so unpopular remains unclear, though the clue might lie in the fiscal prudence, which has led to conflicts in the public sector.

Nor is it clear where the growth in the economy is coming from. Tourism perhaps, but also possibly tropical farm products, such as pineapples.

And Nomura opines that, while the fiscal deterioration over the last few years is likely to be contained in the short run, the report urges a full-fledged fiscal reform. A reform was proposed by Chinchilla but rejected by legislators.

However, fiscal reform is neither urgent nor essential, says Fred Blaser, publisher of Centralamericalink.com and Costa Rica’s daily business paper, La República. “Deficit-cutting can include shrinking the size of government, which is bloated here,” he says.

“The overall ratio of debt against GDP is reasonable, which means Costa Rica can borrow a bit more and still manage, which is what will probably happen, at least in the short term.”

Nomura is a financial services group and global investment bank. Based in Tokyo and with regional headquarters in Hong Kong, London, and New York, Nomura employs about 26,000 staff worldwide. It operates through five business divisions: retail (in Japan), global markets, investment banking, merchant banking, and asset management.

Prediction calls for drier than normal rainy season
July 11, 2012 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Most of Costa Rica will experience a rainy season drier than normal, according to predictions released Tuesday by the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.However, the Caribbean will see from 10 to 15 percent more rain for the last six months of the year, said the forecast.

The predictions say that Guanacaste will face a 20 percent decrease from normal rainfall levels. This is the country's driest area in any season, and a reduction of some 270 millimeters, about 19.6 inches, can mean trouble for cattle ranchers and farmers. This is the area where the predictions say there will be the highest percentage of deviation from the normal rainfall.

The Central and south Pacific can expect less rain, too, but the percentages are less. For the central Pacific, the forecasters say some 245 millimeters less rain will fall. That's about 8.7 inches and 10 percent less of the normal amount.The usually rainy south Pacific will see 5.5 fewer inches of rain, but that is just 5 percent of the normal rainfall.The forecast calls for a 5 percent reduction in rain in the northern zone, too, about 105 millimeters or 4.1 inches.
The populous Central Valley will be down by about 15 percent, according to the forecasts. That's 200 millimeters or 7.9 inches of rain.

The U.S. National Weather Service's  Climate Prediction Center is keeping a close eye on the Pacific. Forecasters there expect to see an increase in El Niño conditions through September. The El Niño phenomenon means that weather in the central Pacific will become slightly warmer. This has dramatic effects all over the world. For Costa Rica, it means drier weather. Costa Rican forecasters usually depend to some extent on U.S. predictions.From nine to 12 cyclones or hurricanes are expected in the Atlantic during this year year, according to local predictions. There already have been three named storms.

Hurricane forecasters at Colorado State University have increased the number of named storms they expect from in the Atlantic. Now they are saying 13 with five reaching hurricane strength.

There already have been five named storms in the Pacific with Hurricane Emilia heading away from Central America at a slow pace.  Hurricanes are closely related to El Niño conditions. A final hurricane forecast will come from the Colorado university Aug.3.

Costa Rican forecasters noted that last month was the third driest June in the recorded history of Juan Santamaría airport. Typically, the Costa Rican rainy season runs from May until Mid-December. However, July has been unusually dry in the Central Valley while the Pacific coast and northern Costa Rica have seen some strong storms.

Costa Rica: 20 Year Lag in Traffic Fines
Tuesday 10 July 2012 Inside Costa Rica

Although the most recent legislation was approved in 2008 and went into effect in 2010, Costa Rica lags behind in traffic fines, most of the current fines dating back to the 1993 law.  This is because the country's Constitutional Court considered most of the fines set in 2008 as disproportionate and rolling back fines to the previous law.

The road conditions today are much different that in 1993.  For instance, in 1993 there were some380.000 vehicles on the road. Today, the number of vehicles is more than one million - almost three times that of two decades ago - and with more or less the same road infrastructure.

In 2008, legislators passed a tough traffic law. After experiencing delays, it was finally enacted in full on March 2010, when fines went from the maximum of ¢20.000 colones set in 1993 to almost ¢400.000 colones. In addition, a point system was introduced.

Until last year, when the Constitutional Court began rolling back fines, transport officials reported a reduction in traffic fatalities. Since then, the numbers of deaths and injuries have begun to increase again.

In the last 12 months, Constitutional Court rulings rolled back the ¢351.000 fine for reckless driving to ¢20.000. Driving without wearing a seat belt costs only ¢15.000 instead of ¢237.000, and not having the Riteve (vehicular inspection) was rolled back from ¢205.000, for example.

Transit authorities are insisting on the urgency of the implementation of the new legislation that was approved last month in first vote and is currently being sent to the Constitutional Court for a review, to avoid the constitutional issues experienced with the current law.

The fines proposed in the new law are lower than those in the 2008 legislation, but hefty enough to become a deterrent to reckless driving.

Municipalities Sign Agreement To Process Construction Permits Online Tuesday 10 July 2012 Inside Costa Rica- Costa Rica News Home  

Costa Rica enters a new phase in development that will benefit housing and infrastructure in general, with 100% of the municipalities signing an agreement for all construction procedures be performed digitally. 

The development is sponsored by the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y de Arquitectos (CFIA) - Association of Engineers and Architects - that has been working with the municipalities since last year.

The project is called "Administrador de Proyectos de Construcción” (APC) - Construction Project Management.

Thus, municipalities may link to, review and receive plans from some institutions like the Instituto Nacional de Vivienda y Urbanismo (National Institute of Housing), the Ministerio de Salud (Ministry of Health), the Cuerpo de Bomberos (Fire department), the Acueductos y Alcantarillados (water and sewer utility) and the CFIA.

As part of the program the CFIA has been training municipal officials on the APC. 

All 85 municipalities in the country are on board to use the technological tool and enable the construction permits process to be handled online. It will be some months before the program will be fully implemented.


Canadian Tourism Increasing in Costa Rica

July 10, 2012 Inside Costa Rica / Costaricanorth.com
The interest of Canadian travelers to fly into Costa Rican territory is growing. This was determined by interest of airlines to open new flights from Canada. 

There are currently three existing airlines that fly from Toronto and Montreal to both national airports in Costa Rica. 
The arrival of more Canadians could be important income for the Costa Rican economy because the country is one of the wealthiest in the world.

"The increase of flights from Canada is in part due to the signing of the Air Transport Agreement between the two countries," said Luis Carlos Araya, Deputy of Air Transportation.

TACA was the first to launch into full force to attract the Canadian market. Since July 1st, TACA expanded its flights between San Jose and Toronto from three flights weekly to a one daily.

The strategy of TACA to expand the market doesn’t stop there; it is in the process of adding a direct flight from Juan Santamaria to Montreal. The flight to Montreal, which has no start date, will stop at the airport in El Salvador.
Air Canada also increased its operations to Costa Rica, but not from the capital. Liberia, Guanacaste is the next destination the U.S. Company is interested in exploring next semester.

These aren't the only airlines that are interested in connecting Canada with Costa Rica.

West Jet, a Canadian airline is also exploring flights to Costa Rica. Although the low-cost airline is interested in adding Costa Rica to its flight schedule, they have not made a formal proposal.

There are two main purposes of Canadian tourists wanting to travel to Costa Rica; the first is to enjoy recreation and adventure offered by national tourist regions and secondly are those traveling for medical tourism.  For Costa Ricans, the arrival of these new flights will provide them with more opportunity to travel to Canada. Those who know Montreal say nobody can leave without trying the smoked beef sandwich at Schwartz's restaurant.

Teatro Jacó has full slate of comedy for July

July 11, 2012 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
This month Jacó Beach will be the scene of virtually non-stop comedy with Teatro Jaco's inaugural “JACO Ha Ha 2012,” featuring two weekends of acts from the United States, two weekends of Costa Rican acts and comedy workshops in both English and Spanish.

The first half of the month will be devoted to English acts, which started yesterday with “Faye Lane's Beauty Shop Stories” until the Monday, then the next night comedy troupe, Upright Citizen's Brigade will take over with two nights of workshops followed by five nights of performances.

Breaking for one day, the second half of the month with feature comedy acts in Spanish, starting off with two nights of workshops, followed by three nights of Sergio Masis' “Maldito Murphy,” and concluding with three performances of a sit-com-styled show called “Qué Zambrote!”

“Now everybody's on vacation in Costa Rica. It's nice to have something for people to enjoy and laugh at,” said Ulrike Gutiérrez, production assistant at Teatro Jacó. “It's a good month for that.”

Founded in 2010 by Darren Lee Cole, who also co-owns an off-Broadway theater in New York City called SoHo Playhouse, Teatro Jacó opened at the Oceans Center, last December.

Although Ms. Gutiérrez says that the two shows in English have already been performed at Cole's theater in New York City and were fairly easy to book for Teatro Jacó, but she says this is still a very busy month compared to what they are used to.

“Faye Lane's Beauty Shop Stories” is an autobiographical stand-up performance by Rhonda Faye Gunnels, in which she tells stories of growing up in her mother's beauty salon. She will give four more performances until Monday.

Next up is two evenings of workshops and five performances by Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational theater group with performance spaces in New York City and Hollywood, California. Upright Citizens once had its own television show on Comedy Central from 1998 until 2000, and has had members such as Amy Poehler and Horatio Sans over the years.For the local acts performing in Spanish, Ms. Gutiérrez says that Teatro Jacó had little trouble  recruiting the acts from San José, where most performers are based.   After the cast of “Qué Zambrote!” gives two workshops on the 18th and 19th, one actor and one actress will perform 21 shorts about how Murphy's Law affects all stages of life, in actor, director and playwrightttt Sergio Masis' “Maldito Murphy,” which will run three nights that weekend.After a three-day pause, “Qué Zambrote!” will return for three performances, from July 26 to 28, in which local comedians Rita Fields and Ricardo Segura will play 14 characters and depict comedic scenes of everyday Costa Rican life.

For the performances in English, general tickets cost $20 for general admission and $30 for VIP seating which includes two drinks. Performances in Spanish are $10 for general admission and $20 for VIP seating. The workshops in English are $20 for one night and $30 for both nights. The workshops in Spanish cost 5,000 colons for one night and 7,500 for both.  All shows start at 8 p.m., and all workshops start at 6 p.m.

 

 


Costa Rica Jaco News & Info up to June 17, 2012


Costa Rica is Once Again the Happiest Nation According to New Report
Costa Rica Star14 Jun 2012  

The 2012 Happy Planet Index (HPI) was issued earlier today, and Costa Rica tops the list as the happiest country on Earth. The HPI is compiled and release by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), an independent think tank based in the United Kingdom that focuses economic well-being. The NEF describes the HPI as a report that measures and focuses on what really matters: sustainable well-being and how nations are doing in terms of supporting their inhabitants to live good lives now, while ensuring that others can do the same in future.
According to the official press release by the NEF, the HPI is the leading global measure of sustainable well-being. The rationale for the index is described by the foundation as a new measure of human progress. It considers the following empirical data: 
“[ ]the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them. The 2012 HPI report, published today, ranks 151 countries based on their efficiency – the extent to which each nation produces long and happy lives per unit of environmental input.”

The headline indicator of the HPI report is described by the simple formula of happy life years divided by the ecological footprint. The HPI is, in essence, a measure of efficiency. Costa Rica may top the list, but the overall report:  “confirms that we are still not living on a happy planet with no country achieving high and sustainable well-being and only nine are close to doing so.

The HPI is a headline indicator that provides an overall picture, but countries which do well on the HPI can still suffer many problems. Other indicators will also be necessary to fully assess how societies are doing. nef (the new economics foundation) has developed a measurement framework of which HPI is one component; it sits alongside other measures such as economic performance and environmental pressure.”Nations in Latin America and the Caribbean top the list, even though many of them, like Costa Rica, are still considered Third World nations with very modest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) output.

The United Kingdom is listed at position number 41 on the list, while the United States scored 105 out of 151 nations.   In previous years, the HPI has seen its fair share of criticism, but the interest in the overall happiness of the population and the interaction between state of mind, social welfare, and the environment has recently increased. Nations such as Costa Rica and Bhutan are now consulted by member states of the United Nations on policy-making advice that can directly appeal to the happiness of their people.

For exchange rate, 5 years of stability
 June 15, 2012 - By Fernando Quirós Tico Times

In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Costa Rica suffered its worst currency devaluation in history. Today, exchange-rate stability is considered one of the country’s economic victories.

 A major achievement of the Costa Rican economy is that the colón-dollar exchange rate – which has hovered around ₡500 to the dollar since 2007 – is no longer a source of anxiety for Ticos or companies. Once the country’s most important economic indicator, the exchange rate has dropped off the radar for short- to medium-term economic planning.

To appreciate how unprecedented exchange rate stability is, observers should take a long-term view by looking at the Central Bank’s exchange rate on Jan. 1 for each of the past 30 years (see graph).

Clearly, something happened in 2007. Up to that year, devaluation of the colón averaged 11.18 percent during 23 years. Since 2007, despite a slip to 11.52 percent in 2009, devaluation of Costa Rica’s currency has averaged only 0.71 percent, with the colón actually gaining value against the dollar in 2007, 2011 and 2012.

It’s not surprising that the Central Bank’s records only go back to 1983. From 1978-1982, Costa Rica suffered its worst currency devaluation ever, from 8.6 to 45.2, an average of 107 percent per year. These disastrous numbers cannot communicate the chaos they entailed, as the Central Bank ran completely out of dollars, and then defaulted on bonds it issued to pay its dollar debts. Those  who went through those hyper-inflationary times and saw prominent Costa Rican companies go bankrupt, will never forget. But big upheavals enable major change: Costa Rica junked its import-substitution model, nationalization of dollars by the Central Bank was abolished, and the country switched to a modern, open, export-oriented economy.

Once things settled down, the long climb from 45.20 colones per dollar in 1983 to 517.90 in 2007 reflects a natural strategy for a country exporting principally agricultural commodities, including coffee, sugar and bananas. The 10 percent or so of devaluation every year helps keep the dollar price of these types of exports competitive in international markets.

But the world changes, and Costa Rica has done a pretty fair job of adapting. The original basket of three commodities became much more varied, including ornamental plants, fish, seafood and tourism, among others. As low-cost producers of coffee, such as Vietnam, emerged in commodity markets, Costa Rica was able to brand itself as a premier gourmet coffee producer and command premium prices for its golden beans. Most important of all, Costa Rica managed to diversify away from agricultural commodities as its main dollar earners, towards services and high-tech manufacturing.

The change in the devaluation pattern that became evident in 2007 was the result of a change in how the exchange rate was set by the Central Bank, adopted in September 2006. Until then, the Central Bank led the dollar foreign-exchange market under a mini-devaluation strategy, with frequent, very small devaluations, in a predictable pattern that businesses could forecast. The Central Bank would set buy and sell exchange rates, which other exchange- market participants (mostly banks and securities brokerages) then fell in line with.

Starting in September 2006, the Central Bank changed its approach. Instead of directly setting an exchange rate, it would now set upper and lower “bands,” or intervention rates at which it would enter the market to keep the exchange rate within reasonable bounds. As long as the exchange rate stayed within the upper and lower exchange rate bands, the Central Bank would stay on the sidelines and let supply and demand between other market players determine the rate.

The lower band was set at ₡500 to the dollar, and since 2007, investment flows into the country became big and steady enough so that, together with the much more varied export-revenue mix, the exchange rate under the new, basically free-market foreign-exchange regime, stabilized. This stability proved solid enough for the exchange rate to get through the 2008-2010 world economic downturn with only one slip – the 11.52 percent devaluation in 2009 – followed by immediate recovery, with slight revaluations in 2011 and 2012.

Though traditional exporters grumble that lack of colón devaluation hurts their competitive position in the world market, the stable exchange rate since 2007 has been the single biggest factor allowing Costa Rica to finally bring its inflation rate into single digits. This is the biggest contribution that the Central Bank and the government can make to the economic well-being of the poor. 

 

Tourists to Costa Rica will spend $1.3 Billion during 2012
Posted by Marcel Evans on June 13, 2012 in Business Miami, June 13, 2012: & Costa Rica Star

Tourists are in love with Costa Rica. This is indicated by the US$1.3 billion to spend this year in our country, 15% more than in 2011, according to the second annual Global Destinations Cities Index from MasterCard. The research reveals that San Jose, Costa Rica, ranks sixth in disbursement of money for tourists. The first place is Mexico, the second Buenos Aires, the third Sao Paulo, the fourth Lima, and the fifth Bogota.

The amount of international travelers visiting top destination cities in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is expected to increase, totaling 16.6 million visitors in 2012. The growth figures for Latin America show real signs of positivity, with projected visitor numbers up by 7.3% for the top ten destination cities in the region and total predictions for international spend growth at 7.9%.

According to the Index, despite a challenging economic climate, the overall travel and tourism picture is predicted to improve, with the number of international visitors and their spending projected to increase in 2012.

“In spite of a challenging global economic backdrop, this year’s Index projects that there are hotspots of robust growth around the globe, in terms of both international visitor arrivals and expenditure,” said Dr Yuwa Hedrick- Wong, Global Economic Advisor for MasterCard Worldwide and author of the report.
Meanwhile, other cities including Quito, Bogota and San Jose are predicted to enjoy increased international visitor spend this year.
“It is important to understand the role Latin American cities play when taking a look at global commerce and how electronic payments enable international travelers to make safe, simple and smart payments anywhere in the world,” said Richard Hartzell, President, MasterCard Latin America and Caribbean region. “This Index indicates that Latin America and the Caribbean are attracting more international travelers and we want to help facilitate the growth of cashless commerce.”

The MasterCard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks cities in terms of the number of their total international visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by these same visitors in the destination cities, and gives visitor and passenger growth forecasts for 2012.  This Index and the accompanying reports are not based on MasterCard volumes or transactional data.

LAC Rankings for the 2012 Global Destinations Cities Index
Topping the charts as destination cities from the region by international travelers are: 1) Mexico City, Mexico; 2) Buenos Aires, Argentina; 3) São Paulo, Brazil; 4) Lima, Peru; 5) Bogota, Colombia; 6) San Jose, Costa Rica; 7) Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; 8) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; 9) Caracas, Venezuela and 10) Quito, Ecuador.

The top ten destination cities in LAC by international visitor spend are: 1) Buenos Aires, Argentina; 2) São Paulo, Brazil; 3) Mexico City, Mexico; 4) Lima, Peru; 5) Bogota, Colombia; 6) San Jose, Costa Rica; 7) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; 8) Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; 9) Caracas, Venezuela and 10) Quito, Ecuador  -Quito, who shows an expected growth rate of 18.8%, moves into the LAC Top Ten list for the first time.  -Mexico City, with 3.5 million arrivals, is expected to receive more visitors than any other city in Latin America making it the top destination in the region. Buenos Aires follows in second place with 2.6 million visitors. In fact, more international travelers are expected to visit Mexico City and Buenos Aires (3.5 million and 2.6 million) than San Francisco, Washington D.C, Atlanta, Vancouver and Houston.

Inbound Travelers to LAC Mostly Come From the US or the Region Itself
-Based on air travel, most visitors traveling to the top destination city in LAC – Mexico City – are coming from the US including Miami, Houston, New York and Los Angeles. While visitors from Miami and New York to Mexico City are growing at 17.1% and 12.5% respectively, visitors from Los Angeles and Houston are declining by 20.7% and 0.8% respectively.

Visitor Spending in LAC
-Aside from high numbers of visitor arrivals, Buenos Aires currently ranks highest among LAC cities by visitor expenditure, with US $3.0 billion. Sao Paulo follows closely with US $2.9 billion, dropping to second place after being top ranked in 2011 with international visitor spending declining by 5%.-Quito, coming in tenth place, shows the strongest growth rate for amount spent by visitors at an astonishing 26.3%, followed by Bogota at an impressive 24.8%.-International visitor spending in Caracas is expected to see a sharp decline of 9.3% compared with the 2011 level.-Though there is set to be a lower average international spend per visit of $982 in LAC, this figure is up by 0.6% from last year.

For the second year in a row, London comes in as the world’s most popular destination city for overseas travelers. The top overall ranking is based on a predicted uplift of international visitor numbers by 1.1% to a record 16.9 million, while visitors’ spend is set to increase by a sizzling 10.3% to $21.1 million. MasterCard also projects that if current growth continues, London may well be a so-called ‘cashless capital’ by 2025, when the number of electronic payments will be greater than the number of cash transactions.

Methodology
The MasterCard Worldwide Index of Global Destination Cities is compiled using international flight and flight capacity information purchased from OAG Global, a provider of international aviation data. Flight schedules are also used for calculating flight frequency between pairs of cities. Airlines also publish on a regular basis their historical load factor, and advance flight schedules, which are then used to estimate the actual outbound passenger departures, and for forecasting outbound passenger departures in the coming year.

On any given flight there are visitors from the departure country, returning residents of the destination city after visiting the departure country, and a third group: non-residents connecting through the departure country to the destination city on their way to a second destination city. This group can be a low proportion of the passengers for typically non-hub cities, but very high for destination cities that are “hubs” such as Singapore, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt.On a country level, the UN Database of “Trade in Service” in the “Travel Component” provides estimates of how much each year residents spend abroad (air fare paid in home country not included). An algorithm is applied to this total outbound expenditure and estimated total number of outbound passengers to derive an estimate of average per outbound passenger’s expenditure overseas.A margin of error is also unavoidable in such estimates, as not all outbound trips are of equal length, and the cost of living varies a great between arrival cities such that even if each trip of equal length, expenditure per passenger between different arrival cities would still be very different.This margin of error is reduced significantly by imposing a minimum of expenditures in the algorithm, after a number of iterative testing (US$500 per trip for bordering arrival country and US$700 per trip for non-bordering arrival country).Please note the city rankings from the 2011 MasterCard Index of Global Destination Cities are altered retrospectively as updates in data become available.About Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Ph.D., Global Economic Advisor, MasterCard Worldwide.  Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong is a business strategist and economist with 25 years of experience gained in over thirty countries. He was appointed Global Economic Advisor to MasterCard Worldwide in 2009. Prior to this role, he was Economic Advisor to MasterCard in Asia/Pacific, a position he held since 2001. As economic advisor, he chairs a MasterCard Knowledge Panel of leading economists, policy analysts, academics and business strategists for regular exchange and knowledge sharing. In 2007 he was appointed Advisor at Southern Capital Group, a private equity fund; and in 2008 he was appointed to the Investment Council of ICICI, India’s largest private bank.

 

Costa Rica Still The Happiest Place On Earth
June 15, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
• Vietnam and Colombia Follow
The weather is warm, the beaches are sublime and people hate pollution -- no wonder Costa Ricans are smiling. The country has been dubbed the happiest in the world according to the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index.
Costa Rica achieves a Happy Planet Index Score of 64.0 and ranks #1 of all the countries analyzed. Costa Rica's HPI score reflects a high life expectancy, high levels of experienced well-being, and a moderate ecological footprint.


Click here for the data.

The organization ranked all of the countries in the world by from data culled from the Gallup World Poll, asking people how they felt their lives measured up on a scale of one to 10.
They then factored in life expectancy and the country’s ecological ‘footprint’ -- the amount of land needed to sustain the its way of life.

 

By this measure Costa Rica is the happiest place on Earth, with Vietnam and Colombia coming in second and third.

The United States ranked a dismal 105th place, way behind Libya, Bangladesh and Turkmenistan.

The NEF drubbed America and the United Kingdom for its poor use of resources.

These scores may seem odd considering the amount of poverty in many of these Latin American countries countries -- but money isn’t everything, NEF says.

Rich and poor countries -- the U.S. and Central African Republic both scored miserably.

As the same time, many of the countries that scored high -- such as El Salvador and Nicargua -- have experiences vicious outbreaks of violence in recent years.

“Countries that do well on the HPI suffer many problems and many high-ranking countries are tainted by important human rights issues,” the NEF explains in its findings. “Though one would expect the infringement of rights to negatively impact on the well-being of some people in the country, the HPI does not set out to directly measure those rights.”

The NEF said that it doesn’t believe its Happy Planet Index is the only way the measure the success of a country -- but it’s a valid indicator of the state of a nation.

“By only using indicators like GDP to measure success we are not accounting for what really matters, producing happy lives people now and in the future,” it said.

Qatar, Chad and Botswana were given ranked the ‘unhappiest’ places on the planet.

 

 

75 percent of companies unpaid new corporate tax
May 22, 2012 Published in Diario Extra
Of the approximately 575,000 registered corporations in the country only 145,045 have paid the new flat rate corporate tax. The deadline came on April 30th, and those requiring documents or changes through the commercial registry will be required to settle unpaid taxes and interest.

Non-U.S. friends will be welcome at July 4 picnic
May 24, 2012 A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S citizens who attend the July 4 bash at the beer company grounds will be able to bring a non-U.S. friend. A member of the American Colony Committee board of directors confirmed this Wednesday. The committee sponsors the picnic.

A.M. Costa Rica reported May 3 that the picnic once again will be held at the Cervercería Costa Rica picnic grounds west of San José.

The decision by the committee to admit non-U.S. citizens is a major change from past years. Until now those who attended had to be U.S. citizens with passports or be close relatives of citizens.

Naturally, some expats were irked by this rule, and some U.S. citizens did not attend because they thought that their boy or girl friend or non-U.S. business associate would be denied entry.

Expat workers at the gate were much more flexible than the written rules, but the bar to non-U.S. citizens generated some ill will over the years.The members of the committee had argued that the picnic would be flooded by persons simply seeking free beer and hot dogs.

Now there is a small entry fee, and the requirement that a non-U.S. citizen be accompanied by an American is expected to keep that from happening. Much of the food and drink is donated.

The time this year is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Last year the committee joined with Avenida Escazú, the shopping center, to hold the event in the afternoon. But heavy rains dampened the event and cut attendance.

The picnic has grown over more than 50 years from a U.S. expat gathering at the home of the U.S. ambassador, to the present event that draws thousands. This picnic will be the 52nd organized by the committee, it said.

The picnic was designed to provide the children of U.S. expats with a real July 4 celebration. Children still are a priority with games and rides in previous years.

 The Cervercería grounds west of San José contains a large field for all types of games. Usually service clubs, the U.S. Embassy and veteran groups set up informational booths for visitors. The committee Web site is about to be updated with information for this year. The committee also is seeking donations from expats, local businesses and others to help support the event.

 

Costa Rica aspires to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development   May 22, 2012 - By Tico Times

President Laura Chinchilla announced the country’s membership goals during a Paris forum titled “A Better Quality of Life 2.0.”Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla on Tuesday reaffirmed the country’s intentions of joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

During a tour of Europe, Chinchilla participated in Paris as a speaker at a forum titled “A Better Quality of Life 2.0,” organized by the OECD. Chinchilla said her country is committed to participating in the group, where major economic and development decisions are made. “The OECD has been a beacon in our journey towards development, and for more than half a century has provided guidance, analysis, reflection and inspiration,” she said. The forum’s focus is discussing actions to achieve better living conditions for the world’s residents, and Chinchilla referred to three main areas that Costa Rica could work with the OECD: social investment, protection of the planet and free-trade promotion.

Chinchilla will be in Europe until May 31 to promote cooperation between Central America and the EU and to attract investment. After France, she is scheduled to visit Germany, Italy, and the Vatican, where she will meet with Pope Benedict XVI. Last year, the OECD removed Costa Rica from its list of “tax havens,” where the country had appeared since 2009.

 New immigration rules have good news on rentistas  
May 21, 2012  A.M. Costa Rica staff

The second set of immigration regulations became public Thursday, and there was no crackdown on perpetual tourists.The new rules did lower to $60,000 the amount a foreigner would need to become a rentista, according to Javier Zavaleta of Residency in Costa Rica.  He follows the issues from his California office.

“New income requirement for rentista is still $2,500 per month of unearned income BUT for only 2 years (24 months) instead of five years or sixty months,” he wrote. “In terms of money:  a rentista applicant will now need only $60,000 in the bank instead of $150,000 previously required.”

The $60,000 requirement was the amount required through March 1, 2010, when the new immigration law upped the requirement. The rules published Thursday in the La Gaceta official newspaper represent the second set that defines the details in how the law is applied.

The requirement for pensionado remains at a lifelong income of at least $1,000 a month.
The regulations did not mention perpetual tourists as many had feared. But it did repeat the legal definition of tourist. That is a person authorized to enter the country only for the ends of rest or relaxation and who has the economic means of subsistence sufficient for the authorized period.

That definition could cause problems for the perpetual tourists who have businesses here or who work via the Internet. For years, many real estate salesmen were perpetual tourists who left the country every 90 days to renew their visa.

The 214-page document bears the signature of President Laura Chinchilla Miranda and Mario  Zamora Cordero, the security minster. The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería is in his ministry.

The document is full of rules and regulations that will never affect expats. These include the statues of persons living along the nation's borders or truckers who enter the country regularly. Also treated in detail are foreigners who come to Costa Rica as sports participants, members of religious groups or news people.

“This is a very good change for potential applicants under the rentista program, “ said Zavaleta. “It points out that Migración realizes that the only time the rentista needs to prove income is at the time the application is filed and at the time of the first renewal -- two years after the initial approval as a temporary resident. Why? Because after three years of being a temp resident, the temp resident can apply for permanent residency, which has no income requirement."

The regulations accept the new system of apostille for foreign documents, which means the paperwork will not have to be passed through a Costa Rican consulate.

The rules also clearly state that foreigners married to a Costa Rican can obtain temporary residency for a year.

The rules also spell out for the first time how persons who come to Costa Rica for medical care can obtain a form of authorization to remain in the country. The requirements are much the same as other forms of residency and cost $100. Most medical visitors, unless they plan a very long stay, probably will continue to come under a tourism visa.

The rules also outline that a resident who loses documents will have to pay $98 for replacement. 

  

   Honey & Salt Added To List  Of Sales Tax Exempt Items
May 15, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
Bee honey, salt, shrimp and certain types of cuts of meat and fish for public consumption, such as tilapia, are now also exempt from the 13% sales tax. 

The exemptions were added to the list of products without sales tax with the announcement by the ministro de Hacienda, Edgar Ayales, on Monday.
Ayales said that the decree for the exemptions will be published today or tomorrow in the La Gaceta and will include the items in the Canasta Basic (Basic Basket), correcting the errors made last week in changes to the sales tax items.

Among the items that will remain taxable are Porterhouse and T-Bone steaks, salmon, jasmine rice, artichokes, peaches, figs, mushrooms, grapefruit and nectarines, among others.  "We want the lower income class to be affected less", said Ayales.The government uses the Encuesta de Ingresos y Gastos to determine which products are taxable and not. 

   IBM to invest $300 million in new Costa Rica IT center 
 May 14, 2012 - By Tico Times
International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) on Thursday opened a new Costa Rica Delivery Center in the province of Heredia, north of the capital.

The company announced it will invest $300 million over the next 10 years and intends to employ up to 1,000 people by 2014, affirming the country's position as a strategic services hub for the technology giant.The new facility will support clients in the areas of IT security, data storage, business analytics, cloud computing and other services in demand. Additionally, the center will provide technology capabilities that can anticipate and help prevent fraud and IT hacking.
“With IBM’s state-of-the-art facilities, thousands of Costa Ricans will be able to showcase their talent, pushing Costa Rica further down the path of innovation, knowledge and technology; a path that we have bravely undertaken with courage and commitment, but most of all, with great confidence in the talent of our people,” President Laura Chinchilla said during an opening ceremony held at the America Free Zone.
 

 

Manuel Antonio park gets another trail for visitors   
May 15, 2012  A.M. Costa Rica staff  
Park and environmental officials inaugurated another trail at Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio Monday.The trail is to Punta Catedral and has a 10-year life expectancy. The Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones said that environmentally friendly materials were used for the rebuilt trail. In some sections where erosion was anticipated, concrete was used. The cost of the project was 58 million colons or about $116,000.

One purpose of the trail is to take pressure off existing routes, which are much used by tourists. The project was under the jurisdiction of the  Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación.The project was designed to have a minimal impact on the environment, officials said.

Costa Rica's Central Bank Ensures the Stability Foreign Capital Wants    May 14, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
While the global economy dominates financial news headlines, many consumers are unaware that the major issues that face the developed economies of the world are often magnified when viewed from a small country perspective.   For a nation like Costa Rica, the only “buffer” that exists between the economic challenges facing global commerce and the domestic priorities of its local economy is its central bank.
The primary mission for all central banks is to maintain price stability by controlling inflation, and when achieved, a country’s business environment becomes very attractive for foreign investment.
The central bank of Costa Rica is the Banco Central de Costa Rica, or “BCCR” for short. It has developed an international reputation for credibility, efficiency, and transparency while keeping inflation and general prices in check through its various policies. The published operating objectives of the bank are as follows:

• Maintain internal stability of the national currency, seeking to turn the full employment of productive resources.

• Maintain external stability of the national currency and ensure their free conversion to other currencies.

• Promote a stable system of financial intermediation, efficient and competitive.

Costa Rica, like many other emerging economies in the world, has benefited from strong growth characteristics over the past decade.
Since 2000, GDP growth has averaged 4.2% for the past eleven years. Yes, there was a slight contraction in 2009 of 1.3% during the “Great Recession”, but each of the other ten years exhibited positive growth with many exceeding 5% annually, a record that many developed countries would hope to achieve in one year.

Growth at this level over an extended period of time, however, can create demand pressure on prices resulting in inflation. For the better part of the past decade, inflation in Costa Rica has exceeded ten percent, but through the policies of the BCCR, inflation has been fortunately brought under control in recent years.
In 2010, 5.8% was the official rate, but that figure has been reduced to 4.7% for both 2011 and 2012. Interest rates tend to be high in developing countries in order to curb inflation.
In Costa Rica, the central bank rate stands at 8.5%, much less than double-digit rates when inflation was higher.

Controlling inflation has also led to a stable national currency, the “Colón” or “CRC”, for Costa Rica. In 2006, the central bank allowed the currency to float in international foreign exchange markets within two bands, a method tried previously in Chile. A forex trader with the best forex platform will typically avoid speculating on a currency with these constraints. As a result the currency’s value has been maintained within 495 and 515 versus the greenback for the past few years. A stable foreign exchange balance of $4.7 billion has been accumulated to facilitate international trade, as well.

This stable financial environment has attracted both increased tourism and foreign investment.
Costa Rica is now the most visited nation in the Central American region, with tourism contributing over $2.2 billion annually to the economy. Tourism now earns more foreign exchange revenue than the combined exports for coffee, pineapples, and bananas, the country’s three primary cash crops.

This year is also marks the fifteenth anniversary of Intel’s arrival in Costa Rica. Investing over $900 million in equipment and infrastructure since it began domestic operations, Intel is now the country’s largest exporter, accounting for 6% of the nation’s gross domestic product and providing nearly 3,000 jobs for local citizens.
A stable business atmosphere will always attract foreign capital, and the BCCR has done its part to facilitate many local success stories, such as Intel and others.

 

 Starbucks to sell Tico brand in Costa Rica store
May 11, 2012 - By Tico Times
Bella Vista Coffee, hailing from Tres Ríos, southeast of San José, will be the first Tico coffee for sale in Starbucks’ new Escazú location, southwest of the capital, the daily La Nación reported.

The new store is the coffee giant’s first in Costa Rica. The chain, which has been a major buyer of Costa Rican coffee for years, will open its new store on Avenida Escazú sometime in the next two weeks, where patrons will find 250 gram bags of Bella Vista beans for sale.

“We are some of the principal suppliers of Starbucks, and they are the No. 1 individual buyer that Costa Rica has for its coffee,” Ronald Peters, executive director of the Coffee Institute of Costa Rica told The Tico Times in February. “Opening a café here gives national consumers a style [of drinking coffee] that is known globally, and in this way promotes the consumption of coffee. That is important for us” (TT, Feb. 3).

Starbucks administrators told La Nación they selected Bella Vista Coffee because it is grown between 1,350 and 1,500 meters above sea level, and has good quality, flavor and acidity.
 

Costa Rica is region’s best country to raise children, study says 
 May 09, 2012 - By Tico Times

A study released on Tuesday by nonprofit group Save the Children ranks Costa Rica 13th among a list of 80 countries based on conditions for raising children.

Following Costa Rica in the region is Panama (24th), El Salvador (37th), Belize (42th), Nicaragua (49th), Honduras (60th) and Guatemala (68th).

The list divided 165 countries into three categories: more-developed (43 countries), less-developed (80) and least-developed (42). Costa Rica appears on the less-developed countries list.

Norway, Iceland and Sweden top the more-developed list, while the United States ranks 25th. Cuba, Israel and Barbados are the top three among less-developed countries.

Rwanda, Bhutan and Malawi headed the least-developed list, while Yemen, Afghanistan and Niger ranked at the bottom.

The study also ranked factors such as mothers' health, education and economic status, as well as child indicators such as health and nutrition.  Save the Children called for more global action to tackle the cycle of maternal and child malnutrition when G8 leaders gather in Camp David, in the U.S., at the end of the month.

 

Grainger comes to Costa Rica  May 11, 2012 - Tico Times
Grainger, a U.S.-based industrial supply giant, opened its first Costa Rica location on Tuesday in the northwestern San José district of La Uruca.

“Our clients in Costa Rica have said they want an inventory available locally and we’ve responded,” said Eduardo Sauma, general manager of Grainger Costa Rica. “Local businesses are looking for products and solutions that help them be more efficient, reduce operating costs and keep their employees safe at work. We are obliged to help them accomplish these goals.”

The new location is a 1,000 square meter warehouse stocked with everything from drive belts to fluid cleanup kits, and work boots to tool bags. The warehouse will be staffed by area residents and will employ about 15 people by the end of the year, said Mauricio Ganem, general manager of Central America and the Caribbean for Grainger.  In 2011, Grainger racked up some $8.1 billion in sales. The company serves approximately two million countries worldwide in 157 countries, and employs more than 21,500 individuals.

15 years later, Bill Clinton returns to Costa Rica
 May 10, 2012 - By Tico Tiimes Matt Levin
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Costa Rica to promote sustainable economies and the benefits of taking action on climate change. He met with President Laura Chinchilla on Wednesday, and spoke Wednesday night at the Sustainability and Happiness Business Forum, held at Hotel InterContinental in Escazú. The two discussed Costa Rica’s role in the growing global market for “green” technology.
Naturally, the payment for Wednesday night’s speech was not disclosed. Each of the 650-plus seats looked filled during Clinton’s presentation at the Hotel InterContinental in Escazú, southwest of the capital. Tickets for the two-day congress, known as the Sustainability and Happiness Business Forum, cost $750 (see box).

Clinton did his part by delivering a message on environmental sustainability. He cited statistics and gave colorful anecdotes, while relying on a practical theme: Green economies save the environment and money. “My advice to everybody is to do something [so] that other people can see that the only economics that can make sense in the long run are sustainable economics,” Clinton said.

He gave the typical platitudes about Costa Rica. The former U.S. president praised the country’s protection of jungles and use of hydropower, and he lauded Costa Rica as an example for the rest of the world on how green economies can succeed.

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla met with Clinton before the speech at Casa Presidencial, in the southeastern San José district of Zapote, where he suggested Costa Rica could be a leader in renewable energy technology.
Clinton also recalled his first visit to Costa Rica for the 1997 Summit of the Americas, where he joined Latin American leaders in pledging commitments to sustainable development.
At last year’s Sustainability and Happiness Business Forum, the keynote speaker was former Vice President Gore. Figueres – who returned to Costa Rica from a seven-year self-exile at the end of 2011 – spoke at this year’s forum, as did special guests former Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva and an expert on the Bhutanese government’s National Happiness Index, Lhaba Tshering, among others.
A campaign launched by the Clinton Foundation called the Clinton Climate Initiative attempts to address climate change by working with governments to reduce emissions, utilize clean energy and prevent deforestation. He touched on all three of these issues during his speech, heaping abundant accolades on Brazil and Costa Rica.

  

Seventh Costa Rican qualifies for 2012 Summer Olympics
May 09, 2012 - By Tico Times 
Osman Murillo, 27, became the seventh Costa Rican to qualify for the upcoming 2012 Olympics Games in London. Murillo discovered Wednesday morning on the website of the International Judo Federation that his ranking qualified him for a spot in the upcoming summer games, which begin July 27.

Murillo competes in the 73 kilogram weight class, where he is ranked 267th in the world. The Tico will train for four weeks in Costa Rica before going to Europe for six months of preparation for the Olympics.
Other national athletes who have qualified for the Olympics are triathlete Leonardo Chacón, marathon runners Gabriela Traña and César Lizano, Nery Brenes for the 400 meter race, Heiner Oviedo for Taekwondo and Andrey Amador in men’s road cycling.

 

Caja invests $29,000 in cervical cancer treatment 
 May 08, 2012 - By Tico Times
Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer type among women in Costa Rica.
The Social Security System, or Caja, on Tuesday announced an investment of ₡148 million ($29,000) in diagnostic and treatment equipment for patients with cervical cancer, one of the top three causes of death in Costa Rica.  Caja Executive President Ileana Balmaceda said “with this equipment the institution increases care for women and improves early diagnosis of lesions in the cervix, to reduce the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer.”  The equipment was distributed to the Caja’s 12 hospitals.
Cervical cancer is the third most-common type among women in Costa Rica. Of every 100 women diagnosed with cancer, 21 suffer from skin cancer, 19 from breast cancer and 13 from cervical cancer. It is also third in terms of mortality rate (7 percent), behind breast cancer (15 percent) and stomach cancer (13 percent).

  

   

Sales Tax On Some Food & Cigarettes Take Effect Today  
May 7, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
If you are a smoker prepare to shell out ¢400 colones more for a 20 pack of cigarettes, as the new tax on cigarettes takes effect today, which will put cigarettes between $1.80-$2.80. The Ley Antitabaco was passed and in effect at the end of March, but it is today, May 7, when the new tax of ¢20 colones per cigarette goes into effect.

A check of supermarkets on Saturday show a low stock of all tobacco products. At Pricesmart in Escazú not a cigarette was to be found in the store.

Also today goes into effect the 13% sales tax on some 90 products that include certain cuts of beef and pork, as well as imported fruits like plums & peaches and lobster, shrimp and oysters.The tax on food is prt of the action taken by the government after the failure of the Plan Fiscal (Tax Reform).

Government officials say the increase will not affect the low-income population, as the foods now subject to the sales tax are primarily consumed by higher-income families.Retailers, starting today, must collect the sales tax and include it in its sales declarations to the tax collector.

May 8, 2012  A.M. Costa Rica staff
The list of untaxed items that went into effect Monday is heavy on fresh products. In most cases, canned products, except tuna, are subject to the 13 percent tax.Many cuts of meat are not taxed but tenderloin, T-bone, delmonico and sirloin are. This followed the Chinchilla administration's goal of keeping tax-free those food items that the lower-income families might purchase.
The Cámara Costarricense de la Industria Alimentaria asked President Laura Chinchilla Friday to suspend the decree that she issued setting the new rules for taxing food items.
Monday the Cámara de Industrias also asked for the decree to be set aside. The chamber noted that some 90 products are now being taxed that were not taxed previously. The decree created uncertainty, the chamber said.   Some of the uncertainty, noted the chamber, is due to the vague language describing some of the products that should be taxed. The chamber also said that by favoring fresh products over processed foods, which are now being taxed, the president overlooks the health benefits of packaging.    The chamber also said that had the decree been published on the Casa Presidencial Web site before the effective date, there would have been an opportunity for those affected to comment.

The Ministerio de Hacienda published a press release on its Web site Monday which sought to clarify some aspects of the tax. It also reminded vendors that some of them now are obligated to collect sales tax and that they must register to do so. The tax for May should be reported and paid by June 15, the statement said.

Among some of the products that are being taxed now is olive oil, a staple of many types of food. Sunflower and corn oil are exempt, as is lard and vegetable oil.A wide variety of meats are tax exempt, including bacon, ox tails, tripe, chicken breast, pork chops, whole chickens, ground meat and chicken wings.  Chorizo and hot dogs also are exempt, as well as sandwich meat.

All kinds of fresh fruit are exempt until they are canned or dehydrated. 
Similar is true with vegetables. They are tax free if they are fresh, refrigerated or dried.
Taxable vegetables are those that are in jars, packed in cans or sold in sealed plastic.

Of course, rice and beans, the national staple are tax free unless they are canned.
So is oatmeal, corn flour and regular coffee
but not decaffeinated.
Tamales are tax free, as well as most pastas and bread products.

Most fresh, refrigerated or frozen fish are tax free, but if the product is in a can there probably is a tax.
Shell fish packaged in jars, cans or sealed plastic also are taxed.

Many milk products, fresh eggs and sour cream are tax free as well as fresh cheese that have no additional ingredients unless the cheese is canned. Vinegar also is tax-free.

Diapers, many school products, including texts, candles (unless they are decorative, aromatic or colored), mops, brooms and potable water are exempt from the tax, as is most soaps.  Toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hearing aides and wheelchairs also are in the exempt category.

Among the missing appear to be jellies and preserves. Several large manufacturers of these products exist in Costa Rica and each has a large work force. Sardines also are listed as tax-free unless they are canned. Also missing from the tax-free list are a number of oriental products and specialty items, including matzoh, the Jewish unleavened bread.

The decree issued by the president followed a negative Sala IV constitutional court decision on her massive tax plan for a 14 percent value added tax that would cover many more transactions. 

 

  

 Former US President Bill Clinton to Speak in Costa Rica at the 2nd Annual Global Forum on Sustainability and Happiness  May 7, 2012 Inside Costa Rica 

Starting tomorrow, May 8th and 9th, Costa Rica will host the 2nd Annual Forum on Sustainability and Happiness that will be led by Bill Clinton, former US president, Dasho Karam Ura, President of Research Center in Bhutan, and Marina Silva, ex Minister of the Environment of Brasil.

The gathering, which will take place at the Intercontinental hotel in Escazú, aims to raise awareness and insight into the importance of governments and business on integrating environmental sustainability and overall happiness into policy and practice.The first event, which took place several years ago and included the participation of Ex Vice President Al Gore, takes on terms related to the importance of ecology, sustainability and also integrates the importance of social programs on national and corporate levels which insure the happiness of those involved.

This past month as the United Nations met, they exposed the need for nations to begin measuring their success not only by GDP, but also by the levels of happiness and satisfaction of their populace. Bhutan, a leading Asian nation in these aspects has gone so far as to create Gross Internal Happiness index, measured much like a GDP to insure that their policies and systems are fomenting the happiness of their people.

Costa Rica, a world leader in both ecological sustainability and its happiness index has embraced the importance of both elements perhaps more than any other country on the planet. The nation has seen droves of foreign investment due to its well educated, well cared for and happy populace, which combined with a green vision for its future have made it haven for all types of investments. Corporate investment, near sourcing and technological investments are booming in San José and Escazú. In addition and perhaps as important to Costa Rica's international recognition are the amount of tourists who are flocking to this country for the opportunity to experience both its natural beauty and laid back lifestyle.

The numbers of North Americans, Europeans and Asians investing here for retirement purposes, traveling to take advantage of the quality and affordable health care, and the desire to own properties in progressively ecological nations are rising sharply. The upcoming forum will highlight both Costa Rica's role as a leader in these field as well as inspire dialogue and ideas for integration of these principles in the global economy. 

   Bob Dylan lives up to his legend at historic Costa Rica concert  
 May 06, 2012 - By Tico Times David Boddiger

Anticipation was high Saturday night for legendary singer Bob Dylan’s first appearance in Central America.

Organizers worried they wouldn’t sell enough tickets to fill the Palacio de los Deportes, a 4,500-seat, 1980s-era basketball arena in Heredia, north of the capital. Concertgoers – who paid up to $150 for tickets – worried the sound would be muddled given the venue’s penchant for bad acoustics. And just before doors opened, Dylan barred news media from photographing the show.

But anxiety turned to euphoria when the 70-year-old poet-singer, smiling slyly, walked on stage dressed in his trademark brown porkpie hat. He settled into his role as musical barker with the opening chords of “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.”

Thousands of fans, who descended on the Central Valley from all corners of Costa Rica and other parts of Central America, rose to their feet in a collective roar of adoration. Yes, that was Bob Dylan on stage.

The crowd’s diversity ran the gamut from gray-haired hippies to teenagers, musicians, writers, bankers, all linked by a rare opportunity to see a man who’s been transcribing life into song for half a century.

In a set that lasted just under two hours, Dylan performed 18 songs from his 600-song repertoire, spending most of the night behind a Korg organ and filling in interludes with an array of harmonicas that drove fans into a frenzy with every note.

As expected, Dylan’s traveling band is well-versed in the different genres that characterize his music – swing, blues, jazz, country and rock – and with two guitars, electric and upright bass, drums and lap steel guitar, they provided a flamboyant sound that was well-suited to Dylan’s aging, gravely voice.

Playing with the legend requires one to be on his toes. There is an unmistakably impromptu approach to Dylan’s live performances, which don’t sound like earlier recordings or the classic hits we grew up listening to on the radio. He sometimes forgets lyrics. He sets up a guitar solo only to launch into another verse. He gives orders on the run. And sometimes the music takes a back seat to smartly worded lyrics.

But the band seems to take it in stride. They’ve done this before.

On his second song, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” fans responded to each lyric with hoots and hollers, and the band brought it home in grand style.

 “Highway 61 Revisited” brought everyone to his and her feet again, and the energy in the room was as electric as the 1965 album of the same name.

Fans also appreciated Dylan’s choice of popular tunes to end out the historic evening, including “Like a Rolling Stone,” “All Along the Watchtower” and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (although with no alcohol sales at the venue and no smoking allowed, no one was getting stoned).

At the curtain call, Dylan noticed a particularly euphoric group of young concertgoers in the balcony to his left. During an encore performance of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” he walked to stage left and delivered a personalized harmonica solo for the group of ecstatic fans, providing them an unforgettable moment from an unforgettable night.  And he left the stage as he entered it, smiling slyly.

Costa Rican astronaut becomes first Hispanic member of U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame    
May 06, 2012 - By Tico Times
Franklin Chang, who holds the record for most space flights, was inducted into the hall of fame during a ceremony Saturday afternoon at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Costa Rican astronaut Franklin Chang was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on Saturday afternoon. Chang, 62, is the first Hispanic astronaut to enter the hall of fame.“To be recognized by those who you admire is even more powerful than just to be recognized at all,” Chang said, at his induction ceremony.

The Costa Rican-born astronaut began training at NASA in 1980, and partook in his first space flight in 1986. He would finish his career with seven space flights, tied for the most ever. Astronaut George Nelson introduced Chang at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Nelson told the audience about how the Costa Rican came to the U.S. without knowing how to speak English. Chang later earned a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a plasma physicist before joining NASA and being launched into space.

Nelson said Chang “seemed to be the most comfortable astronaut, seemed to fit up there.” Chang spent more than 1,600 hours in space.

In 2005, Chang left NASA to start his own business, Ad Astra Rocket. The technology company is working to create a plasma engine, which could revolutionize space travel and make it easier to travel to far off places like Mars.

During his induction speech, Chang thanked in Spanish his mother, who was in attendance, and his wife, Peggy, among others. He showed his appreciation for Costa Rica and the United States for supporting his dreams.
“I am the product of two cultures,” Chang said.
The 11th class of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame also included Kevin Chilton, the military’s highest-ranking astronaut, and Charles Precourt, former chief of the NASA astronaut corps. Chang, Chilton and Precourt all logged hours on the Russian Mir space station.   The hall of fame counts 82 astronauts among its inductees including Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Alan Shepard.

U.S.-based franchises finding open market in Costa Rica
 May 04, 2012 - By Tico Times Matt Levin
The new Pollo Tropical restaurant chain opened its first location in Costa Rica at the beginning of April, and has plans for four more sites here. But not even two weeks after it opened, Pollo Tropical lost its status as the latest chicken franchise in town.

On April 13, Popeyes, a U.S. fried-chicken franchise from Louisiana, opened a $1.5 million Costa Rican restaurant in the eastern San José suburb of Curridabat.

In the same market, the two must square off against U.S. franchises KFC and Church’s Chicken, Guatemalan brand Pollo Campero and Costa Rica’s own Rostipollos, among others.

The sector of restaurants specializing in chicken embodies only a small part of the influx of U.S. brands that are moving here. The arrivals could oversaturate the market and result in fierce competition between both international and local brands, market analysts said. But franchise expansion continues because customers like Mora enjoy the increasing number of options. “I think it’s good because you have more to choose from,” Mora, 37, said. “[There are] more options for food, for fast food. … There’s a lot of variety. It’s always hard to find authentic Costa Rican food in central San José. At home, we eat casados, [Costa Rica’s traditional dish, with] rice, beans, meat and plantains. When we leave the house we want to try something different.”

The Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce said 171 foreign franchises operate in Costa Rica, an increase from 147 in 2011, and they operate approximately 900 stores. Not all new franchises arrive from the United States, although 60 percent of foreign franchises are U.S.-based. Spanish clothing store Zara will bolster its number of locations in the country. Brazilian restaurant chain Spoleto is set for an expansion of 15 franchises in five years. Costa Rican eatery Bagelman’s  intends to expand.

But the trend seems to be toward bringing in more U.S. franchises. The reason seems to be both Costa Rica’s eagerness for foreign investment and an improving U.S. economy that allows U.S. companies to invest in store construction and brand promotion. And Costa Rica’s middle class is a worthy target market.

“Costa Rica is a good market for many kinds of international brands, including Pollo Tropical,” wrote Marc Mushkin, Pollo Tropical’s senior vice president of international development, in an email. “This is because of a number of factors, including the growing purchasing power of consumers, high levels of international tourism, an educated workforce and good supply chains for most products.”

A large list of U.S. brands has opened stores in Costa Rica in the past year. Carl Jr.’s opened multiple stores near the end of 2011. They’ll try to compete in a burger market that has dozens of McDonald’s (the first-ever Costa Rica franchise was a McDonald’s, which opened in 1979), Burger Kings and Wendy’s. And coming soon: Denver, Colorado’s fast-casual burger chain Smashburger.

Family restaurant Applebee’s inaugurated its second Costa Rican location in the spring, in Sabanilla, east of San José. The chain plans to open two more restaurants in the provinces of Alajuela and Guanacaste by the end of 2014. In November, Applebee’s will be joined by Chili’s, another member of the casual dining brethren that will open in Mall Multiplaza, in the southwestern suburb of Escazú.

Moe’s Southwestern Grill will introduce Tex-Mex to Central America in June, also in Escazú. Salads and sandwich franchise Cosi’s is christening multiple stores here in 2012 and 2013. That brand has plenty of catching up to do, as sandwich shop Quizno’s opened its 20th location in the country last month.

On Wednesday, Quizno’s won an eight -year contract to operate the food court at Juan Santamaría International Airport, the busiest airport in the country. With a $4 million investment, QSR International will open another Quizno’s, and a KFC, Smashburger and Teriyaki Experience in the airport food court. Still, Quizno’s has less than half the number of franchises in the country as sandwich king Subway.

Restaurants constitute about a quarter of the foreign franchises in Costa Rica. Clothing stores and hotels each represent another 20 percent.
In April, Starwood Hotels opened two more lodgings, compounding a market that contains big names like Holiday Inn and Hilton Hotels.
Grupo Roble, the Salvadoran group that owns Mall Multiplaza Escazú, Multiplaza del Este in San José and other projects, closed the Escazú location of Honduran department store Carrión at the beginning of the year. Carrión will be replaced by Tico department store Cemaco and three popular U.S. clothing stores: The Gap, Banana Republic and Forever 21.
The rest of the U.S. franchises fall under a wide gamut of categories ranging from beauty shops to auto rentals. But those brands are showing less noticeable growth than the biggest areas of food, clothing and hotels.

Bad News for Tico Brands?
The number of Costa Rican chains is increasing alongside foreign companies. But the risk of oversaturating the market rises with each store opening.
José Andrés Masís, a franchise legal expert, said he believes U.S. brands can survive in Costa Rica because many already are well-known by young Ticos. “The No. 1 factor for foreign chains, is the openness of Costa Ricans toward foreign brands, especially U.S. ones,” Masís said.

The relatively strong economy in Costa Rica, compared to the rest of the region, means Costa Ricans are aware of many of the brands that hope to break into the market. Many U.S. brands already have a toehold in the country since locals know products from vacations in the U.S., via the Internet or from television commercials.

Local malls are providing more spaces for foreign brands. Avenida Escazú, the plaza that will be home to Starbucks by May, keeps growing.
In 2013, Costa Rica will see the inauguration of two major complexes: Lincoln Plaza in Moravia, northeast of San José, and Mango Plaza in the northern Alajuela province. 
It’s difficult to say if these foreign businesses are taking spaces that would go to Costa Rican brands, or if there is more opportunity for investment. But certainly there’s a demand for more foreign products. Elsa Rojas, marketing manager of Grupo Roble in Costa Rica, said that’s part of the reason the company wants to bring clothing stores like Gap and Forever 21 to the isthmus. “[Consumers] like to touch and to buy things here, like they would in the United States,” Rojas said.

In many instances, Costa Ricans prefer foreign products, which complicates business for national chains, Masís said. He could list only a few items that Costa Ricans took pride in buying local, citing sustainable tourism, fruits and vegetables or coffee.

Starbucks is one foreign company Masís feels might struggle here. He said, “If Starbucks does not promote Costa Rican coffee, if it does not make it obvious that its product will be Costa Rican, then it’s going to suffer problems, because we are very proud of our coffee.”

However, for products like clothing or shoes, Costa Ricans shrug their shoulders about the item’s origin, Masís said. Their main concern is buying something that’s affordable and fashionable.

That does not make it impossible for national businesses to best foreign products, and some national brands have succeeded in not only dominating the Costa Rican market, but also expanding outside the country to the rest of Central America. Pops Ice Cream serves as an apotheosis for Costa Rican business owners. The ice cream store even has its own U.S. location in Florida, where it goes by a name that brims national pride, Pops Costa Rica’s Creamery.

Masís said to survive, local retailers need to reassess their focus and emphasize promoting products that are local, cheaper and better than the competition. With the right strategy, Costa Rica can avoid a future where Starbucks and McDonald’s are on every corner. But that will depend on how national business owners approach this surmounting challenge.
“If Costa Rican businesses cling to old ways, then yes, they could suffer enormous losses in sales, and it’s possible they could disappear,” Masís said. “If they learn how to adjust mindsets, if they learn how to suit themselves to the games of the competition, they’re going to produce better products, because they will toughen up. If they leave their comfort zones what they can do is create tools, create products that can compete directly with foreign chains.”is create tools, create products that can compete directly with foreign chains.” 

  

Costa Rican Raw Material Will Be Used In Japanese Cars

April 30, 2012 Inside Costa Rica

Soon Japanese manufactured vehicles will have a little of "pura vida" in them, as the first container of raw materials from Costa Rica left this week for Japan.

The product shipped, made out of shredded plastic from agrochemicals, will be use by Japanese to manufacture car fenders and bumpers.

The initiative is part of an agreement between the Fundación Limpiemos Nuestros Campos (FLNC) and the Japanese firm Transtek.

The raw material is obtained through FLNC programs, part of the Cámara de Insumos Agropecuarios (CIA).

Luis Matarrita Díaz, manager of the FLNC, explained that the plastic used to make other industrial components contributes to environmental conservation.

To increase production, the FLNC hopes to install a new mill in La Garita de Alajuela, which would have the capacity to shred up to two tons of plastic daily.

"This year we expect to exceed the expectations of collecting 180 tons of plastic", said Matarrita. 

 

Sala IV throws out two more traffic penalties 
April 26, 2012 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court threw out two more stiff traffic penalties in a decision announced  Wednesday.

In both cases the penalty was a fine of 277,500 colons or about $555. The court found the fines to be unconstitutionally disproportional. Due to the court action, the fines revert to the amount previous to passage of the new traffic law, abut 10,000 colons or $20.

The illegal actions were going through a red light or ignoring a sign that permitted only a right turn.

740.000 Tourist Arrivals In First Quarter of 2012
April 26, 2012 Inside Costa Rica        • Number represents an 8% increase over same period in 2011

At a workshop for the press on Wednesday, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) - Costa Rican Tourism Institute - released data on visitor arrivals, spending, reasons why and who come to Costa Rica.
In all of 2011, arrivals to the country 2.192.000 people all ports. So far this year, 740.000 tourists have arrived, surpassing the 8 percent level for the same period of 2011.
Why come to Costa Rica? According to surveys taken by the ICT at the airport Juan Santamaría and Daniel Oduber, the vast majority come for vacation, leisure or pleasure, 16% for business, 7% to visit family or friends and 0.5% for health treatments. Do they come alone? For respondents at the Juan Santamaria, 30% arrived alone, 27% with family and 22% with their spouse or significant other. Eight of every 10 tourists stay in hotels or cabins. Specialist Rodolfo Lizano, explained that the estimate of tourist spending is higher for those entering through the airport in Liberia, although those arriving at Juan Santamaria stay more days in the country.

What do tourists like to do in Costa Rica? The majority come for the sun and beaches. As for Costa Rican tourists, most prefer the beach, especially Guanacaste and Puntarenas. About 45% stay at friends' homes and an average of 2.8 nights.
To accommodate tourists, Costa Rica has 2.476 hotels and over 44.300 rooms, according to 2011 ICT data.

 

President salutes Intel Costa Rica  
April 26, 2012 A.M. Costa Rica staff

Intel celebrated its 15 years of business in Costa Rica at the Museos del Banco Central underneath the Plaza de la Cultura in downtown San José Wednesday. President Laura Chinchilla joined the festivities. During her speech she challenged the company to invest $500 million into the country within the next five years.

The firm brings in $180 million, that is approximately 9 percent of all exports in the country. For the past four years the company has made up 6 percent of the country's gross domestic product. That is approximately $2 billion a year.

Intel also celebrated the company as the No. 1 exporter.

The president was awarded a plaque from Intel to show the firm's gratitude for her constant support of the company.
Intel has 2,850 employees in the country. According to a study, Intel hires more women than any other business in the country's labor market.

The firm provides approximately $25 million to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social as social security payments on worker's salaries. The firm has paid nearly $900 million since starting operations here in 1997.
In its Ribera de Belén, Heredia, plant Intel makes microprocessors and handles Intel's finances.  In Aurora de Heredia the company is involved in information technology.Other businesses that have outsourced or relocated operations in Costa Rica include Amazon, Firestone and the medical group St. Jude. Procter & Gamble entered Costa Rica one year after Intel. 

 

Study concludes Costa Rica is fourth in competitiveness
April 25, 2012 - By Tico Times

Costa Rica remains one of the most competitive countries in Latin America, according to the latest competitiveness ranking developed by Aden Business School in Argentina.
In April, Costa Rica ranked number four, up one spot from the previous year, in which it ranked fifth.

According to the study, the most competitive nations are Chile, Panamá and México.To build the ranking, Aden experts calculated an index of competitiveness in each country and then compared them. The index took into account 123 variables, such as coverage of basic needs, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, health and education.It also incorporates other factors, such as access to technology and job markets.
Despite the good results, there are some indicators like public perception and market competitiveness where Costa Rica faltered. The Aden Competitiveness Institute takes measurements every six months in 18 countries in Latin America.

 

Costa Rican exports up 16 percent in first quarter 
April 23, 2012 - By Tico Times
Growth attributed to a strong performance by the country’s free-zone businesses.

Costa Rica exported $2.9 billion worth of goods during the first quarter of 2012, an increase of $403 million – or 16 percent – compared to the same period in 2011, according to the Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER). March exports exceeded $1 billion, an increase of 11.6 percent over the previous year.

Costa Rica’s main trading partners are North America (41.9 percent), the European Union (18.8 percent), Central America (13.9 percent) and Asia (13.5 percent).

PROCOMER also noted that exports from Costa Rica’s free zones are largely responsible for the quarterly increase, as the sector grew by 22.6 percent, from $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion during the first three months of 2012.“These quarterly growth rates are the highest since the third quarter of 2006,” Foreign Trade Vice Minister Fernando Ocampo said.The firm provides approximately $25 million to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social as social security payments on worker's salaries. The firm has paid nearly $900 million since starting operations here in 1997.In its Ribera de Belén, Heredia, plant Intel makes microprocessors and handles Intel's finances.  In Aurora de Heredia the company is involved in information technology. Other businesses that have outsourced or relocated operations in Costa Rica include Amazon, Firestone and the medical group St. Jude. Procter & Gamble entered Costa Rica one year after Intel. 

 

Costa Rica To Host The Ibero-American Meeting On Climate Change   
April 21, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
Costa Rica will host the first "Intergenerational Stewardship Iberoamerican Meeting on Climate Change", in which Heads of State and youth representatives will be participating.

A statement by Costa Rica's Foreign Ministry said, "The meeting will encourage the intergenerational responsibility as an innovative strategy to improve the impact and ensure sustainability of major global responses to climate change, that are being discussed today".

The statement added "the activity will focus worldwide attention on Costa Rica, because it is an environmental issue".The announcement was made Costa Rica's Chancellor Enrique Castillo, along with the Minister of Culture and Youth, Manuel Obregon and the minister of the Environment, René Castro who are to participate in today's launch meeting, at a ceremony held in Madrid, and with assistance Iberoamerican Secretary General, Enrique Iglesias.
The Summit will be held at a date set in April 2013 on the premises of the Escuela de Agricultura de la Región del Trópico Húmedo (EARTH), located in Liberia, Guanacaste.

 

Costa Rica to host Adventure Race World Championship 2013   
April 21, 2012 Inside Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been selected for the first time in the country’s sporting history as the host of the 2013 Adventure Racing World Championship 2013, scheduled to take place in the first two weeks of November next year.

Making the announcement this week, the Marketing Director and Deputy Manager of the Costa Rica Tourist Board, Ireth Rodriguez, said that the country’s selection is proof of the international recognition of Costa Rica as a top adventure tourism destination. AR World Series Director, Craig Bycroft, said “Costa Rica will be a stunning destination for international athletes and provide superb terrain and environment for a very adventurous World Championship”.

A total of 360 participants, in 90 teams of four people each, will compete in disciplines such as rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, trekking, inner tubing, coasteering and canyoning over a 700km course. It will be a non-stop competition over four to eight days. Between 26 and 30 countries will be represented, including the UK, US, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Spain, France, Australia and New Zealand. More than 50 specialist media from around the world will cover the event.

The Adventure Race World Series consists of 11 Qualifier events around the world leading to the final Adventure Race World Championship. Costa Rica has hosted Qualifier events in three consecutive years, one of the requirements to host the final. The Costa Rica Adventure Race was held in the north of the country in 2010 and on the Caribbean coast in 2011. The 2012 Costa Rica Adventure Race takes place from 21-28 April in Puntarenas and Guanacaste, on the Pacific coast.

According to Johana Arguello, organizer of Costa Rica Adventure Race 2012, Costa Rica beat competition from other candidates, including the US, to host next year’s final because of the country’s lush nature, the quality of its tourism infrastructure, and its sustainable approach.

Costa Rica was voted one of the Top 10 most popular adventure tourism destinations by International Business Times magazine. In 2011, 72 per cent of visitors to Costa Rica enjoyed some kind of adventure sports such as canopy tours, surfing, rafting, sea kayaking, diving or bungee jumping.

 

Changes In Visa Application and Fees To The US
April 13-16, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
Starting  (April 13) the cost of applying for a tourist or business visa to travel to the United States increases to a unified single fee of $160.
This means that applicants no longer have to pay the $14 for a call for an appointment or pay for the delivery of their passport to courier.

The changes are worldwide, with the main purpose of unifying the systems, processes and charges for the costs and make the process easier and more convenient.
Starting next week on April 20, the second major change is in the process of the visa applications, when any person applying for a vise to the United States has several options, although in all cases they must completet the electronic visa application form (DS-160).

1. By fully electronically through the embassy website at http://costarica.usembassy.gov

  • Filling in the visa application

• Pay the applicable fee (us$160 for tourist or business visa)

• Set a convenient date for the appointment

• and indicate to which of the more than 100 branches of the Correos de Costa Rica (post office) they wish they passport delivered

2. Place a call through the call centre at 4000-1976. There is no cost for the phone call is local. However applicants still have to fill out the DS-160 form electronically.

According to the US Embassy in San José, is the advantages of the new process is that people can apply 100% electronically for their visa which is available on a 24/7 basis.

The cost of the visa for travel to the United States is based on the type of visa requested. The table below sets out the old and new fees:

  Old         New

Tourist, Business, Transit, Crew Member, Student, Exchange Visitor, and Journalist visas
$140 $160

Petition-Based visas (H, L, O, P, Q, and R) $150 $190

Treaty Investor and Trader visas (E) $390 $270

Fiancé(e) visas (K) $350 $240 

All applicants will pay the fees at the Banco Nacional. All applicants for visas which have a higher fee can pay the difference at the Embassy. On and after April 13, 2012, applicants must pay the new fee regardless of whether the old fee was collected prior to this date. Each applicant must present the following required documents:

DS-160 confirmation (DO NOT PRINT the entire form, just the confirmation is needed)

Passport valid for at least 6 months from date of proposed travel;

Receipt for payment of the application fee (in colones) from any Banco Nacional; and

If you cannot upload your photo to the DS-160 application, bring an unmounted full face photo taken within the past six months. If you cannot take a photo in advance, a photographer is also available at the Embassy at minimal cost. The photo should be 2' X 2 inches (in color against a white background.) The photo must be clearly in focus facing the camera with the face covering about 50% of the photo. Eyeglasses, hats, or anything that covers the face must be removed before taking the photo.
In addition, applicants for certain types of visas are required to present additional documentation.  For more on visas go to the US Embassy San José website for details.  Source: US Embassy San José.

 

More Competition That Benefits Cell Phone Consumers
April 14-16, 2012 Inside Costa Rica 
Changes to cell phones rates could heat up the competition between the three major operators in Costa Rica: Claro, Movistar and the state owned, Kolbi (ICE) and among other telecom providers in the country.
This due to a change by the Superintendencia General de Telecomunicaciones (Sutel) - government regulator - to some 202 price limits on telecommunications services that now will up to the operator to fix and will have no controls on minimums or maximums.
Items like the fixed cost of purchasing and/or replacement of a SIM card, a number change, security deposit, and reconnection costs, among others are items at the discretion of the operator. However, now, items like caller ID and private numbers are a right of the consumer and the operator cannot charge for them.
The president of the Sutel, Carlos Raúl Gutiérrez, explained that under the new telecommunications law, the Sutel can only regulate the retail price of services and not its components.
Gutiérrez added that the new operators want the user to have a good service experience, with an all inclusive rate rather than being nickle and dimed for each additional service.
The change will allow the telephone operators to attract more customers and generate benefits for the user as part of their business strategies.
Under regulation will continue 120 items, like the ceiling price for cost per minute of each call and text messages.
Some of the changes:  Now   Then

Cost of purchasing or replacing a SIM card No limits   ¢1.996 + taxes

Change of number No limits   ¢760 + taxes

Security deposit No limits   ¢12.500

Reconnection No limits   ¢1.520 + taxes

Caller ID Free   ¢250 + taxes

Private Number Free   ¢250 + taxes

 

Costa Rica Has The Lowest Infant Mortality Rate in The Isthmus  
April 15, 2012 Inside Costa Rica

Costa Rica has the lowest infant mortality in all Central America, and this parameter is also one of the most reduced in Latin America.
The infant mortality rate (IMR) is an indicator of child deaths per thousand live births recorded in the first year of life, which reflects the living conditions of the population and to measure the development of a country.

The isthmus is the only nation that holds the infant mortality rate in single digits, which is a huge achievement.

In Latin America and the Caribbean (from a list of 37 countries), the country ranks number six, behind Cuba (first), Chile, Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe and Martinique.

The data is from a 2011 report from the Population Reference Bureau, an organization in Washington, US.

"We're an example throughout Latin America to take mortality into a single figure. The idea is to maintain or reduce it further", said Ileana Balmaceda, chief executive of the CCSS.

Balmaceda noted that Costa Rica has is competing against countries where abortion is permitted in cases of malformations, as in Cuba.

An adequate prenatal care, care for high risk pregnancies, timely care to the newborn, care for 97 percent of deliveries in health centres and immunization programs and to promote breastfeeding have led to a sustained reduction in child mortality.

This is compounded by more and better specialists and high-tech equipment to help keep a steady decline throughout history in the deaths of children under one year. 
For Maria Luisa Avila, former Minister of Health, the advantage has been the social investment that the country has made, starting with access to drinking water, sewers, nutrition, access to health services and literacy.

According to the Statistics and Census Institute (INEC), last year there were 666 deaths (five less than in 2010) and there were 73,459 births, 2,537 more than 2010. Thus, the mortality rate showed a slight decrease in passing of 9.46 deaths per thousand births in the first year in 2010 to 9.07 deaths in 2011.
This is the third lowest rate recorded in Costa Rica since 2001. The lowest in history was in 2009, when it stood at 8.84 deaths per thousand births. In 2004 he was able to reduce the figure to single digits.

Banco Nacional’s New Security Measure for Online Banking  
April 15, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
When it comes to online banking, security is the main concern. In Costa Rica, the online banking platform of Banco Nacional (BN) is known for its strong security measures like security certificates, virtual keyboards, password policies, and physical tokens.
For account holders who want an even stronger chain of trust between their computers and bank accounts, Banco Nacional now offers Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC).At the recent Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers conference (ICANN 43) in San Jose, one of the most sensitive topics of discussion was security and what the domain registration industry can do to improve it, particularly with regard to phishing and spoofing attacks.One of the functions of ICANN is to establish good practices for the safe operation of root Domain Name Servers (DNS). These servers are the primal link in a chain of trust that keeps online banking clients safe from phishing and spoofing attacks. These attacks aim to fool people into surrendering their personal account information through deceitful emails, pop ups, search results, and cloned web sites. In the past, sophisticated phishing and spoofing schemes have tricked web surfers into entering their information on nefarious web sites that looked exactly like their banks’.DNSSEC for Banco Nacional is a security protocol that lets account holders know they are actually navigating to the www.bnonline.fi.cr online banking platform. According to a detailed article written by Pablo Fonseca in La Nacion, DNSSEC issues a security certificate that is only issued to trusted institutions right from the root DNS, thereby insuring that no phishing, spoofing or questionable third parties are involved.
Implementation of DNSSEC by Banco Nacional for all online banking users will probably roll out in the days to come, but its functionality can be tested now by users of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome browsers. The DNSSEC Validator browser extension is now available from download from CZ NIC Labs and can be installed and used with Banco Nacional accounts. Once DNSSEC is installed in your computer, you can safely conduct online banking transactions, knowing that Costa Rica is the first Latin American country to implement this new security measure. By Jaime Lopez, Costa Rica Star 

Costa Rican Authorities To Get Tough On Smokers Starting This Week 
April 10, 2012 Inside Costa Rica 

Although the regulations and enforcements, nor where to pay the fines, is in place the Ministerio de Salud says it will start this week visiting bars and restaurants around the country to ensure compliance to the Ley de Antitabaco."From next week we will visit these places, the Minister also informed by the regional establishments must remove any sign that indicates smoking area" said Roberto Castro, Director of Surveillance of the Ministry of Health, to the press last week.
With the move the the smoking ban comes into its full rigor this week, and that all establishments are aware, if not met will take the necessary measures.

The sanctions against bars and restauarants, for example, can be a fine and include the suspension of the operating permit.If a bar or restaurant loses their "permiso sanitario" it will then have to then initiate the complicated of getting it back. Reports sent in to Inside Costa Rica indicate that the local municipal police in San José last week visited a number of bars and restaurants and issued warnings.

In many places smokers are being asked to go outside to feed their habit, some having to take to the sidewalks of the public streets as the debate centres on whether a parking lot is deemed part of the bar or restaurant.

In malls, like Multiplaza in Escazú, an ICR reader informs that he was asked by a security guard to snuff out while sitting his his vehicle, parked in the malls parking lot, while smoking. "Where am I to go, to the pista?", was the rhetorical question. One of the requirements under the law is that establishments post anti-smoking signs.

Bill Clinton to give keynote address in Costa Rica sustainability forum May 9  April 10, 2012 – Tico Times By Matt Levin
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will speak at an environmental forum on May 9 in Escazú, filling the role performed by Clinton's vice president, Al Gore, last year.

Javier del Campo, director of forum organizer Terra Partners, announced the ex-president as the keynote speaker of the second annual Sustainability and Environment Business Forum during a press conference Tuesday morning at Hotel InterContinental in Escazú, in west San José.

Clinton, who was the U.S. president from 1993 to 2001, highlights a forum that takes place May 8 and 9. Brazil's ex-Environment Minister and former presidential candidate Marina Silva will speak at the end of the first night. Bhutan's Director of the Center for Bhutanese Studies Dasho Karma Ura will speak the morning of May 9, and several other speakers will talk throughout the day before Clinton's speech at 7 p.m.

The presentation called "Embracing our Common Humanity" will go for an hour to an hour and 20 minutes.

Del Campo said the goal for the forum was to bring in "high level" speakers "to represent different zones, cultures, and ideas of the world." "I think we succeeded," he said.

Registration for the two-day summit costs $750 (discounts for groups), which takes place at the Hotel InterContinental. Capacity for Clinton's forum is 650 guests. For more information go to www.forosostenibilidadcostarica.com.

Così restaurant chain to open five locations in Costa Rica
April 09, 2012 - By Tico Times
Così Inc., a “fast-casual” restaurant company, last week announced that it has entered into a development agreement with a Costa Rican franchisee, Fast Casual S.A., to develop Così restaurants in the country. The Costa Rican locations will join a chain of 136 restaurants in the U.S. and United Arab Emirates.

The agreement calls for Fast Casual S.A. to develop five locations over five years beginning with their first location expected to open later this year, the company stated in a press release.

“We are excited to be growing the Così brand again with our new franchise partners, Fast Casual S.A.,” said Così President and CEO Carin Stutz. “I look forward to working with Luis Diego Escalante, Maria Cristina Escalante and their partners to successfully launch Così in Costa Rica.”

“Costa Rica is a leader in the trend towards healthy eating and we believe the Così brand fits well in this category,” said Luis Diego Escalante, a spokesman for Fast Casual S.A.

The restaurant’s menu features sandwiches, salads, breakfast wraps, soups, flatbread pizzas, snacks, desserts, and a wide range of coffee drinks and other specialty beverages.

Costa Rica Looking At Medical Tourism & Conventions As The Future
April 10, 2012 Inside Costa Rica

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) has awakened to the fact that "eco tourism" is not enough to attract foreign visitors to Costa Rica and will now focused on promoting medical tourism and conventions. The head of the ICT, Allan Flores, says that the investment in promoting the services is key to attracting new markets.
Costa Rica is well known as a green destination par excellence and the economy around the eco tourism has been well developed and will remain, however, the country has to look beyond that, according to Flores.

To achieve the goal of attracting new markets the ICT will be represented in at least seven international tourism fairs.
According to the ICT, in 2011 medical tourism generated some $288 million dollars in revenue.

Costa Rica's popularity in the medical tourism industry has been growing steadily over the years. Currently there are 3 Joint Commission International accredited (JCI) Hospitals all of which are currently located in San José. Recently announced by JCI accredited Clinica Biblica, is a us$40 million dollar hospital in Guanacaste designed to target the influx of medical tourism arriving in the Liberia International airport every year. This will make for a total of over six major private hospitals and 22 public hospitals.

When the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the world’s health systems in the year 2000, Costa Rica was ranked as # 36, which was higher than the U.S., and together with Dominica it dominated the list amongst the Central American countries.Costa Rica offers these levels of care ranging from Intermediate Life Saving capabilities, Complex Life Saving Treatment Capabilities, Advanced Life Savings Treatment Capabilities, and Life Style Treatment Services (Full range of dental work and cosmetic surgery).

Costa Rica's proximity to the U.S. helps attract over 20.000 U.S. patients a year. The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, in their 2009 report "Medical Tourism Consumers in Search of Value" reported cost savings average of between 30-70% of US prices.Medical tourism (also called medical travel, health tourism or global healthcare) is a term initially coined by travel agencies and the mass media to describe the rapidly-growing practice of travelling across international borders to obtain health care.
Services typically sought by travelers include elective procedures as well as complex specialized surgeries such as joint replacement (knee/hip), cardiac surgery, dental surgery, and cosmetic surgeries. However, virtually every type of health care, including psychiatry, alternative treatments, convalescent care and even burial services are available.

Intel effect awaits full transformation
Full Article Published in El Financiero on Apr 9, 2012
Fifteen years after Intel Corporation put Costa Rica on the map for foreign direct investment the total amount of capital inflow has increased from $406 million in 1997 to $1.85 billion in 2011.

 Last year Intel with its 2,800 employees alone accounted for 5 percent of the GDP for Costa Rica, and 18 percent of export value.  Costa Rica with the goal of creating wealth from innovation, the advent of Intel 15 years ago was the most decisive stride, at least until today. The technology  whale in the pool of an economy centered on manufacturing, swelled basic macroeconomic indicators, and placed the country on the map of foreign direct investment (FDI) when executives  .The country has fallen short in taking advantage of the transfer of knowledge, that translates into a large school of entrepreneurship.  

The announcement that Intel spent $ 115 million to build and operate a plant in Belen, Heredia, shocked the country. Even more surprised were Mexico and Chile, which had courted hard the tech giant.And other companies such as Baxter also decided to come to the country, but Intel was a big shot.   The effect was felt. About 130 companies opened operations in the country since 1997.
The entry of foreign investment soared from $ 406.9 million in 1997 to $ 1,851.8 million last year. "Today no one, here or outside, calls into question the ability of Costa Rica to get companies like IBM, Abbott, Boston Scientific, and St. Jude Medical HP," said Joseph Rossi, president of the Costa Rican Coalition for Development Initiatives ( Cinde) and Minister of Commerce during the Figueres Olsen administration.

The start of the operation of Intel is heavily reflected in indicators such as production and exports. Over time, its relative importance has diminished. It is still a whale, but in a growing pond. In 1999, GDP grew 8% unused. The company's shipments accounted for 17% of production that year. The unit has been reduced to 5% last year. The weight of the company in the country's trade is felt more strongly.

 In the 2011 exported $ 1,887 million represented 18% of the total. 12 years ago the figure was 38%, the highest in Intel's history in the country. "There has been a diversification of exports from Costa Rica, where other activities, and services, has increased in importance. It is good that the importance of Intel is reduced, to not depend on only one company, "said economist Ronulfo Jimenez.
With its 2,800 employees, Intel is, alone, 0.3% of total private employment in the country.

It is the largest private employer in the country, although Walmart is gaining strength.   Less successful has been the transfer of knowledge into the nudge needed to jump from an economy that competes for their efficiency to one that innovates. "This development is crucial," said Anabel Gonzalez, Minister of Foreign Trade. The process underway, government officials say but not with enough verve, say analysts and economists.

Only 15.6% of those who have worked for a multinational high technology open their own business after leaving the company, according to a study by Ricardo Monge, the Foundation's High Technology Advisory Committee.

The good news is that 83.3% of the enterprises created during the study period (2001-2007) were still operating in 2010. "The obstacles are what any small business has to emerge. Access to financing, and not talking about cheap credit but seed money ", stated the economist Luis Mesalles of the Central Academy.  It is only recently that the Banking System Development has a program to fund ventures.

 Costa Rica ranked 45 out of 125 countries in the Global Innovation Index of the Insead business school. It seems good news, however, the country was only 37.9 out of 100 points in 2011, and the creation of knowledge is the most critical categories.

Laura Chinchilla with her meetings with representatives of Toyota Japan raised expectations, and the arrival of the Dutch APM Terminals in Limon is rated as "their Intel."

So, 15 years after arrival, the Intel effect remains. It remains a giant in exports and a promise of knowledge transfer. But Intel came to do business, not to develop the country. It is the responsibility of government, academia and the Costa Ricans to take full advantage of the opportunities that did bring.

Sala IV (CR Supreme Court) faults way in which tax plan won approval 
April 11, 2012 A.M. Costa Rica staff

Without making a decision on the contents of President Laura Chinchilla's tax plan, the Sala IV constitutional court has ruled that the process by which the measure passed through committee and ended up being approved in an initial vote was unconstitutional.
The Poder Judicial announced the decision Tuesday afternoon. The decision means that the Asamblea Legislative will have to start all over again to consider the measure which seeks to impose a 14 percent value-added tax among other levies.
The decision by the magistrates was unanimous. The summary of the decision said that there were problems with the the procedure. The summary cited the fact that the president of the special legislative commission considering the bill extended the life of the body without approval of the full legislature.
The magistrates also noted that amendments approved in the special commission were done without publication.

 

Happiness report seeks to promote sustainability over GNP 
April 5, 2012  A.M. Costa Rica staff

The World Happiness Report is an ambitious effort by academics to, as they say, recast the environmental debate by changing fundamental objectives from economic growth to building and sustaining the quality of lives.
The report issued this month became well-known because it figured in a United Nations seminar on happiness Monday sponsored by the Government of Butan. That nation has, since 1972, used a gross national happiness index to assist with national policy.

The best known author of the report is Jeffrey Sachs, the director of The Earth Institute at New York's Columbia University. He also was Director of the U.N. Millennium Project from 2002 to 2006 and special adviser to U. N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. The Millennium Development Goals are the international agreement to reduce extreme poverty, disease, and hunger by the year 2015.  Other principal authors are John F. Helliwell, professor emeritus of economics, University of British Columbia,  and Richard Layard, director, Well-being Programme, Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics.
The report has no new data. Instead it uses existing surveys and tries to integrate some of them to assess the happiness of the nations of the world. The report notes that happiness is subjective.
One of the most universal measures is the Gallup World Poll in which the internationally known survey company sought responses from about 1,000 persons in more than 150 countries. Respondents were asked to assess their happiness in several ways on a 10-point scale with 10 being the best possible happiness. The authors put together poll results from 2005 to 2011.
Costa Rica has received high rankings on a number of happiness reports, but some of the studies were highly ideological, such as the 2009 Happy Planet Index.

The Laura Chinchilla administration also promotes sustainability at the expense of economic growth. The central government has outlawed all but small-scale gold mining and is trying to keep a company that has a concession from drilling test wells for petroleum in the northern zone.
According to the summary of the Gallup World Polls, Costa Rica ranks 12th in happiness just after the United States. The country was not included in some of the other polling data that the authors used.

The top 10 countries, led by Denmark, are all First World nations. Canada ranked fifth. Curiously, Venezuela came in 19th.
Costa Rica ranked first on a summary of Gallup Polls from 2007 to 2011 on life satisfaction followed by Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Finland, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia and the United States.But the authors are not happy with the domination of First World countries on both lists. They said:“. . . the lifestyles of the rich imperil the survival of the poor. Human-induced climate change is already hitting the poorest regions and claiming lives and livelihoods. It is telling that in much of the rich world, affluent populations are so separated from those they are imperiling that there is little recognition, practical or moral, of the adverse spillovers (or “externalities”) from their own behavior.”

Report's list of happy countries*

1. Denmark

2. Finland

3, Norway

4, Netherlands

5, Canada

6. Switzerland

7. Sweden

8. New Zealand

9. Australia

10. Ireland

11. United States

12. Costa Rica

13. Austria

14. Israel

15. Belgium

16. Luxembourg

*Based on six years of Gallup World Poll data
The report suggests that happiness measurements can be used by governments as an aid to setting policies instead of devotion to gross national product, the sum of goods and services, expressed as GNP.
But the authors promote their own opinion: “Should the world pursue GNP to the point of environmental ruin, even when incremental gains in GNP are not increasing much (or at all) the happiness of affluent societies? Should we crave higher personal incomes at the cost of community and social trust? Should our governments spend even a tiny fraction of the $500 billion or so spent on advertising each year to help individuals and families to understand better their own motivations, wants, and needs as consumers?”

In summary, the report suggests that the way to increase happiness is for people to work for a common cause:“The assumption that individuals are only interested in their own material standards of life has made the possibilities for preserving the environment seem unrealistic to many observers. But such pessimism is misplaced.
On the contrary people gain in happiness by working together for a higher purpose. There can be no higher purpose than promoting the Earth’s environmental balance, the well-being of future generations, and the survival and thriving of other species as well.”
The report will get more consideration at the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development that will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 20 to 22. The meeting is called Rio+20. The report is available HERE! 

 


Costa Rica Jaco News & Info up to April 4, 2012


 

CR #1 Tax Director Resigns Over Tax Evasion

April 4, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
In two days the Ministerio de Hacienda loses its top tax collectors with the resignation on Tuesday of Francisco Villalobos, the director general de Tributación (taxation director of Costa Rica’s version of the IRS), for apparent delinquency in income tax payment since 2008.

According to a report published by La Nacion, Villalobos owes the tax department ¢1.8 million colones ($3.500).

In tendering his resignation, Villalobos said "it was his own fault,,, I speak for myself and I assume responsibility, the mistake was mine". The reference was in contrast to the his boss' comments, Fernando Herrero, who last week blamed the municipalities for their error and the undervaluation of his properties.

Herrero, the ministro de Hacienda (Finance Minister), resigned on Monday for allegedly not paying up to ¢300.000 in property taxes for the last 12 years.However, the payment was too late for Villalobos to save his job, tendering his resignation to presidenta Laura Chinchilla on her arrival back from New York on Tuesday.
Before entering public service Villalobos was a partner in a tax consulting firm that included politicians, professionals, Gringos like Jeff, and entrepreneurs as clients.The scandal at Hacienda has caused a stir in the social networks as users offered comments such as: "A finance minister evading taxes?  "Stealing from the country", "corruption", "fraud", "embezzlement" and expletives were common as people reacted to the news.

The overall tone of the comments was that these two - and others who have yet to be uncovered - should pay up and never again hold public office.Villalobos admitted his mistake to the presidenta who accepted immediately his resignation that he failed to declare the full amount of taxes on income in 2008. On arrival at the San José airport Tuesday night, presidenta Chinchilla emphasized to the media that "the Villalobos case is not one of evasion, but rather, as the director himself qualified, an inexcusable error". Villalobos headed Tributacion (Costa Rica’s version of the IRS) since January 2011.

Evasion disclosures jeopardize tax package approval
April 4, 2012 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
If public opinion matters, the president's plan to impose a package of taxes is in deep trouble.

Revelations that large companies and also government officials have been dodging taxes have brought sharp rebukes from both La Nación and el Diario Extra, the two most influential daily newspapers.The editorial positions followed revelations mostly in La Nación that government ministers had not filed declarations of value on real estate and then paid the resulting tax. Even worse, the finance minister, Fernando Herrero, resigned just as La Nación was reporting Tuesday morning that he and his wife failed to pay income tax on earnings of a private corporation. Then later Tuesday the same newspaper revealed that the chief tax collector, Franciso Villalobos Brenes also had a tax debt stemming from 2008.

The revelations gave support to the continued insistence by the nation's public employees union that the solution to the country's financial crisis was not more taxes. The union, the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, has been promoting for months better tax collection. Now the organization is saying “We told you so!”

“Reading the editorial opinions this date, Monday April 2, 2012,  published by the newspapers Diario Extra and La Nación generated extreme satisfaction,” said the union on its Web site.

The actions of government officials undermined the moral authority to continue the fight for a reform, said La Nación, noting that it had supported the tax proposal by President Laura Chinchilla Miranda. As well as reforms to the tax code to better control evasion, the newspaper said it urged a modification of the tax culture in all levels of Costa Rican society.That was an obvious jab at Herrero and the ministers as well as Ms. Chinchilla who initially dismissed the finance minister's property tax undervaluations as a regrettable carelessness. That was before it became clear that Herrero was careless on more than one tax issue.

The finance minister, of course, was the man managing the administration's effort to get new  taxes passed in the legislature. Lawmakers already have approved the 14 percent value-added tax on first reading awaiting approval of the text by the Sala IV constitutional court.El Diario Extra, in its editorial, said it was easier to slap more taxes that in the end are paid by the poor and the workers.

It also cited revelations that 450 of the largest companies paid small amounts of taxes.
They are robbing progress, the future and development of a country,” the newspaper said.El Diario Extra said that the director of Tributación Directa, Villalobos, had put on a bulletproof vest in the hunt for tax evaders and gave him encouragement.That was a day before the tax problem of Villlaobos became public in La Nación Tuesday afternoon.

Channel 7 Teletica also has been critical of the tax evasion, and even the Roman Catholic Church checked in with a criticism of the tax reform plan in the 2012 pastoral letter emitted by the country's bishops.

Rules finally issued for paying that new corporate tax 
 April 3, 2012  A.M. Costa Rica
The Registro Nacional has put on its RNP Digital Web site the rules for paying the new tax on corporations and similar entities.

The posting specifies that the tax this year is 135,225 colons or about $270 for active corporations and 67,612.50 colons or about $135 for inactive corporations.

The only bank authorized to collect the money is Banco de Costa Rica, said the posting. The Registro said that the bank's Web site would have an online method for payment, but as of Monday night there was no obvious way to make the payment by those who are not Banco de Costa Rica customers.

The deadline for payment is the end of the month. The amount this year is just 75 percent of what will be due next year in January because the tax only covers three-quarters of the year in 2012.

Those who have studied the Registro posting, a posting by Hernando Paris, minister of Justicia y Paz and a directive say there is some good news.

Persons who wish to remove themselves as having responsibility for a corporation can do so for just 2,000 colons ($4) in fees at the Registro. Of course there are lawyer fees to prepare the documents for filing. This is good news from individuals who might be serving as a corporate officer but not really be an owner. Normally the fee for making such a filing is 35,000 colons or about $70.

This action can be taken until April 1, 2014, said the Registro.

That big discount is important for those who might be in business or be a lawyer and have their names on many corporations.

Otherwise, they would be liable personally for payment of the tax even if they did not have ownership.

Exempted from the tax are those companies that have filed with the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio as small- and medium-sized firms. The deadline for doing so and avoiding the tax was April 1.

Companies that do not pay the tax within 30 days will be listed as deadbeats by the Registro and will not be able to make legal transactions there, the posting noted. After three years of non-payment, the Registro will cancel the company, it noted. But the tax still will be payable.Some expats reported that they had tried to make payments at Banco de Costa Rica Monday and were met with blank stares. There is no paperwork involved.

The Registro said that all that the bank teller will need is the cédula juridica of the corporation, the identifying number.  The bank is supposed to have available a list that shows if a company is active or inactive, according to the Registro.
Although the new tax, which mostly goes to the security ministry, seems fully in force, some expats and Costa Ricans have said they will challenge the measure at the Sala IV.

 

What’s open and what’s closed during Easter Holy Week  
 April 3, 2012 - By Tico Times Most public institutions will be closed for the entire week.

For Ticos, Semana Santa, or Holy Week – Costa Rica’s most important Catholic celebration – means vacation from work, and most government offices and banks are closed, transportation services are reduced, and non-tourism-related commerce comes to a halt during Holy Thursday and Good Friday (April 5 and 6).According to a Labor Ministry decision last week, most public institutions will be closed the entire week. Others will work as usual but only from Monday through Wednesday.

As for a dry law – which prohibits the sale of alcohol from midnight Wednesday to midnight Saturday – lawmakers approved earlier this year a reform that allows each municipality to decide if whether or not to implement it.

The following is a list of what’s open and what’s closed during Semana Santa:

Government offices: Following an order from Casa Presidencial and the Labor Ministry,

all ministries, the Legislative Assembly and Supreme Elections Tribunal will be closed

April 2-6.

Public institutions such as Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) and National Power and Light Company (CNFL) will be open until Wednesday.

The Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) and courts from the Judicial Branch will be closed, except for domestic violence court.

Hospitals and pharmacies: Caja hospitals will be open Monday through Wednesday only, but emergency rooms will remain open 24 hours a day all week. The Red Cross (1028 or 911) and National Insurance Institute (INS, 800-800-8000) also will attend to emergencies at all hours.

The emergency rooms and pharmacies at private hospitals Clínica Bíblica (2522-1000), in downtown San José, Clínica Católica (2283-6616), in the northeastern suburb of Guadalupe, and CIMA (2208-1000), in the western suburb of Escazú, also will be open 24 hours a day.

Banks: Most BAC San José (2295-9797), Scotiabank (2210-4000), Banco Nacional (2211-2000), Banco de Costa Rica (2287-9000) and Banco Popular (2211-7000) branches will operate as usual Monday through Wednesday and will close Thursday and be back in operation on Monday, April 9.HSBC branches will be closed from 3 p.m. Wednesday until Monday.

Citibank branches will be closed Thursday through Saturday; its shopping-mall branches in Multiplaza del Este, Multiplaza Escazú, Paseo de las Flores and Terramall will be open as usual on Sunday, April 9. Call Banco Promérica (2505-7000) and Bancrédito (2551-3011) for their schedules.

Shopping Malls/Cinemas: Multiplaza (East and West) will be closed on Thursday and Friday.
The food courts will be open from 12 noon to 8 pm and cinemas will be open as normal. Paseo de las Flores and Terramall open these days but many of their shops will not.

Supermarkets: All places where the dry law will be in effect, bars will be sealed shut and restaurants and supermarkets will be prohibited from selling liquor, including wine and beer, from Wednesday at midnight through Saturday.

Auto Mercado stores (2257-4242) in the Central Valley will be open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, except for the Multiplaza and Los Yoses stores, which will close at 9 p.m., and the downtown San José store, which will be open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day.On Friday, all stores will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., except the downtown San José and Los Yoses stores, which will be closed.  Muñoz y Nanne (2253-4646), in the eastern suburb of San Pedro, will operate as usual except on Friday, when it will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saretto (2228-6703), in Escazú, will be closed Thursday and Friday.
Most Más x Menos (2243-7100) stores will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, except for the store in Jacó, on the central Pacific coast, which will be open until 10 p.m. Thursday and until 9 p.m. Friday. Stores in Cuesta de Moras in San José and in Alajuela, northwest of the capital, will be closed Thursday and Friday. Walmart (2286-0033) stores will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Most Palí stores (2243-7100) will close Thursday and Friday. Call the Megasuper supermarket chain (2246-0400) for its schedules.
PriceSmart (2283-4494) stores will be closed on Friday only.

Mail and shipping: Correos de Costa Rica (2202-2900), Aerocasillas (2208-4848), DHL (2209-6000) and FedEx (800-463-3339) will be closed from Thursday until Monday.

Embassies: The British Embassy (2258-2025), the Canadian Embassy (2242-4400), U.S. Embassy (2220-3939) and French Embassy (2234-4167) will be closed from Thursday until Monday.  Veterinarians: The National University (UNA) veterinary hospital in Barreal de Heredia (2260-9234) is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Dr. Bitter’s clinics in San José and Escazú (2227-5017) will be closed Thursday and Friday. Dr. Adrián Molina (2228-1909) in Escazú will be closed Thursday through Saturday.

 

Costa Rican finance minister resigns after reports that he underpaid property taxes April 3, 2012 - By Tico Times - AFP

An investigation by the daily La Nación revealed last week that many government officials pay less taxes than they owe.Finance Minister Fernando Herrero stepped down on Monday after the daily La Nación published an investigation last week revealing that the minister was not paying his fair share of taxes at the same time he was lobbying for a reform package that would hike taxes for most Costa Ricans.

The La Nación investigation revealed that Herrero and other government officials for many years had declared property values at lower than market rates in order to pay less taxes than the law required.

Some officials who responded to La Nación’s report erroneously said it was the duty of municipalities to update the values of their properties. Herrero failed to pay at least $600 per year on two family properties that were undervalued.

Chinchilla called on the officials mentioned in the report to bring up to date the declared value of their properties, and said Costa Rica has a culture of underpaying property taxes. She stopped short of asking top members of her cabinet to step down.

The president acknowledged over the weekend that Herrero’s “mistake” had jeopardized administration efforts to push forward a fiscal reform plan aimed at reducing Costa Rica's burgeoning fiscal deficit, now close to 5 percent of gross domestic product.

The reform plan, which includes a 14 percent value-added tax and other tax hikes for businesses, among other measures, has generated opposition among business sectors and unions. Among the supporters of the measure are members of Chinchilla’s own political party, the National Liberation Party, and the Citizen Action Party, who were instrumental in pushing the tax bill through a first round of voting in the Legislative Assembly on March 15.

Currently, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court is reviewing the constitutionality of the bill. If the court gives the measure the green light, it will return to the assembly for a second and final round of voting. 

 

Eco-friendly Costa Rican beaches & businesses earn coveted Blue Flag
 April 1, 2012  Tico Times By Clayton R. Norman
On International Water Day Costa Rica awarded its Blue Flag awards to communities, beaches, businesses, conservation areas and other organizations demonstrating a commitment to protecting the country’s natural resources.
Playa Hermosa just south of Jaco received the coveted Blue Flag this year.

“Costa Ricans, since the 1960s, decided to have a … social pact with nature, and that is what we are fulfilling today,” President Laura Chinchilla said Thursday at the Blue Flag awards ceremony at Casa Presidencial in the southeastern Zapote district of San José.At the ceremony, Chinchilla also signed a new law to protect the country’s hydrological resources and a sweeping anti-smoking bill.

In the ’90s, the National Water Laboratory – an office of the Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) – began promoting development in local committees with conservation and protection of natural resources as a goal.

In 2011, some 1,400 organizations participated in the Blue Flag Awards in seven categories, including protection of beaches, community development, educational centers and protected areas. The initiative also sought to mitigate the effects of climate change, protect hydrological resources and promote public health.

Of the 1,400 organizations that participated last year, 857 were awarded this week with at least one of five possible stars indicating the level of commitment to environmental protection.

Of 106 beaches that competed, 80 were awarded at least one star, including Playa Hermosa.

 Punta del Madero, near Tamarindo in the northwestern Guanacaste province, and Playa Blanca de Punta Leona near Jacó, on the central Pacific coast, were the only beaches to receive five stars for 2011. Bahía Junquillal, in Guanacaste, and Manuel Antonio National Park, on the central Pacific coast, both received two stars.

EARTH University, Reserva Conchal and La Fortuna de San Carlos each earned four stars in the “communities” category. Of 44 communities that participated last year, 25 earned one star, 10 earned two stars and two earned three stars.

Schools and educational centers also got in on the 2011 eco-friendly action. Of 849 schools that participated, 531 received at least one star in efforts to cultivate in students attitudes that value environmental conservation.

Of 45 protected areas, 33 received at least one Blue Flag star; 21 reserves and refuges received 3 stars, and none received four or five.

The Punta Leona Wildlife Refuge, EARTH Forest Reserve and the Nosara Civic Association Reserve, among others, all earned 3 stars.

Costa Rica’s own Coopedota – the world’s first certified carbon-neutral coffee collective –received five stars in 2011 for its efforts to confront climate change. The coffee cooperative recycles and treats all wastewater from its processes and uses all parts of coffee been waste to co-generate electricity at its plant.  The Los Santos area, a coffee producing region south of San José, which is home to Coopedota, received three stars in promotion of public health.

Castro also unveiled plans to create a national watershed registry with sensors capable of monitoring changes in hydrological resources in real time. The Environment Ministry, Castro said, will now dedicate some 20 percent of its resources to policing and managing water resources in the country, and will also start a campaign of shame including publishing online names of individuals and businesses known to be polluting water sources.

Learn Which Are Costa Rica's Cleanest Beaches
• ICT awards 80 beaches with Blue Flag

Semana Santa in Costa Rica is time to visit the beaches and resorts. And the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) has announced the 80 beaches around the country awarded the Blue Flag.

 


Click to enlarge

A total of 105 communities have applied for evaluation, with the majority of the Blue Flags awarded to communities in North Guanacaste with 25 Blue Flags, followed by the Central Pacific with 13,  Southern Guanacaste with 12, Puntarenas with 11, Caribbean with 10 and South Pacific with 9 flags.

The Blue Flag Ecological Program was created in response to the imminent dangers of beach pollution, its repercussions on public health and the tourism industry. It has reached its twelfth year of operations, with a marked increase that began in 2002.

The Blue Flag Ecological Program is an inter-institutional effort, made official through the Executive Decrees # 25626-96, Decree # 31610 S-MINAE-TUR and the Decree # 31648 MEP-MINAE-S-TUR, from February 9, 2004, which included participation from the Costa Rica Tourism Institute (ICT), National Water and Sewer Service (AyA), Public Health Ministry (MS), Environment Ministry (MINAE), Education Ministry (ME) and the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR).

Besides being a program that has managed to coordinate efforts between those institutions involved, it also allows citizen participation. In order to participate, the Pro BAE committee standards must be adhered to within the participating communities and local schools, since these institutions implement the program’s lines of action which the award’s granting depends on.

The Ecological Blue Flag is granted annually to those communities and local schools that have reached, at a minimum, 90% of that which is required by the end of the year. In the case of coastal communities that belong to the Blue Flag program, additional efforts will be recognized for two and now even four stars if they make efforts in other considered areas to achieve overall development, within the proposed focus.

As part of its BAE program objectives that recently began within the coastal communities, and those maritime areas affected by institutions, the Costa Rica Tourism Institute defines program goals that designate personal technicians and economic resources to support the initiative and take on related field work in order to verify that the program’s promoted lines of action are fulfilled by the communities.

Since the beginning, the ICT, together with the National Water and Sewer Service (AyA), regarding that related to BAE – Coastal Communities, have assumed follow-up and other responsibilities for the efforts made by beach institutions that have signed up for the program. For example, the AyA technical team is responsible for sea-water analysis, human water consumption, and coastal quality with respect to water and industrial waste. These are carried out by means of laboratory tests, while following microbiological procedures and parameters previously established. The ICT’s technical team is responsible for inorganic waste, trash cans, environmental education, security and administration, and that related to base parameters.

Requisites to participate in the program
Costa Rican coastal communities looking to join the program shall submit a request by means of the registration ballot and the candidate questionnaire, which must be sent to program’s National Commission from December to February.
Criteria for Coastal Communities:
The following aspects will be evaluated:

Microbiological quality of the ocean’s water

35%

Quality of potable water

15%

Quality of coastal sanitation areas:

 

              Garbage and garbage containers

10%

              Treated industrial waste

5%

              Treated run-off water

15%

Environmental education

10%

Security and administration

10%

Total:      

100%

 

 

Jaco Beach To Host the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup
01 April 2012  Insidecostarica
At an official ceremony held last week in Jaco Beach in the Garabito canton, Province of Puntarenas, the coastal resort town was confirmed as one of the host cities for the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Jaco Beach is the second host location selected outside of the Greater San Jose Metropolitan Area.
There was an additional announcement made at the ceremony: the construction of a new stadium in the city, which will be home to the Jaco Rays Football Club.
The Rays currently play in the national Liga de Ascenso (LIASCE in Spanish), a second division league that plays for a coveted spot in the national First Division.

The new Garabito Stadium will sit on 11 hectares and will have all the specifications and requirements needed to hold FIFA sporting events. The stadium will seat 7,000 fans and will feature a natural grass pitch. Additional facilities for the press corps and spectators will be included in the construction project.

Pat Hundley is the gentleman who will oversee the stadium construction project, which will cost approximately $5 million. Groundbreaking will take place in September and should be completed six months prior to the first scheduled 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup game.

Mr. Hundley is a businessman who arrived in Costa Rica in 2002. He has been actively involved in projects that aim to revitalize the beach community in Jaco and the canton of Garabito. The Jaco Rays football team was born out of an idea that Hundley decided to put into action in 2010. The Rays became a reality when the former Asociacion Deportiva Naranjo football team was acquired by Hundley along with two veteran football personalities from Alajuela,
Wilmer “Pato” Lopez and Johnny Perez.
The Jaco Rays Football Club is currently one of the eight teams that will advance to the quarter finals. The other teams are Carmelita and Guanacasteca, with one more team to be defined. The quarter finals matches will take place in April, and the championship will be played on May 27th.  By Jaime Lopez, Costa Rica Star

 

Costa Rica Grants Citizenship To More Than 3.000 Foreigners

01 April 2012  Insidecostarica
• Marriage is the most common way of achieving Costa Rican citizenship

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has so far registered 3.415 foreigners who met the requirements to be considered Costa Rican citizens, including 70.922 babies born in 2011.According to TSE, 1.353 Nicaraguans, 795 Colombians, 179 Cubans, 145 Chinese and 137 Americans requested that status and achieved it.

TSE Registration Chef, Luis Bolaños, explained that the naturalization process can last from 6 to 8 months, as always as the file is complete.There are so many ways to achieve this status, but the most common is by way of marriage with a Costa Rican, according to Bolaños.  

Semana Santa-Easter Week Closures
March 25, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
The week of Semana Santa (March 31 to April 7) can be confusing in Costa Rica, for we know that the central government will shut down for the week, but what about autonomous government institutions and agencies like the INS, ICE, AYA, CNFL and many others. 

One institutions, the Institutio Nacional de Seguros (INS) - national insurer - is the first to notify the public of its closure for the Easter week. The others are expected to follow the INS example.  INS officials announced the closure for Semana Santa.

And although the Semana Santa closures seem like a really long vacation, in effect the closures are only for three days.

How you say?

The INS, as most government institutions are closed on weekends.

Thursday (April 5) and Friday (April 6) are legal holidays.

 So, in effect the closure of business is only for Monday (April 2), Tuesday (April 3) and Wednesday (April 4).

Local municipalities are also expected to close the entire week.

Many businesses, offices, etc. will most likely close the entire week of Semana Santa and reopen for business as usual on Monday April 9.

Semana Santa or Easter Week is the time when Costa Ricans tend to vacation away from home. Proof of that is the prediction by the Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles (Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels) of an 80% occupancy rate for the week. 

Last year the occupancy rate was 75%, but according to preliminary date by the Chamber this year is expected to be a better year.

Among the factors influencing the increase is the improved purchasing power of Ticos and the number of promotion by hotels and tour operators, adding to that the announcement by the central government that all public sector employees will have the entire week off.

Another aspect if the influence of conventions, associations, unions and other groups with promotional packages for their members during the holiday period.

A survery by the (ICT) - Costa Rica's Tourism Board - reveals that 86.3% of Costa Ricans are tempted by the beach during Semana Santa, looking for sun and sand, while 54.9% are more inclined for the volcanoes and mountain resorts.

 

Costa Rica: 52.3 percent of Territory Covered by Forests
March 24, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
Costa Rica has 52.3 percent of its territory covered by forests, says a joint study by the National Forestry Financing Fund and the University of Alberta in Canada, released Thursday.

Since 2005 to date, the country's forest area grew one percent, despite logging, fires, and the negative impact of tourism, the report said.

High resolution photographs taken by the French SPOT satellite between 2009 and 2010 allowed the experts to define the land use in the territory.

The scientists identified 50 types of coverage, including forest and non forest areas and mangroves, palm plantations, agriculture and secondary forests, reported the newspaper El Pais Digital.

The comparison of the new images with those of others taken between 1990 and 2005, allowed observing the evolution of forests in the country.

Presidenta Signs Ley Anti-tabaco (Anti-Smoking Law)
March 23, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
In a public ceremony, presidenta Laura Chinchila on Thursday signed the Ley Antitabaco, prohibiting smoking in public places, following the green light from the Constitutional Court on Tuesday. The next step is the publication of the law in the La Gaceta and the development of regulations governing the prohibition by the Ministerio de Salud (Health Ministry).

The law, that is expected to go into effect in three months, will ban smoking in bars, restaurants, clubs, workplaces, bus stops, taxi stands, trains and many other public spaces, both open and closed, and add a tax of ¢20 colones to each cigarette.

The law also prohibits the sale of cigarettes in less than a full pack, like a single cigarette that is common in downtown San José or in some bars.

The fine for violation of the smoking law is ¢36.000 for the general public and more tha 5 times than for companies who sell, distribute or manufacture cigarettes and do not adhere to the strict laws on advertising and promotion of tobacco products.

The ban does not affect the use and sale of electronic cigarettes.

The presidenta and government officials are aware that the law cannot cover 100% of offenders. However, the ministry of Health will be hiring more inspectors and use the renewal of health permits and municipal licenses to enforce the law.

 

Costa Rica's Constitutional Court LOWERS Traffic Fines
March 23, 2012 Inside Costa Rica   • Careless driving now costs only ¢20.000

The Sala IV gave another blow to the Ley de Tránsito and the efforts of traffic officials to reduce the carnage on Costa Rica's roads. 

The latest decision by the Sala Contitucional (Constitutional Court) reduces the ¢351.585 colones fine for speeding 20 km/h over the limit to the maxim of ¢20.000 of pre March 2010, when the new traffic law went into effect.

The Sala IV called the fine "irrational".

In the last year the Sala IV has reduced the fines for many traffic infractions, including speeding.

However, speeding over 20 km/h was called "velocidad temeraria" (careless driving) and came with the higher fine instead of the ¢5.000 colones (rolled back) fined for speeding just one kilometre over the limit.

In March 2010, the new Ley de Tránsito went into effect, raising fines from between ¢5.000 and ¢20.000 (the maximum fine set out in the traffic law that went into effect in 1993) to more than ¢300.000 when all costs were added in.

So, on March 2010, only drivers going 20 km/h over the speed limit could be fined. The fine was the higher limit. For drivers going over 120 km/h the fine was even higher and more points. For driving in excess of 150 km/h it became a criminal act and the driver subject to up to three years jail and suspension of their drivers license.

However, late last year the Sala IV rolled back the speeding fines based on they being "disproportionate. From that point on, drivers going as little as 1 km/h over the limit could be sanctioned the lower fine, but if going 20 km/h or over the limit, they were subject to the higher fines. The 120 km/h and 150 kn/h rule stayed the same.

Now, today, going 20 km/h over the limit costs only ¢26.000 colones when costs are added. That is less than a meal for two at a fine restaurant.

Confusing things even more is the points.

Although the fines have been lowered, the points system is in place. Thus, speeding only 1 km/h or 20 or 50 - as long as it is below 150 - points are accumulated and there is a loss of drivers license when 50 points are reached.

Driving with a suspended license still costs over ¢300.000 with costs and more points.

This is a fact forgotten by many drivers who, in their wisdom, consider the current (low) cost of speeding as just a cost of doing business, forgetting that the accumulation of points will see them without a drivers license for two years - up to a lifetime ban for repeated suspensions - and a mandatory five day drivers education course.

The director of the Policia de Transito, Diego Herrera - like his predecessor - is indignant of the Court's decision and asks rhetorically, "what is worth more: a life or an administrative sanction?"

The Court decision also affects fines for obstructing a road, illegal parking and not having brake lights.

• Careless driving drops from ¢270.299 to ¢20.000

• Obstructing a road from ¢180.199 to ¢2.000 (no typo)

• Illegal parking from ¢144.159 to ¢5.000

• No brake lights ¢108.199 to ¢2.000

 

Pollo Tropical Opens First of Five International Franchise Locations in CR
March 23, 2012 Inside Costa Rica  • First San Jose Location Opening Just Five Months after Signing Agreement.
Miami-based Pollo Tropical® announces the opening of its first franchised restaurant in Costa Rica, in San Jose’s main square: Parque Central.   

The opening marks the first of what it hopes will be at least five Pollo Tropical locations of the famous Latin grilled chicken brand being established in Costa Rica by international franchisee, Chicken Tropical Service. A second unit is slated to open in Liberia, Costa Rica at the end of the month. Liberia is 134 miles northwest of San Jose.

The operating partners of Chicken Tropical Service SA include Alberto Chacin, Jose Chacin, Carlos Borregales, Leonardo Belloso and Rafael Belloso. Mr. Borregales as well as Leonardo Belloso and Rafael Belloso are also partners in more than 30 international Burger King® franchises in Costa Rica, and another 13 Burger King franchises in Panama. This first Costa Rica Pollo Tropical location is a non-traditional location, in the Palace Food Mall at Parque Central in San Jose.

The Costa Rica location’s menu boasts the famous Pollo Tropical flame-grilled chicken and roast pork and will also offer locally-sourced ribs. Other menu favorites include traditional Caribbean white rice and beans, fresh side dishes, as well as the Pollo Tropical TropiChops® - a casserole bowl of grilled chicken breast, pork or vegetables served atop a bed of white or yellow rice. These selections are accompanied by a variety of other offerings such as the Caesar salad, a hearty Caribbean Chicken Soup, wraps, sandwiches and a variety of desserts and beverages.

The first Pollo Tropical restaurant opened in 1988 in Miami, Florida. The unique restaurant concept is known for its fresh, never frozen, open flame grilled chicken, marinated in a proprietary blend of tropical fruit juices and spices, as well as authentic “made from scratch” side dishes.

Aegis Expands Its Footprint in Costa Rica
March 22, 2012 Inside Costa Rica  
Aegis Limited, a global outsourcing services provider and part of the $17 billion Essar Group, announced that it is expanding its footprint in Costa Rica by opening a 900‐seat call centre in Rohrmoser, San Jose.
Costa Rica has played a vital part of our success. Aegis began operations in Costa Rica in 2006 and today we have nearly 900 employees," said Sandip Sen, President for Global CLM (Customer Lifecycle Management) Business, Aegis. “
Our Costa Rica location serves US‐based clients in healthcare, banking, travel and hospitality, retail, and technology. Client engagements include customer care, customer acquisition, reservations, technical support, and collections. The new Aegis Tower will be the perfect blend of additional capacity and reduced costs. It will provide us with 25% more agent seats and a substantial savings in lease cost, in a logistically better section of San Jose.”
The new facility is located in the Rohrmoser section of San Jose, close to the U.S. Embassy and the National Stadium. Sen added, “
We are expanding our client engagements for many of the world's leading brands. This along with our continued growth in the U.S. underlies our commitment to growth in the region.”
Aegis Tower will serve as the primary Aegis location in the country. The company has already moved client engagements into the center with more to come.

 

APM To Invest $992 Million in Costa Rica
March 22, 2012 Inside Costa Rica  
(Reuters) - APM Terminals, the port operating arm of Danish oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk said on Thursday it had won a concession in Costa Rica to develop a port, carrying an investment of about $992 million.  

The 33-year concession was agreed with the government of Costa Rica for the design, finance, construction, operation and maintenance of the container terminal in the Caribbean port of Moin, APM Terminals said.
 The port handles up to 80 percent of the country's international commerce, and is located 10 hours by sea from the Panama Canal.
The new port development comes at a time when the canal is being expanded to handle the larger vessels cascading into the region, the company said.Inauguration of first phase IS expected in the fourth quarter of 2016, it added.


 First Costa Rica Winery Launched
March 21, 2012 Inside Costa Rica  
Napa Valley wine consultant Kerry Damskey has pioneered Costa Rica's first commercial winery.  Damskey says he planted 4 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Grenache in December 2011.

The winery and vineyards are located above the small city of Copey, situated in Dota, in central Costa Rica, at an altitude of 2000 metres.
'Costa Rica will present a challenge but you can always adapt to local conditions and the high altitude site shows great promise for grape growing', Damskey said.

Damskey's team have also been experimenting with five other varieties, including Zinfandel and Merlot.Their first commercial vintage will be released in 2015.

 

Gran Hotel Costa Rica Joins Choice Hotel Chain
March 21, 2012 Inside Costa Rica  The Gran Hotel Costa Rica in downtown San José has joined the Ascend Collection membership program, from Choice Hotels International as the portfolio's first hotel in Central America. The hotel stays independently owned and run, but gains a global reservation system and a guest-reward programs good at thousands of lodgings worldwide.To mark the occasion, the hotel is offering a rate of $79 a night, through April 30. The historical landmark hotel is in the heart of Costa Rica's capital city, near the city's top museums, theatres and historic sites. The property, which was built in 1930 and was named a Costa Rican Historical and Architectural Landmark in 2004, has an open-air patio restaurant that faces activity and musicians on the Plaza de la Cultura.

Presidenta Maintains C.R. World Champs Will Be Paid
March 21, 2012 Inside Costa Rica  • Payment is based in law in effect since 1997

It took only 11 seconds for Hanna Gabriel to become world boxing champion and 45.11 seconds was the time for Nery Brenes to run the 400 metres in Turkey and be crowned world champ.

A law in Costa Rica in effect since 1997, rewards national athletes who ascend to the world stage, who will receive a monetary award by the government.The law, made up of only six articles that explicitly defines the monetary incentive is clear tht the award is given only to members of a team sport. It does not mention individual disciplines. But the rules were changed earlier this year, two days after Brenes made his dash to receive the gold medal.

On March 12, a decree was signed by Presidenta Laura Chinchilla that was published on March 15 in La Gaceta.The payment of the award has made headlines since, but not because the government does not want to pay up, but rather the economic situation facing the country leaves the public coffers short.  Rodrigo Gutiérez, former legislator and promoter of the law, says if the government fails to comply with the legislation, that is pay up, it would be committing a crime by breaking the of the law.

Those who honoured the country in sport now feel the government is turning them away. "I am not demanding the money, it is my right. I trained hard, I fought and won and my family has suffered with me and feel I deserve it", said Hanna Gabriel.Besides Gabriel and Brenes, there is the case of Bryan "El Tiquito" Vasquez who is a champion boxer.And then Craig "Tequila" Schieber who is a world surfing champion and many other cases, such as the youngsters of the Special Olympics who also brought home a world prize for Costa Rica.

Lack of Road Demarcation
March 19, 2012 Inside Costa Rica
The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad (CONAVI) has been busy over the last few months to repave many, well some, of the most used national roads like the Interamericana Norte and the autopista General Cañas.l 

While the paving for the most part has been completed what is missing are the lines, especially confusing for drivers of the three lanes of the most transited route in the country, the autopista General Cañas between Alajuela and San José.

For months the "demarcation" is missing, a very dangerous situation especially for those unfamiliar with the road, especially at night when the black tar blends into the dark night.

It has been a miracle that no major accident has occurred.

The lack of demarcation is a common one on many roads across the country. The problem seems to be one of co-ordination and responsibility.

It is a common practice for several contractors to share the work, one for the paving and another or more for the demarcation. And it appears that the CONVAI is not able to properly co-ordinate.

For example, driving to and from the airport and from San José are thousands of tourists who daily rent a car and not being familiar with the road, the open ditches, the lack of signs and the three lane road that narrows to two lanes at the bridges.

We can only recommend to slow down and use extreme caution on this and other roads around the country. And if you can, avoid driving at night.

Beaches in Costa Rica Enjoy Great Water Quality
Posted by Jaime Lopez on March 23, 2012 in Health
A study of 100 beaches in Costa Rica from 1996 to 2011 by the National Water Laboratory indicates that 91 percent of all beaches enjoy great water quality in terms of the presence of fecal coliform organisms. The study, which was published in La Nacion, involved 6,847 water samples collected in different bodies of water along both of our coasts, and it was checked against historical data from the last 17 years.

The presence of fecal coliform bacteria in the water of swimming beaches is a widely accepted standard indicator of water quality. Fecal coliform counts can be expected in just about any body of water where live organisms dwell. Fecal material can enter the water directly, or else from agricultural runoff and sewage water. Very high counts of fecal coliform can make a beach unfit for swimming and turn it into a public health risk.

The results revealed that 50 percent of the water samples from the beaches presented very low counts of the fecal coliform bacterium, between zero and 10 per 100 milliliters (ml) of water.

The other 41 percent of the samples presented fecal coliform counts between 10 and 100 per 100 ml of water. By way of comparison, the Healthy Beaches Program for the State of Florida in the United States grants a rating of “good” to beach water that contains a fecal coliform count between zero to 199 per 100 ml.

Not all beaches in the study passed with flying colors. Four out of the 100 beaches exhibited a high fecal coliform count.

In Puntarenas, Playa Tarcoles with 704 and Playa Azul with 455 are not fit for swimming at this time. In Limon, Portete and Los Banos presented very high fecal coliform counts. These two beaches in Limon are infamous for their low-quality waters caused by improper waste water management; something that health officials and water treatment experts are currently trying to improve.

Testing for the presence of fecal coliform in waters where recreational swimming takes place sometimes leads to surprise closures. Pristine-looking swimming spots in the states of Washington and Minnesota in the U.S., as well as in Halifax, Canada, have been closed due to high fecal matter counts.

Blue Flag Beaches

The sampling of water at our beaches is part of the Bandera Azul (Blue Flag) ecological program, the highest rating that can be granted to a beach in Costa Rica to determine its overall health. There are over 400 beaches in Costa Rica that can be considered to be of touristic value. Testing for fecal coliform bacteria has been conducted since the early 1960s.

 In 1996, the Blue Flag program was established to engage the community into taking care of their own beaches. Water quality is one of the most important factors in determining what communities gain or lose the coveted blue flag status. In the next few days, the program coordinators will be announcing the Blue Flag beaches. Until then, you can read about our current Blue Flag beaches here.

 

Learn-Support the McKee Project for Animal Welfare  
Posted by Jaime Lopez on March 23, 2012 in Health

The rise of the middle and upper classes in various Latin American nations, like Costa Rica, is translating into positive news for pets.Economic prosperity means that business is booming for the pet food and supplies industry. Upscale pet hotels and grooming spas for dogs may have once been dismissed as staples of the excesses of Western industrialized nations, but they are now cropping up in the suburbs of the Central Valley. There is no doubt that the pet boom has arrived in Costa Rica and it is bound to keep growing.

There is one difference between the pet boom in Costa Rica when compared to other countries like Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. While the pet boom in those countries is conforming to patterns of consumption and disposable income, pet culture in Costa Rica has been significantly shaped by the hard work of Christine Crawford and the McKee Project.

Pet culture in Costa Rica, and particularly in San Jose, was radically different at the time Christine Crawford arrived in our country. Christine’s impression of the quality of life for dogs in San Jose was recently recounted in a Bark magazine article by veteran journalist Twig Mowatt, whose work has also appeared on the pages of The New York Times.

Christine was taken aback by the reprehensible living conditions of dogs in San Jose. The sight of pregnant and skeletal stray dogs looking for food in trash heaps and generally fighting to survive alongside indifferent Ticos was too much for Christine to assimilate. Her kind heart prompted her to carry dog food with her when she left the house, something that undoubtedly made her very popular among the army of zaguates roaming the streets of our capital city.

Eventually Christine sought the assistance of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and she was advised that the best course of action to take was a sterilization campaign. She found a handful of veterinarians who would help her in her immediate quest to spay and neuter dogs in order to improve their quality of life.

But even then Christine faced another obstacle: the sterilization procedures practiced among Tico vets at the time were nothing like the simple outpatient procedure that is so common these days.

The McKee Project
Christine’s animal welfare vision is named after Mary Ann McKee, whom Christine describes as her second mother. It there is one thing that Tico pet owners can thank the McKee Project for is the modernization and advocacy of the spay and neuter industry in Costa Rica.

The McKee Project enlisted Tico vets who traveled to the United States and learned the modern pet sterilization procedures that are now practiced in our country. Those techniques have been improved upon and are now the most advanced in the world.

The efficiency of the McKee Project sterilization techniques starts with the reduced size of the incision and the short time that the procedure takes; about 10 minutes. The McKee Project does away with the need of expensive anesthesia equipment -an injection is all that is needed.

This streamlined operation means that McKee Project vets are not bound to a single clinic; they are rather mobile and can travel to remote areas, set up a tent, and begin performing spaying and neutering surgeries with ease.

Thanks to the McKee Project, Costa Rica is now a destination for veterinarians from Latin American and Caribbean nations who come to our country to learn the McKee Advanced Spay and Neuter Protocol. Since the McKee Project is a charitable organization, the cost per training session is quite affordable and can be arranged to be paid through private funding from other animal welfare and community groups. In some cases, McKee Project trainers can travel from Costa Rica to other locations and impart on-site.

The work of the McKee Project goes beyond sterilization. To learn more about how the McKee Project unites communities for animal welfare, please visit their website or their home on Facebook. 

 

 

Costa Rica:  2.2 Million Foreign Visitors In 2011
Feb.3, 2012 Inside Costa Rica

The Cámara Nacional de Turismo (CANATUR) and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) are happy campers with the news on Monday revealing some 2.2 million foreign tourist visits for 2011. The official number of foreign visitors for 2011 was 2.195.960.
The number represents and increase of 93.131 more visitors than in 2010.

CANATUR (the national tourism chamber), as well as the ICT (national institute of tourism), expressed on Monday their satisfaction on the results.However, both institutions point out the need to continue their efforts to attract more visitors and must compete for tourism attractions in Central America, Brazil, Russia, China and India.

The head of the ICT, Allan Flores, said that their promotion in foreign markets and presence at international tourism fairs have paid off, but will continue their efforts to attract more South American and European visitors.
The CANATUR and the ICT are expecting more visitors this year with the opening of the new Daniel Oduber (Liberia) airport terminal, which will allow more airlines and tour operators to include Costa Rica in their offers to travellers.The new terminal in Guanacaste is one of the main entry doors to Costa Rica's north Pacific coast beaches and the La Fortuna and Arenal areas and increasing airline capacity and the handling of more visitors at one time.
 

Tourism Chamber happy with a 4.6 percent increase   
Feb. 3 , 2012  A.M. Costa Rica

The tourism chamber is putting on a happy face with the news that non-resident arrivals in 2011 were 4.6 percent higher than in 2010. The chamber, the Cámara Nacional de Turismo, was reacting to the release of final 2011 figures by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The tourism institute reported that Costa Rica received  2,195,960 non-resident visitors in 2011 compared to 2,099,829 in 2010. The difference is slightly more than 96,000.

The chamber report also uses the term non-resident tourists to describe the arrivals. The increase of those arriving by air was 3.2 the chamber said.

The tourism institute had hoped for a 5 percent increase in visitors in 2011.

 The chamber once again is urging the country to seek tourists in non-traditional countries, such as Russia, Brazil, China and India.  It also urged more investment in infrastructure, such as road repairs.

The chamber noted that improvements at Juan Santamaria airport and a new terminal at Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia were advances in tourism. It urged more efforts to get more air flights to the country. It also urged more emphasis on security.

The tourism industry has negotiated a graduated value-added tax as part of the proposal that is being discussed in the legislature. Instead of the full 14 percent tax right away, certain tourism operations will pay just 2 percent the first year, 10 percent the second year and then 14 percent in the third year. There is no guarantee that this proposal will survive legislative debate, although it is backed by the central government.

Sam’s Club coming to Costa Rica  
 February 03, 2012 –Tico Times
Wal-Mart already owns 199 stores in the country but now membership-based, buy-everything-in-bulk, Wal-Mart-owned Sam’s Club is coming to Costa Rica, the daily El Financiero reported Monday.

Wal-Mart owns Maxi Pali, Más x Menos and Palí supermarkets found in Costa Rica, as well as seven Wal-Mart Supercenters in the country. All together, according to information on Wal-Mart’s website, the corporation has 199 stores here and employs approximately 11,900 people. Wal-Mart has more than 550 stores in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and employs almost 30,000 workers.
Sam’s Club offers shoppers various membership options with yearly fees that grant members access to warehouse-style aisles lined with goods often in bulk quantities.
El Financiero reported that Wal-Mart will build a Sam’s Club on a property near the center of the eastern San José suburb of Curridabat, northeast of Lomas de Ayarco.

 Here Comes Starbucks!
February 03, 2012 –Tico Times  By Clayton R. Norman 
 Coffee drinkers in Costa Rica who lean toward that type of concoction have until about November to figure it out. That’s when Starbucks, the global coffee behemoth, usually rolls out its holiday specialty coffee drinks. The company announced last week it will open its first retail location in the western San Jose high suburb of  Escazu, this May.“We want to bring to the Costa Rican consumer the Starbucks experience,” said Manuela Valásquez, Starbucks director of marketing in Central America.

Costa Rica consumes almost 18.6 million kilograms of coffee annually, according to Ronald Peters, executive director of the Coffee Institute of Costa Rica (ICAFE). That’s an average of roughly 4 kg per person each year. Peters estimates the 2011-2012 coffee harvest in Costa Rica will total approximately 2.2 million 46-kg sacks, more than 101 million kg.
So, Ticos know a thing or two about coffee, and despite the fact that the country remains unadorned by the Starbucks’ green-and-white, two-tailed-mermaid logo, Ticos know the company, too.

“We are some of the principal suppliers of Starbucks, and they are the No.1 individual buyer that Costa Rica has for its coffee,” Peters said. “Opening a café here gives national consumers a style [of drinking coffee] that is known globally, and in this way promotes the consumption of coffee. That is important for us.” Starbucks, Peters said, buys around 200,000 46-kg sacks, or about 9.2 million kg of Costa Rican coffee each year.
But patrons of the coming Starbucks location won’t be getting their java straight from Costa Rican coffee growers, according to Velásquez. Coffee the company buys from Costa Rica will be exported to the United States for roasting, blending and packaging before being sent back for sale in Tiquicia.

“We have our roasting plants in the United States,” Velásquez said. “We have experts there to define what type of blends to develop for this or that type of coffee. We’re going to look for the best beans from producer countries, take them to our roasting plants where we have our development teams always looking for the best blends. There, we roast the coffee, and once that is done, the coffee is packaged and sent out again to all our markets.”

Costa Rican coffee bought by Starbucks generally ends up in blends with other beans from the region, Velásquez said. So, for example, your grande iced coffee with soy milk could have Nicaraguan, El Salvadoran and Costa Rican flavors swimming around inside.

Starbucks, according to information on the company website, has more than 15,000 locations in 50 countries worldwide. Ric Rhinehart, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, said a presence in Costa Rica makes sense.“It is remarkable to reflect on the changes of the last 20 years and to appreciate the transition from a time when a Costa Rican farmer was unlikely to ever taste his own product to a new reality where he can buy it in a cup prepared in Costa Rica,” Rhinehart added, hitting on the same sticky point that Café Britt founder Steve Aronson mentioned when asked about Starbucks opening a store in Costa Rica.“I hope they’re going to serve Costa Rican coffee,” Aronson said.In the past, Aronson explained, 91 percent of Costa Rica’s coffee – all the best stuff by law – was exported, while 9 percent of the dregs stayed in the country for domestic consumption.  Costa Rica’s coffee import laws changed in 1991, allowing for a more upscale domestic consumer market for the product to develop, Aronson said.  Starbucks’ Velásquez could not comment on the kinds of prices Costa Rican coffee drinkers will face when they approach Starbucks baristas in May.  s to whether Starbucks will sell Tico java to Tico drinkers, Velásquez said Costa Rican coffee is sold at every Starbucks location as a percentage of a regional blend.Coffee exports for the month of January are up slightly over January of last year, and exports over the last quarter of 2011 are up more than 9 percent from the same period in 2010-2011, the Coffee Institute of Costa Rica announced on Wednesday. January 2012 exports totaled 138,460 60-kilogram sacks, only a 0.6 percent increase from January 2011, when the country shipped out 137,596 sacks. From October 2011 through January 2012, exports totaled 326,250 60-kg sacks, a jump of 9.3 percent over the same period in 2010-2011, when Costa Rica exported 298,451 sacks.

‘Dog Whisperer’ Cesar Millan trains Ticos National Stadium 
January 29, 2012 –Tico Times By Ashley Harrell

 Saturday night at the National Stadium in western San José’s La Sabana Park, about 6,000 fans showed up for the spectacle that is “The Dog Whisperer,” on his international speaking tour. Any chance that the Mexican dog behavior specialist would disappoint was extinguished upon his is entrance. “Pura vida!” he announced from the stage in a red Costa Rican national soccer jersey. 
  As he’s done in other cities on the tour, he opened his act with the highly entertaining story of how he snuck into the United States and quickly noticed that people harbored many misconceptions about their canine friends. For instance, a wagging tail doesn’t always mean a dog is happy. Also, putting your hand in a dog’s face: not a good idea.  

Using the door and living room props, he demonstrated how dogs were ruling households and preventing people from, say, opening doors or sitting on their own couches. If you’ve ever seen Millan’s show on the Discovery Channel’s “Animal Planet,” now in its seventh season, you know that his philosophy of effective training involves convincing dogs that the owner is boss, or “pack leader.”  When a dog believes it is the pack leader, Millan says, it tends to walk its owner, and not the other way around. He demonstrated this Saturday night in his characteristically dramatic fashion, pretending to be dragged across the stage.

Throughout the show, Millan gave props to Costa Ricans for their love of nature, wildlife, and peace, and he made continual references to the country’s mantra of pura vida. Pura vida, to Millan, is the intersection of the three attributes that define a successful human-dog relationship: trust, respect, and love. To achieve these, he says, a dog needs discipline, exercise and affection. Too often, people instead give affection, affection, and affection.
Although Millan declared his love for Costa Rica, he also poked fun at it. When his props weren’t cleared on schedule, he referred to it as a “Costa Rica time” issue. The comment drew plenty of laughter, as did many of his impersonations of doting dog owners, which echoed throughout the vast, clam-shaped stadium.     
Dog enthusiasts, rescue center associates and animal rights’ activists around Costa Rica were hoping that Millan’s visit would deliver such a message. “César’s appearance is an incredible opportunity to both entertain and educate people about animal rights,” said a spokesman for the animal rights group Stop Animal Suffering, Yes!,  or  SASY.
The international fundraising group for animal welfare is the official charity of the show, and a portion of the proceeds for every ticket sold will go to SASY and organizations it supports.
  

 


Costa Rica Jaco News & Info up to Feb.1, 2012


 

Costa Rica surpasses foreign investment goals
 January 20, 2012 –Tico Times

Costa Rica’s foreign direct investment (FDI) reached $1.56 billion during the first nine months of 2011, following a major boost from technology and telecommunications companies, according to the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX) and the Costa Rican Investment Board (CINDE).

The figure represents a 52 percent increase over the same period in 2010, and likely will mean that Costa Rica will surpass its goal of drawing $1.85 billion in FDI for the year. Those results will be made available in March.

Costa Rican Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González said that 27 percent of the country’s foreign direct investment is derived from companies established in free zones. That percentage placed 256 companies in free zones as the top foreign direct investors in the country.

“The main three export products in 2011 [were] integrated circuits, transfusion equipment and medical prostheses; all are produced by companies in free zones. In addition, service exports in free zones generated $1.6 million, [or] 33 percent of the total service exports in the country,” González said.

Costa Rica now ranks second in Latin America for medical-device exports, after Mexico, and fourth in the world. In 2011, seven new companies invested in the sector, creating 2,000 new jobs. 

Telecommunications was the sector with the second-largest investment last year. The opening of the telecommunications market after 48 years of a state-controlled monopoly helped boost the industry, which accounted for 24.8 percent of the total FDI between January and September. The sector registered a total foreign direct investment of $384 million during the period.

Mexico’s America Móvil, through its brand Claro, and Spain’s Telefónica, through the brand Movistar, paid $170 million for use of mobile phone frequencies in Costa Rica during the next 15 years.

Technology accounted for the highest FDI figure, registering a total of $470 million. According to the Foreign Trade Promotion Office, for every $10 invested in free zones, $9 is invested in technology companies. “Through our efforts to attract more technology companies to the country, we were hoping to bring 6,000 new jobs to the technology sector. It was a record year since we were able to exceed our goal and generate 7,728 new jobs,” said CINDE Director Gabriela Llobet. Free-zone service companies also generated 5,302 new jobs in 2011. According to CINDE, 30 percent of new private-sector jobs were generated from FDI. In 2011, 21 service businesses began operating in the country.

According to Llobet, CINDE maximized its presence in the sector by creating a stronger alliance with the Foreign Trade Ministry. The agency attended 22 investment trade fairs in the United States, Canada, Germany, China, Canada and Mexico, among others. In 2012, CINDE will seek to establish stronger business relations with India and China.
According to both CINDE and COMEX, with the arrival of new companies, the country has important challenges to face. Costa Rica needs to train more engineers and technicians in order to meet the needs of technology companies looking to hire more personnel. “We also need to maintain a good investment environment and simplify the process that countries follow in order to be able to invest here. We have been able to push forward in these areas, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Llobet said. “Last year, we insisted on the need to maintain a good investment environment for countries to consider Costa Rica,” González said. “We will continue with that effort in 2012.”

 

High Tech Companies Invested  $470 Million In 2011  
 19 January 2012 | COSTA RICA NEWS 
The efforts of Costa Rica has made to attract high tech industry has placed it as the fourth largest exported worldwide, promoting the country as the ideal investment location for consolidated industries within the service industry and life sciences.

The payoff also allows the development of new investment niches in biotechnology, entertainment and services.

Anabelle González, ministra de Comercio Exterior (Minister of Foreign Trade), said that they do not have the all the numbers for the total of foreign direct investment in 2011, but noted that according to date by the Banco Central (Central Bank), there was a generation of foreign exchange us$1.56 billion up to September.

The ministra added that the numbers (up to September) indicate the sector managed to achieve 84% of the year's target set at us$1.85 billion.

The figures are also an increase over the same period in 2010 when the total as us$1.025 billion.

The opening of the decades old telecommunications monopoly in the country contributed to more investment in the country, especially in zona francas (free trade zones). The investment by telecoms represented 24.8% of the total in the market.

For Joe Rossi, president of the CINDE - the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency, an agency that contributes to the development of the country by attracting foreign direct investment, the opening of the telecom market will mean more jobs ad opportunities in Costa Rica, particularly in the areas of accounting, finance, engineering and in digital animation. 

Registry to replace all old license plates 
January 20, 2012 – Tico Times
Last week, the National Registry began distributing new license plates to drivers across the country. Due to Costa Rica’s high number of cars on the road, the registry has begun a program to issue plates with both letters and numbers.

The new plates have improved security features to make it more difficult for criminals to copy existing plates. Security features include a stamp of the Costa Rican flag, a hologram and a sticker to place on a vehicle’s windshield.

The system with numbers and letters applies to new cars and vehicles registering for the first time. Owners of older vehicles can apply for new license plates with security features and old numbers.

New license plate numbers can either be randomly assigned by a computer or chosen by vehicle owners. Choosing custom plates can help drivers with multiple cars avoid San José vehicle restrictions by using two different plate numbers.

The license plates come with higher prices: ₡8,000 ($16) for motorcycles and ₡15,000 ($30) for autos with computer-generated numbers. Custom plates cost ₡20,000 ($39).

According to the National Registry’s Andrés Abrahams, all drivers will be required to replace license plates in the next three years.

“In the second half of 2012, we will start by changing the license plates [but not plate numbers] of buses, taxis, government vehicles and a small portion of the motorcycle fleet,” Abrahams said. “In 2013, we will change plates on remaining motorcycles and then start with other cars.”
In the meantime, owners who need to replace their license plates due to theft or damage should go to the National Registry in Zapote, in southeastern San José.

One of the system’s goals is to update registry records and ensure that vehicle and motorcycle owners are up to date with circulation permits.

 

Businesses Upbeat on 2012
18 January 2012 by Rod Hughes  Fijatevos

    Despite gloomy predictions by the government for this year, Costa Rica's chronically cautious businessmen appear to be upbeat, according to the country's leading newspaper, La Nacion. (See previous article.)

    A survey published Monday of 13 large businesses received responses by 12 of them of plans for expansion and investments, including in some cases of employee increases.

    This includes Coopeguancaste, a major electrical supplier in Guanacaste province, whose plans for a $62 million investment in the Bijagua hydroelectric plant near the town of Upala. This is despite a gloomy reports by President Laura Chinchilla's economic team for lower electrical consumption in the province in 2012.

    The reduced consumption, by government estimates, would be the result of a downturn in construction and tourism. But Coopeguanancaste is banking, obviously, on the long term.

    Central Bank president Rodrigo Bolaños, for example, predicted that the increase of national production in 2011 would turn out to be around 4% when the data comes in, but expressed doubts that the increase could be duplicated this year.

    In another instance of business confidence, the giant dairy cooperative, Dos Pinos, is going ahead with plans to upgrade its powdered milk plant in San Carlos canton.

    Nor is all the action planned by cooperatives. The Transportes HyH trucking firm is planning to upgrade its fleet.  Formento Urbano is going ahead with plans to increase its high-rise condos and residences.

    For most, investment is simply a logical outcome of growth. "Dos Pinos can't stop investing," explained their manager, Jorge Pattoni, "because it has to industrialize and sell the milk produced in increasing quantity by our associates."

    Bruce Burden, president of Cargill Meats Central America, sees the need to improve the company infrastructure, such as its company vehicle flotilla.

Grupo Britt intends of expand its operations outside the company and will need to hire new personnel.

Deloitte also intends to hire personnel to increase its services this year.

    Granted, these companies are relatively large by Costa Rican standards, larger than the majority of family-owned companies that make up the majority of the nation's business base. Hewlett Packard, for example, another business polled, employs 7,500 here.

    Some companies, such as Walmart Mexico and Central America, will be turning their efforts to more efficient internal operation, such as diminishing their use of water, electrical conservation, recycling and initiating reusable bags to present at more environmentally-friendly face.

    Others will expand the employment market such as Deloitte which plans to add 15% to its payroll or HyH which will add 50 or 60 employees to its current 700 workers.

    Analysis: These encouraging figures from a newspaper contrast to the conservative estimates of the government in their end-of-the-year report. While pie-in-the-sky figures can come back to bite the administration politically, economics, like politics, is largely perception.

    It is difficult to see why the central government could profit from underestimating the economic growth for this year. But only the next 11 1/2 months will tell who has the clearest economic vision, politicians or business.  

Constitutional court throws out hefty fine for speeding
Jan 12, 2012  A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has thrown out another traffic fine, this one related to fixed traffic signals.

The fine was 75 percent of the base salary of an auxiliar administrativo 1 for such acts as ignoring a speed limit sign or other signs to control traffic.

The new base salary is 360,600 colons or about $714.77, so the fine would have been about $536.

Five of the seven magistrates who voted on the case Wednesday thought that such a fine was disproportionate, a reason similar  to the suspension of other fines in the newest  traffic law. The other cases involved the use of seat belts and vehicle inspections.

The Sala IV decision said that the fine would revert that  which was on the books before the hefty fine was imposed. That's just 5,000 colons or about $10.

The case came to the high court in April on the appeal of a citizen, identified in the decision as Guillermo Roldan Vargas.

The court suspended the speeding fines in October.

The legislature continues to study the new traffic law in which many of the fines are of similar amounts. They have been called draconian. 

 

Tourism hotels report slightly better Christmas occupancy
Jan 11, 2012  A.M. Costa Rica staff
The tourism chamber said that hotel occupancy during the last half of December was 4 percent higher that the year before. The chamber based its report on a survey of hotel operators.

That two weeks is the beginning of the greatest tourism demand, noted the organization, the Cámara Nacional de Turismo.
The chamber received reports from 113 hotels all over the country.

Five-star operations that cater to foreign tourists reported 78.4 percent occupancy, while hotels in the one-star category reported 82.4 percent, said the chamber.Combined, all the hotels reported an occupancy of 70.6 percent, said the chamber.

According to a survey, some 63.3 percent of the visitors staying in hotels across the country were foreigners while  36.7 were Costa Ricans. Tourism officials reported that overall these figures were in line with historical data with foreigners predominating and driving the tourism economy, but the actual results varied regionally and by type of hotel. 
Many Costa Ricans do not visit hotels over the holidays. Many stay with relatives in vacation areas while others simply camp on the beach.

Regionally speaking, Costa Ricans occupied about half of the rooms in the beach hotels meanwhile they only rented one out of every five hotel rooms in the mountainous regions. However foreigners, for example, accounted for nearly 90 percent of occupants in hotels in the northern zone and the north Caribbean.

At the five-star Punta Islita Hotel south of Sámara on the Nicoya peninsula's west coast, a room with a king size bed, air conditioner, ocean view, jacuzzi and minibar costs more than $500 per night. Whereas a double room at the one-star Hotel Zullymar in Tamarindo costs around $70 per night during high season.

 Region:                          Occupancy

Southern Guanacaste  80%

Northern Guanacaste   79.06%

Northern zone   78.4%

Central Pacific    77.25%

Puntarenas and vicinity   77.1%

South Pacific   71%

Northern Caribbean    62.4%

Monteverde   59.4%

Central Valley   57.26%

Southern Caribbean   57.25%

Source; Cámera Nacional de Turismo

Overall, 92 percent of the businesses questioned across the nation reported finishing the end of the year with either normal or high business results. One of the highest showings came in the beach areas where many hotels reported room occupation rates as high as 80 percent in the last two weeks of December. uanacaste seemed to fare the best, but the beach communities as a whole reported about 76 percent of their rooms filled during this time.

One call center, Fortunawelcome.com, that handles reservations for many of the major hotels around La Fortuna, reported in the period between Christmas and New Year's day the 24 hotels it operates for had 95 percent occupancy. One of the owners of the reservation center, Juan José Corella, told a reporter that his company registered 50 percent more sales than last year during the high season period. The owner attributed the success to better marketing strategies and partnerships with travel agencies in the foreign countries.

 

 

Traffic police have new multimedia radar devices with cameras

Jan 11, 2012 A.M. Costa Rica staff
Palmares festival goers will be the first to be subjected to a new radar device that contains a camera. The Policía de Tránsito is getting 19 of these machines. They include audiovisual components, and officials said this means that motorists will not be able to appeal their speeding ticket.

The Fiestas de Palmares begins today, and traffic police will be out with their new radar devices that replace the traditional ones with the pistol grip. Those who get tickets will also get a photo that is produced by the device showing the speed, time, location and similar data, officials said. The device is connected electronically to a GPS network to determine location.

Some 140 traffic officers will be on the roads connecting Palmares with the rest of the country today. Police also will beef up their operations Sunday where there are concerts and also the days for the horse parade and carnival at the festival.

Traffic officers will have their central control at the Naranjo toll station, and they will be on the job 24 hours a day, They also will be seeking motorists who violate other laws, including those relating to alcohol and seat belts. There also will be checkpoints in the night where every vehicle will be inspected, they said.

Officials say that by incorporating a camera into the radar device, the speeding tickets will not be appealable.

 

Tourism numbers in 2011 show strong finish
Dec. 29, 2011 -Tico Times

Ad campaigns and new flights helped boost Costa Rica tourism in 2011.The Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) released its end-of-the-year numbers for 2011 last week, and the figures were encouraging.
Approximately 2.2 million tourists visited Costa Rica in 2011, an increase of 4 percent from 2010 numbers, ICT reported. New advertising campaigns, new flights to the soon-to-be-opened airport terminal in Liberia, development of sustainable tourism programs and plans for a new national convention center are all key aspects of ICT’s 2010-2016 National Sustainable Tourism Plan, which aims to increase tourist visits to the country 5 percent annually over 2010 numbers.

“We face a world stage full of challenges that push us to accept the challenge and continue to innovate,” said Tourism Minister Allan Flores in a statement issued by ICT. “Because the tourism products and services that characterize our . . . resilience, the creativity of entrepreneurs, and sustainable development of tourism are what have allowed Costa Rica to compete in international markets and consolidate its position; but this should motivate us to work hard and remain vigilant.”

In 2011, ICT reported, there were about 2.9 million available seats on flights to Costa Rica – the brunt of those, about 2.5 million, went into Juan Santamaría International Airport outside San José, while Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia accounted for about 343,000 seats. Several new flights also started flying to Liberia, capital of the northwestern Guanacaste province, in 2011. Jet Blue started offering four New York-Liberia flights a week in November. Air Berlin now offers Berlin-Liberia routes once every two weeks, and Frontier Airlines opened a Denver-Liberia flight in January.

2011 also saw a new ICT advertising campaign that turned some heads.
 “Costa Rica’s Million Dollar Gift of Happiness,” a campaign launched in October and aimed at North American travellers, featured what may be Costa Rica’s new superstar mascot – a talking sloth.
The campaign, which offered $1 million in Costa Rica vacation packages to 40 winners to date who followed the campaign on Twitter and other social media sites, is credited with drastically shifting the demographics of ICT’s Twitter followers.

According to the board’s report, prior to the sloth’s campaign, 54 percent of ICT’s Twitter followers were Costa Ricans.After launching the campaign, however, the board saw those numbers shift, and now 77 percent of followers are from the United States, Costa Rica’s principal market for tourists.

Sustainable tourism is one of ICT’s major concerns, and in 2011, the board issued 59 new sustainable tourism certificates (CSTs) to businesses that have worked to reduce their environmental impact and develop socially and ecologically responsible business models.
Under the 2011-2016 Sustainable Tourism Plan, ICT aims to certify at least 500 tourism businesses as CST businesses. That includes hotels as well as tour operators. The board said it hopes to have approximately 60 percent of all hotel rooms offered in the country certified under the CST program by 2016.
Finally, the tourism board announced that construction on a new Costa Rican convention center is slated to kick off near the end of 2013.

The convention center, the board reported, will “catapult CR national tourism growth and compete in the niche for congresses, conventions and world fairs.” 

Costa Rica new Population Numbers:  4.301.712     
Dec. 21, 2011 Inside Costa Rica

Preliminary data from the Census conducted by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos (INEC) determined that the current population of Costa Rica is 4.301.712 of which 49% are men and 51% are women.
The growth compared to 1998 has decreased from an annual of 2.8% to 1.1%, evidence that the population growth has been at a slower pace and with a decrease in levels of fertilization.

Garabito, (Jaco and surrounding area) in Puntarenas, is the canton with the largest growth in population with a 4.7% rate, followed by Santa Ana with 4.2%, while the San José, Coto Brus and Montes de Oca (San Pedro) areas have had the most decrease.
The census indicates that there are a total of 1.360.046 homes in the country, of which 147.204 are unoccupied. The data indicates that a total of 325.000 houses were built since 2000.
Guanacaste is the fastest growing province but in turn is the one with fewer homes, San José is still the leader the category with 32.1% of all households in the country, followed by Alajuela and Puntarenas. The final data of Population and Housing Census 2011 will be announced in the first quarter of 2012.

U Latina y Ucimed invest $ 20 million in expansions
Dec 20, 2011 AM Costa Rica 
Universidad Latina and the University of Medical Sciences (UCIMED) will spend $ 12 million and $ 10 million, respectively in the construction of new facilities. UCIMED will build a seven-story building near its headquarters in Sabana Oeste devoted to parking, classrooms, research centers, laboratories, and a simulated hospital setting. Universidad Latina will add 10,000 square meters to its campus with for Medicine, Pharmacy, Social Work, Optometry, Psychology, Dentistry and Nursing.  

Travel Site Predicts Costa Rica As "Hot" Travel Destination For 2012    17 December 2011 Inside Costa Rica 

Travelzoo has picked its top destinations for hot deals in 2012, with Costa Rica, Japan, the Mediterranean, Thailand and only one U.S. city, Orlando, Fla., making the cut.

"We anticipate higher airfare prices, jaw-dropping hotel deals and an oversupply of cruise cabins", senior editor Gabe Saglie said in a statement about what the company calls its Wow Deal Destinations of 2012.

Travelzoo is the most trusted publisher of travel, entertainment and local deals. Our team researches, evaluates and tests thousands of deals to find those with true value, recommending only deals whose accuracy and availability they can confirm.

Travelzoo predictions for Costa Rica:

Some airlines are increasing the number of flights to Costa Rica, which could signal more competition and more deals for consumers.

That fits nicely with the fact the U.S. dollar goes a long way in Costa Rica.

The company says it has researched deals and interviewed travel executives during the past three months in making the prediction....

Apostille Convention In Effect In Costa Rica Today
D
ec. 14, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Beginning today, in Costa Rica the consular services of 102 countries can be without the long lines or having to travel to the country of origin for the original document.

This is because the Apostille convention, or the Apostille treaty goes into effect in Costa Rica as of today, December 14, 2011.
The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, the Apostille convention, or the Apostille treaty is an international treaty drafted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. It specifies the modalities through which a document issued in one of the signatory countries can be certified for legal purposes in all the other signatory states.

Such a certification is called an apostille (French: certification). It is an international certification comparable to a notarization in domestic law.

"Anyone with an Apostille can get internet from any computer and check the management in their respective countries", said Cubero.The convention is in force for all members of the European Union and all but 10 members of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The Apostille is not valid for transactions with non-signatories to the Hague Convention and includes: Canada, Nicaragua, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, China and Korea, among others.
Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom have been signatories since 1981 and 1965 respectively. Among the Central and South American countries that are signatories include, Colombia (20101), Venezuela (1999), Argetina (1988), Belize (1993), Honduras (2004) and Panama (1991).  European countries include, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain. Asian countries include, Japan and Hong Kong (1965) - the convention is still applicable to Hong Kong despite the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong on July 1, 1997. As a non-signatory, Canadian documents for use abroad must be certified twice: at the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and subsequently by the consulate of the receiving state (in this case, the Netherlands).

The Apostille itself is a stamp or printed form consisting of 10 numbered standard fields. Eligible documents  Four types of documents are mentioned in the convention:
- court documents
- administrative documents (e.g. civil status documents like marriage and birth certificates)
- notarial acts
- official certificates which are placed on documents signed by persons in their private capacity, such as official certificates recording the registration of a document or the fact that it was in existence on a certain date and official and notarial authentications of signatures.
The Apostille does not give information regarding the quality of the document, but certifies the signature (and the capacity of who placed it) and correctness of the seal/stamp on the document which must be certified.

China announces largest investment ever in Costa Rica
December 14, 2011 - By Adam Williams Tico Times
China’s largest investment in Costa Rica to date was announced Monday afternoon, as the China Development Bank agreed to pay between $800-$900 million for the modernization of the Costa Rican National Oil Refinery’s (RECOPE) processing plant in the Caribbean port town of Moín. The funds for the refinery upgrade will become available Dec. 31, 2012, with the expected project completion date slated for 2013.

The current refinery in Moín processes 25,000 oil barrels per day. The expansion projected will improve that capacity to 60,000 barrels per day. Australian energy and construction company Worley Parsons will oversee the development and management of the project.

The overall investment price tag on the refinery renovation is $1.24 billion. The additional $300 million for the project will be financed by Soresco, a joint-company created by RECOPE and China National Petroleum Corporation International, which is China’s state-owned oil company.

Cheap O Air Giving Away Trips to Costa Rica In "Jungle to Jungle" Photo Contest  December 14, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
CheapOair.com has announced its new, interactive Facebook presence, where fans of the O Zone have access to exclusive discounts, flight deals, prize giveaways and contests, starting with the chance to win trips to Costa Rica through their "Jungle to Jungle" photo contest, which debuted on the tab on Monday, December 12, 2011.Like CheapOair.com, The O Zone is designed to take the hassle out of travel by offering fans one centralized place to stay connected with CheapOair in all ways.
Fans are encouraged to submit their best city photo, and invite their friends to join in, for a chance to escape their 'urban jungle' in favor of Costa Rica's jungle paradise.

Between December 12 and December 18, 2011, participants can enter.
Photo Prize will receive airline tickets for two to Costa Rica and a 4-night stay with breakfast and a spa treatment at The Costa Rica Marriott.
Social Prize: The Social Prize will go to the fan who has the most friends enter the contest by December 18th. A 3-night hotel stay at the Residence Inn San José Escazú in Costa Rica along with a CheapOair gift certificate of $250 will be awarded to the most social CheapOair fan.
Prize winners will be announced on the CheapOair Facebook wall on December 21, 2011. 

Costa Rica sets sights on India
 December 09, 2011 - By Adam Williams Tico Times
Costa Rica is a trading partner and diplomatic friend to China, Japan, Singapore and several other Asian nations. Could India – predicted to be the world's third largest economy by 2030 – be Costa Rica's next large commercial ally in the East?
 Costa Rica’s interest in Asia is no secret. Chinese investment and development is flourishing: Singapore became a free trade partner last year, and just this week, President Laura Chinchilla and several members of her Cabinet and Foreign Trade Ministry visited Japan with aspirations to improve bilateral trade relations.

As interests in the East expand, a country barely making a ripple in Costa Rica’s current trading pool, India, is being deemed Latin America’s next big commercial ally. The country of more than 1.2 billion people and an economy averaging quarterly growth of 7 percent the last two years is considered the diamond in the rough within the region of blossoming markets in Asia. During the last decade, India’s trade with Latin America increased from $2.6 billion in 2001 to $23 billion in 2010. During that period, Indian exports to the region increased from $1.5 billion in 2001 to $9 billion in 2010, while imports rose from $1.1 billion to $14 billion.The Costa Rica-India trade relationship followed a similar trend. From 2000-2010, trade between the two countries grew exponentially, increasing from $6.4 million to $128.1 million.To assure continued development in the bilateral relationship, one of former President Oscar Arias’ final acts in office in 2010 was to open a Costa Rican Embassy in New Delhi, India’s bustling capital.  “I have said this often: This is the century of the Asian countries,” Arias said in April 2010. “We are establishing diplomatic relations with China because it’s an economically powerful country. We also need to [forge relations] with India because it’s another country that is very powerful and important.”

During the last five years, Costa Rica and India have started to warm up to one another. In 2006, Amba Research, a prestigious India-based financial research and consultant company, opened its first-ever Latin America branch in Heredia, northwest of San José.  Amba Research, which invested over $1 million in its Costa Rica expansion, has offices in six worldwide locations and provides financial market information to clients from Sri Lanka to Wall Street.In 2009, WNS, a business process outsourcing company, was the second Indian company to establish its first-ever Latin American operation in Costa Rica. A year later, Motif, an Indian services and outsourcing company, opened its first regional location in the America Free Zone in Heredia. Motif plans to employ up to 500 by 2012.

“Further expansion and relations with India were part of the Costa Rican Investment Board’s [CINDE] strategic plan for 2010-2011,” Andrea Centeno, communications director at CINDE told The Tico Times earlier this year. “Relations with India are still very new, but we understand what a valuable trading partner they could be in the future.” González also said that Costa Rica and India are in the process of negotiating an agreement to promote investment and bilateral business relations. In March 2012, González and members of the business sector plan to make an official visit to India to discuss strengthening trade and commercial relations.
 According to the Inter-American Development Bank, China accounts for more than 10 percent of total trade in Latin America while India makes up 0.9 percent.  Comparing the two countries in the Costa Rican market merits a similar result. In 2007, Costa Rica-China trade peaked at $848 million. The largest amount of trade between Costa Rica and India was $28 million in 2008. In a November article in the India-based Financial Express publication, Costa Rica and India’s relationship was described as growing “bit by bit.” The use of the word “bit” was a pun in reference to the bilateral investment treaty (BIT) that González proposed to the Indian Finance Ministry in September.  “Costa Rica is working to strengthen trade and investment flow with India, and has identified several potential sectors like pharmaceutical products, biotechnology, nanotechnology, software development, research related to science, engineering, automobile manufacturing, BPO and telecommunications,” the story said.  

Garabito seeks to give itself a new image with advertising
 Nov 24, 2011 A.M. Costa Rica

The Municipalidad de Garabito is seeking to create a new image for itself. The canton includes the Pacific beach community of Jacó. The municipality has scheduled a 7 p.m. meeting on plans for a new advertising campaign.

The session, which is open to the public, is at the Morgan's Cove Hotel.

The municipality has had some good news lately, but most of that is overlooked by those who see Jacó as a wide-open beach town. The municipality got good marks from the Contraloría de la Repúblic for its financial management. And local officials are working to create a zoning plan for Playa Guacalillo, Tarcoles, Playa Pita and for Jacó and Herradura. A meeting had been scheduled for Dec. 20, but a strike at the Imprenta Nacional derailed that date because the appropriate legal notices could not be published in the La Gaceta official newspaper produced by the Imprenta.
The municipality also said it is the first among cantons in the nation for the highest per capita income, based on 2008 data. The municipality's per capita income was higher than Belén, Santa Ana, San José and Escazú, it said. 

Costa Rica Tops In Latin America In Country Brand Strength
Nov 22, 2011 AM Costa Rica

Costa Rica is tops of the 19 Latin American countries in FutureBrand's global study of country brand strength, which assess the strength of a country brand in much the same way as any other brand. The FutureBrand study measures awareness, familiarity, preference, consideration, advocacy and active decisions to visit or interact with a place.But the most important factors — the aspects that truly differentiate a country brand — are its associations and attributes across five key dimensions: Value System, Quality of Life, Good for Business, Heritage and Culture and Tourism.

A strong country brand is more than the sum of its attributes: in total, it must make people’s lives better.For 2011 FutureBrand Costa Rica moved up from 3rd place in 2010. 

Following Costa Rica in the top Latin American countries are Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panama, Ecuador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia, Honduras, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Paraguay and El Salvador.

The FutureBrand 2011-2012 Country Brand Index is their most comprehensive study of country brands to date. It is based on more respondents across more countries and questions than ever before.  Between July 18 and 27, 2011, FutureBrand collective quantitive data from .500 frequent business and leisure travelers and opinion-formers in 14 countries around the world. Additionally, between August 19 and September 7, 2011, FutureBrand connected with experts in tourism, export, investment and public policy in 16 different cities around the world.
The top ten country brands in the world are: Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, United States, Sweden, Finland, France and Italy.

Changes in top country brands
For the first time since the CBI's founding, the United Kingdom does not appeal in the top ten. FutureBrand points out that country brand strength is not a function of geographic size or economic power. China demonstrates this very fact with a fall in ice places to 65th position in 2011, despite having the world's largest population.For the United States its been a challenging year. Displaced by Canada in 2010 and now down another two places to sixth overall, the United States suffers from a downward trend in brand strength that mirrors troubled socio-political and economic fortunes.
Country brands have to focus on several dimensions to perform well in today's increasingly connected world. Key dimensions that make up a country brand are: Value System, Quality of Life, Good for Business, Heritage and Culture and Tourism.
In the Value System, Costa Rica places 25th in the top 25 countries that is led by Sweden and followed by Denmark. Canada places 5ht, and the US 14th.  Also, for the first time ever, the FutureBrand Country Brand Index full report is available for download in Spanish.   

Costa Rica suspends traffic cameras program 6 months
November 03, 2011 – Tico Times
Less than two months after the installation of 16 traffic cameras throughout the Central Valley, the Roadway Safety Council (COSEVI) voted Thursday night to suspend the cameras for at least six months.

Silvia Bolaños, the director of COSEVI, told The Tico Times on Thursday afternoon that the cameras were “temporarily suspended” due to the pending legality of the fines. Bolaños said that given the amount of complaints presented to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV), COSEVI’s Board of Directors voted to suspend the use of the cameras until the court rulings were announced.
“By no means does this mean that we are aborting the use of the cameras,” Bolaños said. “Given the amount of complaints in the Sala IV, we will wait until the cases are resolved before proceeding with the use of the cameras.”
Bolaños said that the contract with the technology company Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. (RACSA), which designed the highway camera system, also called for cancellation of the program due to legality concerns.Drivers who planned to to pay traffic fines when registering their vehicles at the end of the year – known as the marchamo – Bolaños said that payments would be suspended, too. Bolaños said COSEVI will also consider returning some payments received from previous fines.

Departing Costa Rica to cost $2 more
Nov 2, 2011 AM Costa Rica
The exit tax is increase from $26 to $28 in order to finance the cost of scanning equipment designed to detect drugs and certain plant material. The fee will be included in the normal departure tax, which is collected at the airport by Bancrédito.

 

ICE will lower rates & offer Internet connections 20 Mbps
Nov 2, 2011 AM Costa Rica
The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) said this week that it will cut rates, and will work to offer Internet speeds up to 20 Mbps. According to Claudio Bermudez, ICE Telecommunications manager the rate cut will take effect immediately and will reduce current prices for broadband Internet access by half. The move comes days after Amnet cable announced it would reduce rates and offer more bandwidth.

Claro to begin operations next week in Costa Rica
Nov 2, 2011 AM Costa Rica

The Mexican company, América Móvil begin marketing its mobile phone service in Costa Rica next week under the brand name Claro according to Richard Taylor, director of Claro Costa Rica. Movistar, which is also working to enter the Costa Rican market has planned a press conference for Monday, and it is expected that the company will also begin operations. Opening the Costa Rican telecommunications market was a provision of free trade agreement signed with the United States of America, and ratified through a popular referendum in October of 2007. The opening of a private mobile phone company will end the 17 year monopoly of the state telecommunications company.

 

The end is in sight, weather institute promises

Nov 2, 2011 A.M. Costa Rica staff

The official word has come from the weather experts. The notification is what expats and would-be tourists have been awaiting.
The country has begun to enter the transitional phase between the rainy season and the dry, although that may not be obvious from the weather Tuesday.
The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that everywhere but in the south Pacific, the onset of the dry season is delayed this year from five to seven days at least.

The weather institute released a list of probable dates Tuesday for the start of the dry season. As usual, the northern Pacific benefits from the northerly winds that drive away the rains. The institute estimated that the dry season would arrive there between Nov. 11 and 19. The normal date is Nov. 4, the institute said. The transition period is generally the week before the onset of the dry season. The transition period is characterized by alternating days of rain and days without rain.

In the Central Valley, the dry season should have arrived by Thanksgiving. The weather institute said that the likely time this year would be Nov. 14 to Nov. 24, which happens to be U.S. Thanksgiving. The normal date is Nov. 9.
The central Pacific is about a month later. The institute said that the dry season would arrive there in time for Christmas. The experts estimated from Dec. 14 to Dec. 24. The normal date is Dec. 9, they said.

Because of its location, the southern Pacific always welcomes the dry season the latest and sees it leave the soonest. This year, the institute estimated from Dec. 20 to Dec. 29. That probably means an early arrival when compared to the average date of Dec. 29.On the Caribbean coast, where the weather seasons are reversed, November means the arrival of more rain, pushed there by the northern cold fronts. The weather institute is predicting more rain there through February and warns of flooding and other rain-related problems. On the Pacific and in the Central Valley, the dry season frequently contains several cold spells that are amplified by stronger winds.

Turning to Costa Rica's plants for Biofuel
November 04, 2011 – Tico Times By Clayton R. Norman

Pursical, San José – An energy farming experiment in the mountains southwest of San José could offer rural communities a sustainable way to produce their own fuel for vehicles and cooking.

Undertaken by farming cooperative Coopepuriscal with support from local energy consulting firm Atlantis Energy, both based in Puriscal, as well as the Environment Partnership with Central America, the Costa Rican Agriculture Ministry and the World Bank, the project aims to create a sustainable small-scale model for farming Jatropha curcas to meet local energy needs.

“What we are doing with jatropha is supporting small communities to become self-sufficient from energy monopolies,” said Ivar Zapp, president of Atlantis Energy.

The jatropha plant is a woody shrub that grows across wide swaths of the world’s tropical regions. It produces a fruit containing several seeds with high oil content. These seeds are pressed to extract the oil, which is used as fuel. Oil straight from the pressing process will run a diesel engine, or it can be processed and mixed with petroleum-based diesel to make a biodiesel blend.In optimal conditions jatropha has been shown to yield more oil per hectare than peanuts, sunflower, soy, corn or cotton. Jatropha industries are springing up in Asia, Africa and Latin America – all with long-term orientation toward sustainable fuels. The plant is hardy and drought-resistant and therefore a go-to choice for areas of marginal land or areas of potential drought. The plant grows wild in most of Central America, but producing plants with optimum yields requires careful cultivation. Depending on genetics and growing conditions, jatropha seeds may yield up to 60 percent oil by weight.

“I expect about 450 gallons [1,700 liters] per year per hectare,” Zapp said.

That comes to about 1.4 tons of fuel per hectare per year. Zapp said the project with Coopepuriscal already has a total of about 40 hectares of jatropha in cultivation in seven small communities around Puriscal, for a potential annual yield of 67,000 liters, almost 57 tons of fuel. “From what I have gathered, about 200 hectares of jatropha production could sustain a community of about 1,000 people,” he said.Zapp and Geovanny Sánchez, manager of Coopepuriscal, point out that the jatropha project – in its second year of cultivation – is an experiment, and that results are at least a year away.Part of the experiment focuses on finding the best areas for cultivation in Costa Rica. The seven communities currently cultivating jatropha for the project are located at different altitudes, between 200 and 1,000 meters above sea level. That will help determine the plant’s favored microclimate.Another part of the experiment is convincing farmers to take a chance on a plant that will not turn out a marketable product for at least three years. Zapp and Sánchez said the way around that problem is that other crops – particularly beans and plantains – can be grown between rows of jatropha. Faster-to-market products could offset the wait time for jatropha to mature. If producers are able to realize optimal oil production, the long-term pay off could be really long: Jatropha plants can produce seeds for up to 50 years.

The Environment Partnership with Central America helped get the project off the ground by obtaining $60,000 from the World Bank. That money went to provide seeds, information and the initial equipment necessary to get a pilot program started.With that money and support from Coopepuriscal, Zapp convinced some farmers to give jatropha a shot.

When Zapp and Sánchez talk about jatropha’s potential for Coopepuriscal members, they do not refer to large-scale industrialized processes to export fuel. Rather, they discuss ways that small communities can produce their own fuel, even for cooking.

Propane gas, for example, comes in bulky containers, and the cost of bringing it to remote communities is constant and cumulative. Cooking with wood or charcoal is problematic too, because of smoke and the threat of deforestation.BSH Bosch und Siemens, a German corporation, has developed a stove specifically for jatropha and other vegetable oils. The stove consists of a burner, a tank for the oil and a pump to pressurize the tank. A small amount of alcohol is burned to pre-heat the burner, and then a valve is turned to allow pressurized vegetable oil to flow. It burns cleanly and is completely smoke-free. Esteban Díaz, a biologist contracted by Coopepuriscal to work with the group’s farmers, demonstrated the stove for The Tico Times. Two liters of vegetable oil, he said, translates to about 10 hours of smokeless cooking time.Zapp said BSH Bosch und Siemens developed the stove to encourage farmers to experiment with alternative crops as fuel sources. The company has donated 20 of the stoves to Coopepuriscal as a way to demonstrate the potential of jatropha as a fuel source. The stoves sell for about $50. The community, Zapp imagines, would have vegetable oil stoves in most homes and about 200 hectares of jatropha cultivation. Presses for extracting the oil run about $5,000, and the cost could be split up among community members who would cultivate, harvest and process the oil as a community-wide cooperative, he said. Markets exist for jatropha sap and other, non-fuel oils that could add to the crop’s profitability. Left-over “cakes” of biomass produced in the pressing of the plants’ seeds have potential uses as fertilizers or as a means for producing biogas.In the end, the verdict is still out on the possibilities of Jatropha for Costa Rica’s small farming villages. Zapp points to historical precedent and the plant’s ubiquity across many parts of the developing world where jatropha oil is used for heating, lamps and candles.On a longer timeline, the potential multiplies. “This is the grass roots of future competition with fossil fuels,” Zapp said. 

 

BID Finances Construction & Repair of 29 Bridges
Nov. 2, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
 The Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID) - Inter-American Development Bank - is making available $66 million dollars to Costa Rica's transport ministry for the repair and construction of 29 bridges between Barranca, Puntarenas and Liberia, Guanacaste.
The Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes (MOPT) is currently working on eight of them and the idea is to eliminate the bottlenecks and improve travel times.

The bridges identified by the BID have been waiting intervention for more than ten years, according to the Japanses aid agency, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that provides technical cooperation and other forms of aid promoting economic and social development.

 

Old ¢1.000 and ¢2.000 Bills Exchange At Central Bank   
Nov. 1, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
If you are still holding an old ¢1.000 and ¢2.000 colones bills, the only place you can exchange the is at the Banco Central de Costa Rica (BCCR) - Central Bank - offices in downtown San José, as the bills lost their legal tender on Monday.

Until yesterday the old bills, although they were no longer accepted for trade, could be exchanged at banks. The change is part of the Central Bank's changeover of all paper currency, starting with the introduction of the ¢20.000 colones bill last year and the new ¢1.000 and ¢2.000 a couple of months back.

This month, the Central Bank will start distributing the new ¢5.000 and ¢10.000 colones bills, while still considering introducing a new ¢50.000 bill, probably some time next year. 

Costa Rica: Number of Tourist Arrivals Drops 
Nov. 1, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
There were 12.275 less tourist arrivals tourist arrivals by air in the third quarter of this year over the same period in 2010.

Official figures by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) shows that the number of arrivals for July, August and September for this year was 312.659, 12.275 less than for the same period last year. In fact, the quarter ended with a deficit in visitor arrivals compared to the third quarter last year.

"The tourism industry is the largest generator of foreign exchange and the sector that better distributes income; and for this reason, we need to compete in new markets to ensure the sustainability of the activity, trusting that in the long term it leads to significant percentages in tourism from the United States and Canada", said Juan Carlos Ramos, head of CANATUR. Furthermore, it is important to attract tourists from other destinations such as Russia, China and Brazil. The arrivals by air are the largest means of tourists arriving to Costa Rica. 

11 Days of Rain And Counting
Oct. 18, 2011 Inside Costa Rica

It's been raining in Costa Rica for 11 days straight and the national weather service is forecasting a couple of days more before the sun begins to shine again.

This is the one of the longest rainy periods in the history of the country, affecting thousands in some way and directly hundreds who are being houses in shelters.

The rain has swollen rivers causing at least four deaths as the low pressure system continues to hang over Costa Rica's Pacific coast.

The forecast is for more rain and a "yellow" alert for the Guanacaste area, where authorities are keeping a very close eye on the Tempisque river.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias (CNE) reports 616 people in 12 shelters in the areas of Carrillo, Santa Cruz, Bagaes and Cañas in Guanacaste. In shelters are dozen in San Ramón, Alajuela and another 51 (including 21 children) in Piedades de Santa Ana.The constant rains have also hit hard on the country's road infrastructure, with more than 19 roads affected with some degree of damage.

According to forecasts from Instituto Meteorológico Nacional (IMN) - National Meteorological Institute - the rains will continue until Wednesday or maybe Thursday.

Heavy rains have caused serious damage and deaths in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, where more than 200 000 have been affected and above a hundred deaths.
(We are happy to report that the Jaco and surrounding areas have been relatively unharmed!)
  

Costa Rica: Mall Owners "Obligated" To Pay For Stolen Vehicles 
Oct. 15, 2011 Inside Costa Rica

The next time you park your vehicle in a mall parking parking lot and it gets broken into, the owners of the commercial centre can be held liable, thanks to a decision by the Sala Primera de la Corte Suprema de Justicia.

The Court ruled in favour of a man identified only by his last name Zuñiga, who sued the owners of the Condominio Centrol Comercial de San Antonio de Desamparados after his vehicle was stolen in the parking lot back in November 2003. The owners appealed lower court decisions twice in almost eight years.
But with Friday's ruling there is no longer doubt as to who is responsible, as long as the owner of the vehicle can demonstrate he parked the vehicle and its contents in the parking lot.

Many mall or store parking lots post signs that the owners of the property and/or business are not responsible for the parked vehicle and its contents.  And it has been accepted by most that parking a vehicle in a mall parking lot is at one's risk.

However, the ruling is now clear, owners of the commercial centre have to safeguard the vehicles from being stolen or broken into while the patron is inside.

In the San Antonio case, the owners of the commercial centre argued that there was no evidence that the car in question had entered the mall and that the guards saw no unusual movements. Nevertheless, the judges considered that the complaint filed with the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) and the version of the witness who was the owner of the vehicle and the proof that he was in the bank at the time confirms that the robbery occurred while the customer was in the centre. The centre did not have cameras to record the movement of vehicles and will now have to compensate the owner for the loss of his 1987 Toyota Land Cruiser valued at ¢2.5 million colones, another ¢90.000 for valuables inside the vehicle and interest for the years of the trial.

Parking a vehicle in a public or private lot, be it a mall, a strip mall, a single retail store or a public parking lot, is always risky.
In malls like Multiplaza in Escazú, there is ample security patrolling the parking lot and cameras keeping an eye on movements.  Again in Escazú, at Pricesmart security if the parking lot is full, people park next door at Office Depot where a security guard records the plate number of each vehicle. At nearby EPA and Play, you can spot the occasional security guard in the lot, but coming and going is not monitored, or at least it seems that way. At the Walmart each driver is handed a plastic "ficha" that is required to be turned over at the exit.

The moral of the story is that when you park your vehicle in a commercial lot or public parking lot or on the street there is a chance that your car may be stolen or broken into. Don't leave valuables or items in clear view, lock them in the trunk. Or better yet don't leave behind anything you don't want to lose.

Costa Rica to open first Ronald McDonald House
October 14, 2011  Tico Times
Fundraisers this week will raise money for the $1.2 million project that assists critically ill children and their families. Soon a helping hand will be extended to families of critically ill children in Costa Rica. The country’s first Ronald McDonald House is scheduled to open in San José in 2012 and will serve as a “home-away-from-home” for families of children receiving treatment at the National Children’s Hospital.

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) has been working in Costa Rica since 2002. According to RMHC Costa Rica Treasurer and McDonald’s Finance Supervisor Giovanni Quirós, the organization has been involved in numerous projects over the years, including the opening of game and learning rooms in hospitals in Pérez Zeledón and Cartago, the donation of hi-tech equipment to several national hospitals, and the creation of a “wheelchair bank” that has provided more than 600 children access to wheelchairs.

Quirós said that the foundation was looking for a long-term project and conceived the idea to build the Ronald McDonald House. “Children and their families need the house,” Quirós said. “Children weren’t receiving treatment because there wasn’t a way for families to stay in San José.”
The National Children’s Hospital is the only medical specialty hospital in the country that is part of Costa Rica’s Social Security System (Caja). The hospital treats patients under 13 suffering from serious illnesses. According to hospital records, 30 percent of the children currently attending the hospital live more than 129 kilometers away. And 16 percent of appointments are missed (more than 22,000 a year) due to distance and socioeconomic status.
The Ronald McDonald House would offer a solution for families in similar situations. Just 350 meters from the National Children’s Hospital, the house not only will offer a place for families to stay, but also will provide a chance for families to interact with other families.

The National Children’s Hospital will work with the RMHC to determine which families stay at the house. Quirós said that the hospital will select families based on  criteria  such  as  the  severity  of  the medical condition of the child, how far away they live, and the family’s financial situation. The house will be constructed in two stages. The first stage will consist of 13 bedrooms, which can accommodate two people each, 10 bathrooms, a communal kitchen, game room and administrative and social areas to support the families. Each family is responsible for cooking their own food. RMHC calculates that the house will provide a home to 4,745 families annually.
There will be no charge to the families who stay in the house. Quirós said that studies done in conjunction with the hospital have shown that the families who need the house live the furthest from the hospital and need the most help financially.
 “The lot has  been purchased. Construction will begin in January or February 2012. The construction phase will last six to eight months and if all goes according to plan, the house will be operational by October 2012,” said Quirós.
So far, RMHC has raised $200,000 for the Ronald McDonald House. But with the first stage  of  the  project  estimated  at $1.2 million, a great deal of money is still needed.The first Ronald McDonald House was established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States, in 1974. Today, there are more than 300 Ronald McDonald Houses in 50 countries around the world.
Upcoming Fundraising Events:
RMHC is hosting a gala at the Radisson Hotel tonight. The night will feature dinner, photos with Ronald McDonald and an evening of dancing to the tunes of Latin rock group Miriam y Su Quinteto. Tickets cost $200 per person, $2,000 for a company table for 10 and $5,000 to be a “heart hero sponsor.” A heart hero sponsor receives a table for 10 and public recognition of their donation in the media.
On Oct. 30, a women’s 5K race will be held in 15 Latin American cities, including San José. The race begins at McDonald’s Pavas and finishes at McDonald’s Sabana Park. The entry fee is ₡7,000 ($14). For race information, see www.5kmcdonalds.com. On Nov. 18, McDonald’s will host its annual McDía Feliz (McHappy Day). Proceeds from that day’s Big Mac sales go to RMHC. Manitas (paper hands) can now be purchased at any McDonalds for ₡500 ($1). Money from the sales of Manitas goes towards RMHC.  To learn more about the RMHC of Costa Rica, upcoming events or how you can help email vanessa.ramirez@cr.mcd.com or call 2523-0214.

World-famous crocodile Pocho dies 
 October 12, 2011 Tico Times
Pocho, the “domesticated” Costa Rican crocodile that gained international attention for a weekly show he performed with owner Gilberto Sheedan, died Tuesday at Finca Las Tilapias in the Caribbean-slope town of Siquirres. Olga Valle, Sheedan’s wife, said the nearly 1,000-pound croc died a natural death at age 50. A funeral will be held for Pocho on Sunday at 1 p.m. 
On past Sundays, Pocho and “Chito,” as Sheedan was better known, performed a show for visitors in a 100-square-meter artificial lake at Finca Las Tilapias. Chito, 54, declared the one-eyed crocodile “domesticated.” He could command Pocho to do tricks such as winking its one good eye, lifting its head and tail out of the water, rolling over and permitting Chito to stick his head inside the massive reptile’s maw.
Chito found the 5-meter-long crocodile near death on the shore of the Parismina River, in the Limón province, 17 years ago. The crocodile had been shot in the left eye. Chito and several friends loaded the animal into a boat and took him to Siquirres, where Pocho was nursed back to health. Chito even slept with the crocodile during its recovery.After an employee saw Chito swimming with Pocho one day, word of the duo’s friendship spread. In July 2000, Costa Rica’s Channel 7 filmed the unusual pair. Chito and Pocho became stars, receiving attention as far as the United States, Chile and the United Kingdom.
The Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry allowed Chito to keep the crocodile as long as they could monitor it. Chito worked with a veterinarian and a biologist and fed Pocho 30 kilograms of fish and chicken a week.
Chito never imagined the fame that would come from the unique friendship. All he wanted was an animal companion. A sign on his ranch emphasized that relationship: “Chito and Pocho are best friends.”  “I just wanted him to feel that someone loved him, that not all humans are bad,” Chito told The Tico Times in 2007. “I love all animals, especially ones that have suffered.”

Ricky Martin thrills fans
October 13, 2011 Tico Times

 Rain fell and doubts rose Wednesday night at Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in the northern San José district of Tibás, where thousands of fans gathered to see the Costa Rica installment of Ricky Martin’s Música+Alma+Sexo (MAS) world tour. Rumors of cancellation swirled before Martin opened the show with “Será Será” (“What Will Be Will Be”) – an appropriate opening for fans who waited more than an hour to see the Puerto Rican superstar.

Stage crews continuously mopped the stage in preparation for the show, which included more than 60 dancers performing flamenco, swing, ballet and, of course, salsa.

Some of the show’s more provocative dance numbers and Martin’s personal life have prompted officials in Honduras to consider not allowing fans under 15 to enter the scheduled Oct. 16 show in Tegucigalpa. Martin said via Twitter that this will not be the case, adding, “There has never been a moment of my show censored, all are welcome!” Previously, on Oct. 3, Honduran religious officials petitioned the government to deny Martin a visa, claiming that his sexuality and nontraditional family would threaten the laws and values of traditional Honduran society. Martin fathered twins via surrogate pregnancy in 2008 and is raising them in Miami. The Costa Rica show welcomed fans of all ages to enjoy a variety of songs in English and Spanish. Martin performed his English-language crossover hits “Livin’ la Vida Loca,” “She Bangs” and “Shake Your Bon-Bon” in succession to a restless crowd who proved they preferred Spanish sing-along ballads like “Vuelve” and dance hits like “La Bomba,” the salsa-infused homage to Puerto Rico.

Annual Carnival in Limon Begins
October 12, 2011 Tico Times
Carnival began Wednesday in Limón, the port city on the Caribbean coast. The yearly celebration coincides with the day that explorer Christopher Columbus anchored in Limón.

In an effort to give the ruckus Carnival a more tranquil name, Deputy Mayor Cinthia Small told La Nación that the event has been renamed “Limonense Cultural Week I.” The Municipality is not allowing liquor to be sold at street stalls this year.

Although many of the events are the same as in previous years, this year there will be an emphasis on culture. An all-night national calypso festival will be held at Vargas Park on Friday, beginning at 7 p.m. On Saturday, at 2 p.m. the annual Carnival parade, featuring colorful floats and bands, will march through the main streets of Limón. According to La Nación, a concert of salsa, rumba and guaguancó music by Son de Tikizia will take place in Vargas Park at 6 p.m that evening.  A concert in Vargas Park by Banton y Toledo, La Solución and Madera Nueva will close at the festival on Sunday afternoon.

Costa Ricans fight breast cancer 
October 14, 2011 Tico Times   
Plaza del Sol in Curridabat, an eastern suburb of San José, will host activities Oct. 15-16 to highlight preventive measures and the importance of early detection.

Activities throughout the San José area raise money to spread awareness about breast cancer and to help fight the disease. Pink is everywhere this October, as Costa Ricans are joining together to raise awareness about breast cancer, the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths for women worldwide. By the end of 2011, 1,000 women will have been diagnosed with breast cancer, according to health officials.

The month’s events kicked off Oct. 2 with the popular “Run for Breast Cancer Awareness” race in San José. More than 12,000 people, all dressed in pink, participated. Funds will be donated to Anasovi and Fundacancer, two organizations working to improve the lives of cancer patients (TT, Sep 16). The Ana Gabriela Ross Foundation also held its eighth “Walk Against Breast Cancer” on Oct. 8. More than 32,000 people walked or ran from San José’s Parque Central to La Sabana Park, on the capital’s western edge. “People may think that fundraising is the most important part of these activities, but to us, the main objective is to show that we are concerned about this problem. Last year, almost 300 women died of breast cancer in Costa Rica,” foundation president Fabiola Ross said.

This week, the Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja) also helped raise awareness about breast cancer. In a forum organized by the Caja on Monday, cancer survivors shared their experiences. Caja doctors were also on hand this week to answer questions and help provide free information to the public. 

Activities continue throughout the month to help raise funds. Another race, “Juntos por la cura” (“Together For a Cure”) will be held on Saturday. Proceeds will be donated to the Ana Gabriela Ross Foundation. The race includes 10-kilometer and 5-km runs, and a 2-km walk. The 10-km race starts in front of the National Stadium in La Sabana Park, and the 5-km run and 2-km walk start at Walmart in Escazú, west of San José.“There are a number of other events, including conferences, workshops, and soccer and tennis tournaments. On Oct. 25 we will donate mammography equipment to the Caja,” Ross said.

“Aprendo por mi Vida” (“I Learn for My Life”) is the last of the month’s races, scheduled for Oct. 23. The race is organized by cosmetics company Avon, and funds will be donated to the national Foundation for Solidarity Against Breast Cancer. Last year, the race generated more than ₡15 million ($29,000) for the organization.
The Costa Rican Railroad Institute is supporting efforts by dressing trains in pink to encourage early detection. The Pink Movement program, organized by supermarket chain Automercado, is also hosting a number of activities this weekend. “The goal is to sponsor Proyecto Lazos, a project to offer a mobile clinic with mammography equipment. The clinic will travel to remote areas of Costa Rica where people have little or no access to these kinds of tests to provide mammograms at accessible rates,” said Mauricio Solís, social action director at the Clínica Bíblica Hospital, another program sponsor. 

 

Costa Rica Giving One Million Dollars To Tourists
Oct 7-15, 2011 Inside Costa Rica

The Costa Rica Tourism Board announced Thursday the launch of its new advertising campaign in the United States and Canada, set to inspire visitors to explore the wide variety of offerings that have long made Costa Rica one of the most popular travel, study abroad and second home destinations for Americans and Canadians.

Spanning from October 6, 2011 to February 5, 2012, the campaign, titled "Costa Rica's Million Dollar Gift of Happiness", seeks to spread happiness by gifting us $1 million dollars worth of week-long Costa Rican vacations to people in the United States and Canada.

North Americans can enter to win one of the highly-coveted trips via Visit Costa Rica's Facebook page, which will serve as the hub of the campaign. Twitter, influential blogs and popular news outlets are also being used as sources to find travelers who share Costa Rica's values, and who, of course, would benefit from a gift of happiness.

Recipients of the week-long Costa Rican vacations have the option of selecting a trip from a group of exciting themed travel packages, including Romantic Happiness (romance), Adventure Happiness (soft adventure), Wildlife Happiness (nature), Adrenaline Happiness (extreme adventure) and Authentic Happiness (culture).

On the country's official Facebook page, fans of Costa Rica will be able to preview five videos corresponding to each trip experience. Thanks to a strong social media component, the campaign will encourage North American travelers to explore the country's natural beauty, thrill-seeking adventures and sustainable tourism practices, while also sharing these experiences with friends and family.

The campaign was inspired by Costa Rica's recognition as one of the happiest places in the world by the New Economic Foundation's Happy Planet Index, which rates satisfaction based on a country's quality of life, life expectancy and carbon footprint.
The Gallup World Index's The World's Happiest Countries also named Costa Rica one of its happiest places in the world, ranking it as the happiest place in the Americas.

This is the first time in 16 years that the Costa Rica Tourism Board has launched an institutional advertising campaign in the United States and Canada, according to Costa Rica Tourism Minister Allan Flores. The Costa Rica Tourism Board hopes that this campaign will contribute to its goal of increasing visitor numbers by five percent annually, while sharing with its North American friends how Costa Rica's offerings, including the country's commitment to sustainability, have paved the way for its recognition as one of the happiest places in the world.
Created by Atlanta-based independent advertising agency 22squared, the timing of this campaign is ideal, as Costa Rica forecasts strong tourism numbers for the upcoming high season, kicking off in November.
This year, the country has already broken records with nearly 1.2 million tourists visiting Costa Rica during the first six months of 2011. This corresponds to a 6.5 percent increase, compared to the first half of the last four years and the forecasted growth of the World Tourism Organization, which is between 4 and 5 percent.

 

Court Declares Unconstitutional Riteve Fine 
Oct. 7, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
The Sala Constitucional (Constitutional Court) declared unconstitutional the ¢205.000 colones plus costs fine for a vehicle owner not having current the annual vehicular inspection known as Riteve

The Court considers the fine imposed in the Ley de Transito in effect on March 1, 2010, disproportionate and thus ruled the fine null.

The decision means that the applicable fine for not having the vehicular inspection current rolls back the amount to the ¢10.000 fine prior to March 1, 2010.

Drivers in a vehicle without the Riteve will still have points deducted from their license and Tránsito officials can, as an option, also confiscate the vehicle or the vehicle's license plate.

Silvia Bolaños, director of the Consejo de Seguridad Vial (Cosevi), the ruling will mean many vehicle owners will pay up the fine and not concern themselves with regular vehicular inspection.

For many, the high fine was called "brutally high, if not absurd" and "irrational" and in error of those who believe that enriching the state coffers means better roads.

 

Costa Rica: Oil Moratorium Stands
Oct. 7, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Costa Rica is holding on to a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in its waters, despite growing legal problems. US-based Mallon Oil Company presented Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court on Sept. 7 with two injunctions in an effort to force the country’s government to allow the Denver-based company to explore and potentially drill for oil and natural gas off of the northern Pacific Coast.

But in August, President Laura Chinchilla’s government, through the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry, issued a three-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration and exploitation. The same environment minister who issued the moratorium two months ago, René Castro, had awarded the permit to Mallon, a subsidiary of Black Hills Corporation in 2000.

Chinchilla, who took office in May 2010, said the country was focusing on means of energy other than hydrocarbons, and that the environmental risks outweighed the benefit. Chinchilla also issued a moratorium on open-pit gold mining. Costa Rica has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2021.

There had been 200 appeals since the license was granted to block the company’s activity, most citing environmental risks. Now, the company alleges that it has been denied justice since some of the claims took years to resolve.

On Sept. 23, the Court dismissed one of Mallon´s injunction requests, saying that it would have to file a suit. It is still reviewing the other, against the National Environmental Technical Secretaria for requiring it with a new environmental impact study.

Costa Rica World Animal Day Sunday
Oct. 7, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
On Sunday, October 9, Costa Rica celebrates World Animal Day, to celebrate animal life in all its forms, humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom and to acknowledge the diverse roles that animals play in our lives – from being our companions, supporting and helping us, to bringing a sense of wonder into our lives. The celebration Sunday includes a march against animal abuse.

The activity aims to collect thousands of signatures supporting the law against animal abuse. The march leaves at 10am from Parque Central and ends at the Plaza de la Democracia.Several veterinarians and organizers will give talks on animal welfare. Attendees will also be offered entertainment activities.
World Animal Day was started in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species. October 4 was chosen as World Animal Day as it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

Since then, World Animal Day has become a day for all animals and the people who love and respect them, and is celebrated in different ways in every country with no regard to nationality, religion, faith or political ideology. 

Costa Rica Received $1.057 Billion Dollars In Foreign Investment From January to June
October 04, 2011      Inside Costa Rica
Costa Rica received $1.057 billion dollars in foreign direct investment (FDI) during the first half of the year, representing an increase of 45% over the same period last year, announced the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior (Comex) - Ministry of Foreign Commerce.
According to an official during the first six months of the year, Costa Rica met 57% of the target of $1.85 billion for 2011.

Last year, the country received only $729 million dollars in investment, 29% of which was by companies setting up in zona francas (free trade zones).

Comex said that this positive performance in attracting FDI is because "Costa Rica has a strong platform for export, making efforts to ensure consistent and effective implementation of its trade and investment, driving improvements in business climate and the promotion of a competitive, safe and solid environment".

Official date shows an increased and accelerate flow of investment to the country: in 1991-1995, Costa Rica attracted a total of $1.286 billion dollar or an average of $257 million per year, while in 2010 alone the FDI reached $1.413 billion.
Costa Rican Foreign Trade Minister, Anabel Gonzalez, said that "the investment has contributed significantly to the growth of gross domestic product (GDP), promoting increased production and exports, creating more and better jobs and the transfer of technology and knowledge".
For the next four years, the official target of Costa Rica is attracting $9 billion dollars in FDI. Of this amount, approximately $4 billion will correspond to productive investment and tourism.  The Comex estimates that 39% will come from investment to improve the competitiveness of the country, particularly in the telecommunications, power generation and public works concession and about 12% will be invested in financial and property sectors.

 

Hard Rock Café coming to Costa Rica next year
May 26, 2011 - By Tico Times
Update: Construction to begin in January. Restaurant is expected to open in October of 2012.  The musically-themed U.S. franchise the Hard Rock Café will open two locations in Costa Rica in 2012. The first will be in San José and require an investment of $2 million, and will open in October. Construction begins in January. Another Hard Rock will be built in Guanacaste, in the northwest part of the country.

The restaurants typically feature Americana, such as autographed instruments by famous musicians or photos of concerts. The locations of the restaurants have not yet been announced.

The first Hard Rock Café opened in 1971 in London, England. The franchise has more than 163 restaurants in more than 50 countries, including Paris, France, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Beirut, Lebanon. Latin America locations include Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

Chain restaurants are on the rise on the country. Costa Rica will also be getting its third Hooters in the upcoming year. The latest Hooters will be built in Plaza Bratsi, in Heredia, with a $1 million investment. Last year a Hooters opened in Sabanilla, east of San José. The first Hooters can be found in Escazú, west of San José. The Spanish chain Fiebres x el Futbol ("Football Fever") opened its first store in Latin America, in Escazú, in the spring.

 

Rent a car companies to charge fines for traffic violations
 La Nacion on Oct 4, 2011

Companies that rent vehicles in Costa Rica will receive real time access to the database of traffic violations issued by transit police. According to Silvia Bolaños, director of Road Safety Council (COSEVI) the move will make it possible for rental companies to pass along fines to foreign renters of vehicles before they can leave the country. HOWEVER THE EXCESSIVE FINES FOR SPEEDING HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED UNTIL THE SUPREME
COURT RULES ON THE LEGALITY!

Movistar And Claro Almost Ready To Take On Costa Rica
October 1, 2011  Inside Costa Rica
Although the television, newspaper and billboard ads are running, neither Movistar and Claro are yet offering an alternative wireless service to the state telecom. But, will be soon, in time for Christmas. Both companies are fine tuning their systems to be able to provide cellular and internet services by December.

As part of the process, the companies must submit to the Superintendenciade Telecomunicaciones technical studies what prove their effectiveness of service on calls and messages, as well as a timely billing system with the initial trial of a 100 lines each.

The companies are expected to enter the market with a minimum of 1 million lines each and with innovative services.According to the SUTEL once the studies are complete and the respective contracts are signed, the operators can begin offering their services to the public. Marileana Méndez, president of the SUTEL said that once the technical studies are approve, the administrative processes are simpler.

Once contracts are signed, the companies will de designated the numbering prefix as follows:- ICE will maintain its 8 for cellular and 2 for fixed lines  - The prefix 5 and 4 will be assigned to operators working with ICE, like Tuyo Movil and Full Movil
- The prefixes available to Movistar and Claro are 3, 6 and 7

 

 Peñas Blancas Border Now Open To Midnight Daily 
October 1, 2011  Inside Costa Rica

To speed up the process of transport of goods and people across the northern border with Nicaragua at Peñas Blancas, the border on the Costa Rican side will be open until midnight daily.  The initiative - to open the border between 6am and midnight - is a coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Trade, in a joint effort of various institutions like the Directorate General of Customs, Directorate General of Immigration, National Animal Health Service, State Phytosanitary Service, Trade Office, National Council Highway Administration, Institute of Agrarian Development, Cross City, Transit Department and other institutions directly related to the area.  "We serve in this way the concern of traders and transporters, who suffered the consequences of a limited schedule. In December we will evaluate the impact and benefits of this new schedule", said Anabel Gonzalez, the Minister of Foreign Trade.Last year ​​exports worth over $1.4 billion and imports close to $675 million passed through the border. Last week truckers lined up for kilometres (miles), blocking traffic to make their point, on the Costa Rican side of the border demanding speedier processing times.

Costa Rica's Tourism Board To Launch Aggressive Advertising Campaign To Attract American Tourists 
Sept 30, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) - Costa Ricas Tourism Board -  is getting ready an aggressive campaign to attract American tourists to Costa Rica for the 2011/2012 tourist season. The ICT says it is going to be aggressive in its campaign to hit key U.S. markets. One of the tools in its chest is a webcast scheduled for October 6th where the ICT will host an exclusive virtual press conference to officially launch its new North American advertising campaign. The ICT is banking on some of Costa Rica's most notable recognitions include: TripAdvisor 2011 Travelers' Choice Beaches Award for top beach in Central and South America; the Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Award 2010 for best resort in the Americas and best hotel in Central America; Travel Weekly Readers' Choice Award 2010 for the seventh consecutive year for best destination in the Americas; and Apple Vacations 2011 Crystal Apple Award for Best Destination.

Nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica is located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama. The country represents only .05 percent of the planet's surface but shelters almost 5 percent of the world's biodiversity. Costa Rica is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, four types of forest, 12 microclimates and more than 500 species of flora and fauna, with more than 26 percent of its territory comprising national parks and other protected areas, making the country one of the most popular sustainable tourism destinations in the world. The Costa Rica Tourism Board (www.visitcostarica.com), created in 1955, is responsible for promoting tourism attractions and destinations nationally and internationally; establishing tourism norms, regulations and incentives; and certifying Costa Rica's hotels, travel agencies, rental cars and other tourism service providers under its world-renowned Certification of Sustainable Tourism program.

South Florida Natural For Costa Rica Trade Expansion  
 
October 1, 2011  Inside Costa Rica

As the Gateway to Latin America, Miami has become home to many companies looking to expand trade and opportunities in the United States.

Countries like Costa Rica, the No. 6 trading partner with the Miami Customs District, look to do the same too, expanding trade in South Florida and throughout the U.S. “by trying to identify some new sectors for developing new market options,” said Jorge Zamora, the Costa Rican trade commissioner and director of PROCOMER, the country’s foreign trade corporation. PROCOMER has been working with the aeronautical and aerospace sectors in the Miami Customs District, which includes Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, and promoting Costa Rica as a medical tourism destination, Zamora said. Costa Rican exports to the U.S. include produce, computer parts and chips, and medical equipment and devices. Costa Rica country is also a top provider of breast implants.

The Miami Customs District ranked the 11th largest customs district in the U.S. in 2010, according to a WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
In 2010, trade between the Miami Customs District and Costa Rica reached us$4.7 billion, an increase of 37%, according to data from WorldCity. Costa Rica is the district’s No. 2 trading partner for imports, behind China. Costa Rica ranks No. 36 for trade nationwide with us$13.8 billion in total trade. PROCOMER has a location at the Miami Free Trade Zone, as well as in New York, Canada and China, among others. To learn about trading opportunities with Costa Rica send an email to miami@procomer.com  

Medical Tourism Fair Coming   
September 27, 2011 - By Tico Times

The first annual Expomed health tourism fair will allow medical tourism backers to keep promoting the benefits of the industry within Costa Rica.
On Oct. 7-8, medical professionals will convene at the Children’s Museum in downtown San José to discuss ways to better medical tourism with regard to technology, insurance and employment. Entrance to the event will cost ₡2,500 ($5).
Medical tourism continues to grow in Costa Rica. Last year, 36,000 tourists visited the country for health-related reasons, according to new figures from the Council for the International Promotion of the Costa Rica Medicine (PROMED). In 2009, 30,000 medical tourists visited Costa Rica.

PROMED reported that those who visit Costa Rica for medical procedures often travel with a companion and spend six times more than an average tourist. In 2010, medical tourists brought in $295 million to the country. Most of these visitors arrive from the United States and Canada.
The most popular form of medical tourism remains dentistry. Almost 40 percent of medical tourists visit Costa Rica for a dental procedure. Other popular procedures relate to weight reduction, orthopedics, cardiovascular and cosmetic and plastic surgery.

China to donate 200 police vehicles, $4.6 million to Costa Rica    September 22, 2011 Tico Times
The Chinese government announced this week a donation of $4.6 million and 200 police vehicles to Costa Rica.
On Monday, Costa Rican interim Foreign Minister Carlos Roverssi and China’s Vice-Minister of Trade, Fu Ziying, agreed upon the terms of the donation in a meeting at the Foreign Ministry in downtown San José. A press release from the foreign ministry said the $4.6 million will be used for “cooperation projects” between the two nations.

Relations between Costa Rica and China grew quickly since bilateral relations began in 2007. In June 2007, former President Oscar Arias severed ties with Taiwan to welcome China. In the four and a half years since, Chinese influence has boomed in Costa Rica. The most visible example is the $100 million National Stadium in La Sabana Park, which was considered a “gift” by the Chinese government. China is currently constructing a police academy in the Caribbean slope town of Guápiles and plans to construct an oil refinery in the eastern Limón province.  The foreign ministry said that President Laura Chinchilla’s anticipated visit to China during the next year will be “an important moment for bilateral relations.”

Costa Rica microbrewery earns international recognition 
 
September 22, 2011 - By Tico Times

Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Co.’s signature ale won a silver medal at the first annual Copa Cervezas de América in Chile.The fledgling Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Co. has picked up its first international award. The Cartago-based microbrewery won a silver medal at the Copa Cervezas de América (American Beer Cup) in Chile this month.The Copa Cervezas was also in its first year of existence, but Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing faced stout competition from 21 other Latin American nations and several U.S. and European breweries for a total of 280 different beers.

The brewery’s signature beer, Segua Red Ale, earned a silver medal in the Patagonian and American Ale category. No beer was awarded a gold in that group.The microbrewery’s design features a Hispanic folk-art style that attracts attention. The beer’s taste, too, stood out with judges. Segua has a more robust and hoppy finish for those more experienced in the world of craft beers, the company described in a news release.
The brewery also entered in the competition its other beer, Libertas Tropical Golden Ale, which did not place.
Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Co. was the only brewery from Central America in the competition, which was sponspored by ProChile, a company that exports beer from South America.
Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing began operations in January. It is the only microbrewery in Central America to market its product in restaurants and bars, and the list of places that carry Segua and Libertas is expanding. Visit the brewery’s Facebook page to see where its beers are available. 

 

Costa Rica From Los Angeles For Only $278 Return!
Sept 16, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Right now, this minute, you can book a flight to Costa Rica and return for only $406 from New York, $475 from Miami and unbelievable $309 from Los Angeles (LAX) to San José (SJO). And if your travel plans are flexible, for even lower at $278.

The deal is being offered at www.fly.com which brings together the best fares of several airlines, including United, Delata and TACA (Lacsa).
Prices include taxes and fees and are for e-tickets.
Inside Costa Rica has checked and doubled checked the prices and they are real.
The LAX deal is an unadvertised special, but once the words gets out, the seats will be gone.

Labor Ministry upbeat over job growth
Sept 16, 2011 Tico Times

The year 2010 was a good one for job creation in Costa Rica, according to the Labor Ministry. The number of workers enrolled in the Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja) increased by 5.1 percent year-to-year from December 2009 to 2010. By law, employers must enroll workers in the Caja.  According to the ministry, the upward trend for job creation is continuing in 2011. From December 2010 to June 2011, 34,320 new workers enrolled in the Caja, for a total of nearly 106,000 new jobs in the formal labor market in the past 18 months.

Also during the first half of 2011, growth in the services sector fueled an increase in production by 3.6 percent, according to the Central Bank. More than 19,000 new service-sector jobs have been created so far this year. The construction sector also experienced job growth, with nearly 9,000 new workers added to payrolls.

Transportation, storage and communication sectors generated a combined growth of 6.8 percent in the first half of 2011, primarily due to increased demand for Internet and cellphone services, tourism transportation and export services.

However, growth in other sectors has been only modest. Nevertheless, Labor Ministry officials remain upbeat, saying the economy is showing signs of slow recovery from the 2008-2009 recession.

ICE’s first cellphone competitor is a startup
Sept 16, 2011 Tico Times

The first entrant into the newly opened Costa Rican cellphone market begins operation this week. Known as FullMóvil, and promoting its services with an orange smiley face with teeth resembling cellphone coverage bars, the small startup will be the first company in national history to compete against the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) for mobile phone users.  

The announcement of FullMóvil’s launch in Costa Rica took many by surprise. For months conversation about new cellphone companies focused on giants América Móvil (Claro) and Telefónica (Azules y Blancos). Though ICE’s telecommunications monopoly opened when the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the U.S. (CAFTA) came into effect on Jan. 1, 2009, nearly three years later, ICE remains the only national provider.

To circumvent the bureaucracy and infrastructure disputes impeding the entrance of other providers, FullMóvil took a different approach. Instead of being a traditional brick-and-mortar operation, FullMóvil is a virtual operator.

“We will offer cellular service that will be managed entirely through our website. There will be no physical locations, no waiting in lines, and everything can be handled online or by calling our call center,” said Sebastian Haedo, the company’s general manager. “We are trying to corner a niche market and hope to do so by offering a network that is easily accessible, flexible and with a better pricing strategy than our competitors.”

FullMóvil is known in the telecommunications world as a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO. An MVNO is a cellular service provider just like its competitors, though without its own infrastructure. MVNOs do not construct their own cellular towers and instead use the antennas or infrastructure of an already existing company, such as ICE in the case of FullMóvil.
Though the antennas are shared, the two companies operate entirely separate networks.

In the last 15 years, MVNOs have set up operations in many countries with varying results. The most successful MVNO, according to Haedo, is Virgin Mobile U.K. Using T-Mobile’s antennas and infrastructure, Virgin began offering cellphone service from its virtual online location in 1999.
Within a few years, Virgin vaulted ahead of T-Mobile and became one of the most prominent providers in the U.K.

Few MVNOs experience similar successes. While there are about 650 virtual cellphone providers in the world, several have entered and exited markets without making so much as a peep.  Haedo and FullMóvil are confident they can carve out a niche in Costa Rica, particularly among younger users. FullMóvil offers only pre-paid plans, with more than 500 national activation points and 10,000 recharge locations. Management of each account is handled entirely online and service questions are routed to a call center of 125 FullMóvil employees. If users want to design their own telephone number, FullMóvil gives customers the option to choose the last six digits.

FullMóvil is a Costa Rican company that aims to be a “Tico operator for Tico customers.” ICE, which has operated in Costa Rica since 1949, also stakes that claim.
If FullMóvil is using ICE’s antennas, what’s the difference in service?

“We offer a completely different network and have entirely different operations than ICE. All of the systems we use were designed by our staff and are our property,” Haedo said.

To differentiate from ICE, as well as rivals Claro and Telefónica, Haedo said pricing will be vital to FullMóvil’s success. He claims that FullMóvil will offer some of the best and most competitive prices for calls, text messages and Internet access. “We are going to be competing with a company that already has 100 percent market share and two other large multinational corporations,” Haedo said. “But if we can offer better service and better prices than them, we’re confident we can find a niche.”

Happy 190th Costa Rica!
Sept 15, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Thursday, Costa Rica celebrates its 190th anniversary of its independence from Spain in 1821. A country in Central America, Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to and south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east.
Major industries in Costa Rica are electronics, pharmaceuticals, financial outsourcing, software development, and ecotourism. Its high literacy rate and levels of education make the country an attractive investment location.
The government is aiming to make the country the first carbon-neutral area by 2021. The country tops the Happy Planet Index and is the greenest country in the world, according to the New Economics Foundation.
Costa Rica is a member of various regional and international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and the Organization of American States. Two organizations – the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations University of Peace – are based in Costa Rica.

 

Retailers In Costa Rica Have To Adjust Pricing Practices
Sept 14, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Over the next three months, retailers must adapt their shelf pricing information given to consumers. The price on the shelf must include the unit price in grams or millitres and be clearly visible in addition to the final price of the product.
The Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio (MEIC) - Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce - wants the consumer to be able to compare prices of the different products and not be guided only by the final price, which can be misleading.

Today, on supermarket shelves we find many similar products in different forms. For instance, a product could be 100 grams less that a competing product and as such with a lower price, but it does not mean it is a better buy. One such product is rice, with most packages coming in 2000 ml format, however, some are offered at 1900 ml and with a lower price. MEIC officials argue that the consumer, in this case, is misled with the lower price not noticing the smaller packaged amount of the product.According to the MEIC, the intention is to facilitate the purchase decision of consumers by stating the per unit price, which will apply to all retail stores and products across the country.The most affected products the MEIC says are health and hygiene and food products.At some retailers, like Pricesmart, the unit pricing is a standard. However, that is not the case at most retail stores and supermarkets.

The MEIC decree was published in La Gaceta on Monday and retailers will have 90 days from the date to adjust their shelf pricing or face sanctions under the Ley de Promoción de la Competencia y Defensa del Consumidor - Law on Promotion of Competition and Consumer Defense.

Forbes Awards Manuel Antonio National Park as One of Best in World 
Sept 14, 2011 Inside Costa Rica

Forbes.com has announced Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the top 12 most beautiful national parks in the world. Out of a total of 7000 national parks, Manuel Antonio shares this prestigious accolade with Mount Fiji and the Serengeti National Park.

As the most visited National Park in Costa Rica by international tourists, Manuel Antonio will undergo a series of improvements within the next two years to further enhance the visitor’s experience. Manuel Antonio is home to an abundance of tropical flora and fauna, a wide range of exciting eco adventure tours and the best of Costa Rica luxury vacation rentals.

In the next three years, the Conservation Area for the Central Pacific (ACOPAC) will make improvements to Manuel Antonio National Park’s accessibility and its facilities. Due to Costa Rica’s sustainable tourism policy, visitation to Manuel Antonio National Park is limited to 1000 visitors a day. Government officials are quick to point out that these improvements will only serve to enhance visitors’ experience, since restricted visitation prevents them from attracting more tourists in a single day.
In the first 6 months of 2011, Manuel Antonio National Park received 155,820 visitors. Of that, 72.3%, a total of 112,679 were international tourists. It is evident that the park, with it’s continued efforts in improving the experience of it’s guests, consistently draws and pleases the international tourist crowd visiting Costa Rica. It is interesting to note that Manuel Antonio was also awarded the top beach and sun vacation destination via a tourism survey on TripAdvisor.com in 2010—this is clear indication that this particular region of Costa Rica is a true destination within Costa Rica.
Finances received from a Climate Change and Rainforest Conservation fund will support future improvements, which will include a suspended footpath, a visitors’ center, disability access, new trails, additional training for park rangers, and a museum, among other facility updates. Some of these improvements will be implemented in time for Manuel Antonio National Park’s 40th anniversary, which will take place in November 2012.

Costa Rica Puts Pirrís Hydroelectric Plant Online
Sept 14, 2011 Inside Costa Rica

After 10 years of construction Costa Rica opened a new hydroelectric power plant on Monday that will use the Central American nation's tallest dam to supply clean electricity to 160.000 homes.

The 134-megawatt Pirris power plant is in the southern part of San José province. Rising 113 metres (371 feet) - three times the height of the tallest building in Costa Rica, the Banco Nacional tower in downtown San José - the dam is nearly two thirds the height of China's massive Three Gorges dam, though not nearly as wide.

The plant will generate enough energy to power for more than 500.000 people, according to state power utility, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE).

Costing $627 million funded partly by Japan, the project is aimed at helping wean Costa Rica off costly oil imports as the country works toward eliminating its carbon footprint and switching to almost 100 percent renewable energy by 2021.

"This project is not just big in size, but also in its social impact and its stamp of commitment to clean energies," presidenta Laura Chinchilla said after cutting the ribbon."ICE's energy matrix is the most diversified worldwide. With hydropower, geothermal, wind and biomass, has been fulfilling a complex task and a rewarding challenge. Pirrís is an example of work, hope, commitment and heroism. Today it serves the country", said Mayorga Gravin, manager of ICE's electricity division.At the height of the dam, a road was built to connect the towns of San Carlos de Tarrazú and Llano Bonito de León Cortés. The Pirrís reservoir stores up to 30 million cubic metres of water. The dam's conduction tunnel is another great feat of work, built of concrete and armored material with a depth of 1.200 meters deep and 10 kilometres long.

Netflix Launches Costa Rica With "One Month Free" Offer
Sept 13, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Netflix wants Costa Ricans to sign up by enticing potential customers with a one month free offer as part of their launch of service in Costa Rica on Monday.
"Netflix is now available! Start your FREE month today", is the subject of emails sent out in Costa Rica on Monday, letting potential customers that Netflix is "now available".
And although a NetFlix membership is free for the first month, to sign up for the service customers have to provide their credit card information that will be used to charge monthly the $7.99 membership fee.
NetFlix is clear that customers can "cancel" at any time after signing up and that no billing will occur until after the first month.
The free month trial is a good way for customers to test their internet connection and bandwidth to stream movies and television shows on their computer and/or direct to their television set, if internet equipped.
The launch in Costa Rica part of NetFlix's expansion into Latin America and the Caribbean.
The challenge for the company is the significant lower access of high internet connection than in the United States and Canada and compete against pirated movies.
In Costa Rica, like in many other Latin American countries, pirated first run movies can be bought on the streets for as little as $2, more for better quality. 


Costa Rica Jaco News & Info prior to Aug. 26, 2011


 

Influence of Hurricane Irene diminishing in Costa Rica  August 26, 2011 AM Costa Rica
As Hurricane Irene moves north to threaten the United States, the humidity it poured into Costa Rica is diminishing.
The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said a return to the pattern typical of this season will take place today and into the weekend. That means warm mornings with clouds and rain in the afternoon.
Because of the motion of the hurricane, much of the moisture generated by Irene fell on the Pacific coast. Meanwhile in the Atlantic, Tropical Depression 10 has formed around a low pressure area that is moving West. That will affect the weather here next week.

Internet Outages from Hurricane Could Force People to Interact with Other People, Officials Warn 
August 26, 2011  Borowitz Report
As Hurricane Irene prepared to batter the East Coast of the United States, federal disaster officials warned that Internet outages caused by the storm could force people to interact with other people for the first time in years.

News of the possible interpersonal interactions created panic up and down the coast as residents braced themselves for the horror of awkward silences and unwanted eye contact.

And as officials warned people in the hurricane zone to stay indoors, residents feared the worst: conversations with members of their immediate family.

At the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA chief Craig Fugate offered these words of advice for those who may be forced into direct contact with other human beings: “Be prepared.  Write down possible topics to talk about in advance.  Sports is a good one, and of course the weather.  Remember, a conversation is basically a series of Facebook updates strung together.”

He also offered these words of hope for those trapped interacting with other people due to an Internet outage: “At some point, the wifi will go back on, and hopefully you won’t have to go through anything like this again for a long, long time.”

Internet provider plans slowdown this weekend

August 26, 2011 AM Costa Rica
Technicians at the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said they will be working on the company's Internet service through Sunday,
mostly between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
There may be outages or delays, they said, as they are installing new equipment.
Affected will be the 3G network, the metro ethernet for businesses, the Acelera system and wimax.
 

Costa Rica Receives More Than 1 Million Tourists In First Half Of The Year
August 9, 2011 Inside Costa Rica

During the first six months of the year, Costa Rica received 1.197.199 international tourists admitted for all ports. This corresponds to a 6.5% increase over that recorded in the first half of the last four years and forecast growth of the World Tourism Organization are between 4% and 5%.

Of all tourists who entered the first half, 806.651 arrived by air (646.886 at the Juan Santamaria airport in San José and 157.820 at the Daniel Oduber International airport in Liberia, Guanacaste. "These figures are encouraging and make us as government to continue working hard to raise as much as possible stay and average spending of visitors to Costa Rica. Therefore, we are committed to further promotion and marketing strategies and attracting new airlines", said Tourism Minister, Allan Flores.
The Minister said that since Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) is working in the construction of the National Convention Centre and a commitment to potential tourism products such as rural tourism, to ensure the attraction of tourists to our country.
In June, 176.360 tourists entered all the ports, of which 86.000 were N. Americans, that continue to rank as the main source of the tourism market.
Recently, ICT presented the National Plan for Sustainable Tourism 2010 - 2016 in which is set as main goals the annual 5% increase in the number of international tourists to the number of tourists who entered in 2010.

CONAVI Invests ¢215 Million In Road Patching
August 9, 2011 Inside Costa Rica

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad (CONAVI) has begun patching various points of the Circunvalación in order to increase the life of the road.The work will be carried out during the next six weeks beginning in the west at Pavas and working to the east.The total investment amounts to ¢215 million colones and include patching, crack sealing, design and asphalt. The work will take place at night from 10pm at 4am.   Moreover, the Contraloría General de la República (Comptroller General) gave the go ahead for the road maintenance contracts throughout for a total investment of ¢126 billion colones.  With this approval, the CONAVI may perform work in the nearly 3.000 miles of paved roads of the national road network during the next three years. 

 

Development bank will loan country at least $700 million       August 4, 2011 A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been offered a loan ranging from $700 million to $1.06 billion by the  Inter-American Development Bank.
The development bank said it approved a new country strategy with Costa Rica for the period from this year to 2014. The strategy seems to address all the country's woes.

The bank's statement in a press release did not outline the payback provisions of the load. Typically such loans carry low interest and a grace period for a few years when no payments are expected.The bank is believed to support President Laura Chinchilla's proposal for $1 billion in new taxes.

Said the bank in a release: "The strategy focuses on sectors where Costa Rica faces constraints for its growth, such as transport, energy, early childhood development and innovation. It also covers issues that have demanded priority attention in recent years, such as public safety and health. The sectors identified in the strategy are in line with the pillars of the Costa Rican government plan."

The low quality of the infrastructure, especially in transport, is one of the factors that affect Costa Rica’s productivity, increasing logistical costs and affecting business decisions regarding location, investment and production, it said.

The development bank said it seeks to improve the quality and maintenance of the national and cantonal road network as well as Costa Rica’s ports and airports, and the goal is to reduce travel costs and times for both goods and persons. While highway infrastructure is one aspect of the plan, emphasis is also placed on public transport, it said.

The development bank also said it will support investments to modernize and strengthen Costa Rica’s energy sector with the goals including boosting the installed generation capacity from 2,412 megawatts (in 2009) to 2,677 megawatts in 2014 and attracting more private sector

 producers by reinforcing the regulatory framework. The bank also said it plans to promote the use of renewable energy sources, raising generation from 1,787 megawatts to 1,972 megawatts and strengthening Costa Rica’s integration in the regional electricity market.

The strategy seeks to contain violence and crime in Costa Rica by boosting the government's capacity to prevent and fight organized crime. The program includes professionalizing and training police forces, developing social prevention programs for at-risk young adults and communities and promoting the social reintegration of lawbreakers, it said.

The development bank also said:

• Children from poor households face significant delays in their physical, emotional and cognitive development. Evidence shows that early childhood development interventions help break the intergenerational transmission of poverty. The bank will provide support for strengthening a system to protect early childhood. Plans include building and equipping the national child care and development network and stimulating labor market access for the mothers it serves.

• Costa Rica’s has very positive health indicators but budget limitations have affected the maintenance and expansion of the service network. The strategy seeks to update coverage to fit a new epidemiological profile based on an aging population, as well to expand access to health services for the poorest. It also aims to modernize and expand primary and tertiary health facilities and to improve the quality and organization of the hospital system.

• The bank will focus on strengthening and increasing the scope of financing instruments, including technological development funds and seed capital. It will promote the development of advanced human technical/scientific capital adapted to the demands of the business sector. The bank will also support technology-transfer programs and activities that link universities with businesses, and plans to increase access to and the use of information and communication technologies in the productive sector.

 

Costa Rica Seventh Lowest Inflation in Latin America
 August 4, 2011 Inside Costa Rica

In the past 12 months ending in July, inflation in Costa Rica was ranked as the seventh lowest in Latin America, 5.19%. According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos (INEC) - National Institute of Statistics and Census - the country had a lower rate than their Central American neighbouss, as well as Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, among others.

Low inflation benefits mainly to poor households, as these are less able to defend themselves against rising prices.

From 2003 to 2008, inflation in Costa Rica was among the highest in the region and, in some years, doubling the average in the region.

In 2009, this indicator declined in most countries due to low foreign prices of food. However, in the two years following indicators of prices began to rebound.

A study by the Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (Cepal) - Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean - in 2010 and 2011 the factors that influenced the rise in most countries of the region are rising prices of food and fuel.

"In 2011, inflation has maintained its upward trend, driven mainly by rising prices of food and beverages, but we also seen price increases in fuel and transport services, and in some cases housing", says ECLAC.

Also some countries, like Brazil, are facing internal pressures as people demand more goods and services due to economic recovery.

Roger Madrigal, director of the Economic Division of the Central Bank, said the Central Bank has been closing on the two items that most affect inflation in the long term, the issue of colones for the purchase of dollars and the deficit of the bank.

"On the other hand, today there are macroeconomic conditions that make possible the sustainability of inflation outcomes observed in the last 24 months", said Madrigal.

These factors are: the control of monetary aggregates (such as credit), the relative exchange rate stability in 2011 and the low pressure from aggregate demand on prices (eg, consumption).

He acknowledged that the drop in some food prices earlier this year by oversupply (such as potato and tomato) offset the external increase in food, although the declines are starting to reverse.

Helio Fallas, economist and former Minister of Planning, attributed the result to Costa Rica to two factors: the revaluation of the colon and how the price indices is calculated, since in some countries, food prices weigh more heavily on indicators.

The debt situation in the U.S. and the possibility of a recession in that country would also favour Costa Rica's inflation.In a scenario of low growth in the U.S., "lower demand and therefore downward pressure on prices of raw materials and other tradable goods that would put the U.S. economy would be generally beneficial to Costa Rica", said economist Alberto Franco.  

 

Guanacaste has its day with legal C.R. holiday today

July 25, 2011By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Today is a legal holiday, the 187th celebration of the Anexión del Partido de Nicoya. As is traditional, the president and ministers are giving priority to Guanacaste. President Laura Chinchilla has been busy over the weekend cutting ribbons. She inaugurated the Las Pailas geothermal power plant and a new promenade at the beach in Playas del Coco. She also announced or confirmed a number of projects.
One was the expansion of the existing Cañas-Liberia highway from two to four lanes. Bids are being accepted until next Monday. She also promised residents that pedestrian walkways would be installed. Also being rebuilt are eight kilometers of Ruta 911 between Sardinal, Artola and Nueva Colón. The project is designed to have a positive impact on tourism by giving better access to beaches in  Matapalo, Potrero and Flamingo. Asphalt is being put down.
During the trip the  Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería announced a 13-million-colon ($26,000) grant to help develop oyster production in the Gulf of Nicoya. And the  Asociación Ganadera de Cañas received symbolic checks representing a 75-million-colón ($150,000) grant to build a biodigester to handle cattle waste. It  will produce gas, fertilizer and electricity, said Casa Presidencial.
Today is the time for the traditional Consejo de  Gobierno, a meeting of the president's cabinet, in Nicoya and a celebration between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in the Parque Central de Nicoya. The holiday recognizes the decision taken by political leaders to join their land to Costa Rica instead of Nicaragua. After the celebration, Ms. Chinchilla is scheduled to check on progress at the new terminal being constructed at the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia. That will be at 2 p.m.Today is one of those obligatory pay holidays. Employees have the right to double pay if they have to work today.Also today the license plate restrictions on vehicles in the center city is suspended. A.M. Costa Rica publishes, but its office will not be open today.

Costa Rica's Coast Guard Call For Green Sea Turtle Nesting Care
July 19, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Officials of the Servicio Nacionales de Guardacostas del Ministerio de Seguridad Pública (MSP) - National Coast Guard Service - joined forces in an operation control and protection of marine species in the Caribbean to protect the green sea turtle breeding and call on citizens to join to guard the nests of eggs and prevent poaching. Given the proximity of the spawning period of the turtles, authorities called on citizens not to allow illegal hunting, protect the nests of eggs and care for turtles, so that the country does not miss the opportunity to have a natural resources which if well exploited can become a source of revenue for ecotourism.
The green turtle is one of the largest turtle species that exist on the planet, and Costa Rica is one of the privileged places where there is spawning and mating of this species, which is sometimes in pairs and sometimes two males and one female or two females and one male mating in the Caribbean Sea, located near Parismina and Tortuguero.
This species spawning period - mostly at night in search of warm sand - is in the area of Barra del Colorado and Tortuguero, located in the northern Caribbean, Costa Rica and each female can lay between 100 and 150 eggs, and incubation takes between 45 and 60 days. However, many turtles are hunted for their meat, their eggs, their shells, others simply die trapped in fishing nets.
According to a press release from the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica (MSP) the Caribbean coast is identified situations that threaten this species; in previous days the Coast Guard found an injured green sea turtle who arrived at the Caribbean coast to mate with a spear that pierces the shell of the turtle, a situation that left her defenseless against the attack of other sea animals.
Similarly, in various parts of the province of Limón, it is "common knowledge" that turtle meat is sold in vehicles or in some camouflaged areas, committing a violation of the Ley de Vida Silvestre (Wildlife Act).

Are Wal-Mart’s prices the lowest?
Wal-Mart claims to offer "Everyday low prices." But do they? The Costa Rican Economy Ministry is making the world's largest retail chain prove their audacious advertising campaign.July 22, 2011 – By Tico Times A.Williams

Misleading? Wal-Mart’s “Every Day Low Prices” marketing campaign is drawing criticism in Costa Rica and abroad. The Costa Rican Economy Ministry says customers deserve proof of discounted prices, while U.S. consumers increasingly believe the company’s pricing slogan is inaccurate. Next week, the Costa Rica Economy Ministry (MEIC) is going to make them prove it. In May, MEIC staff investigated the legitimacy of Wal-Mart’s marketing slogan, which was unveiled in Costa Rica in late April as part of the company’s expanded operations in Central America and Mexico. After visiting several Walmart stores in Costa Rica, the MEIC report found pricing and information discrepancies to be “confusing” and potentially misleading for consumers.

According to the MEIC, Wal-Mart didn’t inform customers which products are discounted. While the company advertises that several thousand products are sold at lower prices, it doesn’t provide customers a list of which ones. MEIC has issued Wal-Mart a July 29 deadline to respond to its findings. Also, if MEIC determines that the company has deceived or misled consumers, Wal-Mart could be subject to fines and would be asked to discontinue the campaign. The MEIC has the authority to take those aggressive actions under Article 34 of the Promotion of Competition and Effective Consumer Defense Law.

The U.S. company has 185 stores in Costa Rica under the brands Más x Menos, Palí, Maxi Bodega and Walmart, the latter replacing Hipermás at locations in April. The company plans to open 24 new stores here this year. Last Friday, Wal-Mart inaugurated a “Maxi Palí” in Paraíso de Cartago, east of San José. Wal-Mart launched its “everyday low prices” campaign in Costa Rica and other Central American countries in February, more than a year after Wal-Mart de Mexico acquired 51 percent of Wal-Mart Central America in December 2009.

After the acquisition, Wal-Mart de Mexico said it would invest $378 million in Central America in 2011. The investment, which was the largest in the history of Wal-Mart in Central America, is expected to result in 80 new regional stores and generate 2,500 direct jobs and 5,000 indirect jobs. By the end of 2011, the company expects to have more than 600 retail locations in Central America. 
The survey of 1,513 U.S. consumers found that 60 percent of shoppers don’t believe Wal-Mart’s prices are the lowest, and only one in four believe the company’s everyday prices are “significantly lower” than grocery stores.  In 2010, Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. raked in more than $400 billion in worldwide sales.

Costa Rica's 2011 Growth Estimated At 4.5%
July 20, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Costa Rica's economy will expand 4.5%  this year, the Banco Central de Costa Rica (BCCR) said on Tuesday, raising an initial forecast as foreign companies invest in telecommunications and outsourcing.
In January, the central bank said 2011 growth would be 4.3% and 4.5% in 2012 but upped both estimates by 0.2 percentage points as prospects for the economy improved.
The Central Bank estimates the growth of 4.7% in 2012.
"Outsourcing services and other significant investments made in the free-trade zones ... are enabling this acceleration," said central bank president Rodrigo Bolaños.
In addition to attracting tourists Costa Rica has recently attracted more high-tech factories and call centers.

Foreign direct investment is expected to reach to $2.2 billion dollars in 2011, up more than 50% from last year. The spike is due in part to spending by telecommunications firms Telefonica (Movistar) and America Movil (Claro) after the government opened up its mobile phone sector to private competition.
Computer maker International Business Machines Corp (IBM) recently announced a $300 million investment to build a new IT service centre in Costa Rica, citing the country's high-skilled workforce and business friendly laws.
Costa Rica's outsourcing sector will grow 13.8% in 2011 and 12.5% in 2012, the Central Nank said.   The country's domestic consumer market is also improving, which is helping to boost growth, Bolaños said.

Costa Rica Has The Lowest Inflation Rate In C. America
July 20, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Although recent studies have placed San Jose among the most expensive cities in Latin America and the most expensive in Central America, Costa Rica has the lowest inflation in the region.
According to figures of the Central American Monetary Council to the end of June, on the economies of Central America and Dominican Republic, our Costa Rica's accumulated inflation reached 2.78%, followed by Nicaragua, with 3.6 %.
In the study of mid-year inflation, Costa Rica is the lowest.
The coordinator of the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos (INEC) - National Institute Indexes of Statistics and Censuses - Odette Navarro, said that in the first months of the year there were significant increases in transport and education.
El Salvador which has a dollarized economy showed an inflation of 6.27%.

Tourism recovering in Central America
July 15, 2011 - By Tico Times & AFP

Tourism in Central America finally seems to be recovering after a global economic downturn wreaked havoc on the industry in late 2008, according to the news agency AFP. The number of visitors to Central America increased by 11 percent in 2010, generating $7 billion and creating 21,000 new jobs.
Last year, 11.8 million tourists visited Central American countries, according to the Central American Tourism Integration System (SICA).
“This shows a clear recuperation in the sector for 2010 from the global economic crisis of 2008 and 2009,” the SICA report noted. 

Report says tourists spend more per day in Costa Rica than in rest of Central America   
July 12, 2011 - By Tico Times & AFP
Tourists spend $112 per day in Costa Rica. Belize was not included in the report, but in 2009 tourists spend $149 per day. Nicaragua was the cheapest country.
Tourists spend more money on average in Costa Rica than any other country in the region, a new report showed.
In Costa Rica, the top Central American destination for tourists, visitors spend approximately $112 per day.  In Nicaragua, tourists spend the least, averaging $48 per day, according to a report from the  Central American Tourism Integration System (SICA). However, the report did not give average spending figures for Belize, but in 2009 it was $149 per day. Tourists spend an average of $109 in Panama, $97 in Guatemala, $79 in El Salvador and $60 in Honduras.

In Honduras and Costa Rica, the average duration of a visit is 11 nights. Most visitors stay for an average of nine nights in Panama, seven in Nicaragua, and six in Guatemala and El Salvador, according to SICA. The report also stated that tourism has recovered from the downturn caused by the international economic crisis.

Costa Ricans Less Likely To Migrate To The U.S.
July 10, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Costa Ricans are less likely, compared to their counterparts in the isthmus, to follow the "American Dream" though the number of Central Americans migrating to the United States in the last decade has increase 138%.
El Salvador heads the list of Central American migrants headed for the United States between 2000 and 2010 and now part of the estimated 50 million "latinos" living in America.

Of the six Central American countries (Belize does not count), a largest number of migrants to the United States are from El Salvador, followed by Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica.
In the decade, the number from El Salvador moving to the U.S, increased 151% and represent 3% of the "latino" population, while the number of Costa Ricans moving increased by only 84% and representing 0.3% of total latinos.Nicaraguans and Panamanians migration increased by 96% and 80%, respectively.

 

Transito Reapplies Fine For Not Wearing Seatbelt
July 9, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
In a major setback to road safety Costa Rica, the decision by the Sala Constitucional or Sala IV sets back the efforts of transport authorities to force drivers and their passengers to wear a seatbelt.

You will recall that the Constitutional Court sided with an appeal by Hilman Salazar Ruíz in that the fine of ¢237.000 colones plus costs was disproportional, thus the decision of the court voiding the fine amount in the Ley de Tránsito that went into effect on March 1, 2010.

The magistrates did not strike down seatbelt use, the decision affected only the fine amount.

Since, many drivers have gone back to their habit of not wearing a seatbelt, with the belief that the court's decision did not require its use.

However, Tránsito officials took the position that though they could apply the monetary sanction, they would ticket drivers not wearing a seatbelt as the "points" system continued to apply as it was not part of the Court's ruling.

Since then drivers have been issued tickets but with no fine attached.
Transport officials now have decided that the fines under the old law applies, that is drivers not wearing a seatbelt will be fined ¢16.000 colones, plus costs, for ignoring the provisions in the traffic law. In addition, legal advisors say that, given the Court decision, the government is not under any obligation to reimburse drivers who were fined and paid the ¢237.000 fines.

San José, Costa Rica, In "Top Five" Latin American Cities Of The Future   July 6-13, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
In the first ever fDi ranking of cities across the American continents “FDI Intelligence” selected San José (Costa Rica) as one of the "top five" Latin American cities for the future for foreign investors thanks to its competitive conditions to encourage the establishment and growth of business.

Santiago (Chile) was crowned fDi Magazine's first ‘Latin American City of the Future’. According to the fDi Markets database, which tracks crossborder greenfield investment, Santiago has attracted 84 FDI projects since 2003, with almost a fifth of these projects involving a capital investment of more than $100 million.

Lima (Peru), Monterrey (Mexico), Bogotá (Colombia) and San José (Costa Rica) completed the top five Latin American Cities of the Future. Mexican cities made up four of the top 10 cities in the Latin America category, while the Colombian cities of Bogotá and Barranquilla also featured, ranking fourth and eighth, respectively.
In the first ever fDi ranking of cities across the American continents, New York has been crowned the leading American 'City of the Future' for 2011/12. The city also claimed top position in the sub-category ‘North American City of the Future’ for the second year running, with Chilean capital Santiago being awarded the ‘Latin American City of the Future’.

Cities based in the US and Canada dominated the overall American Cities of the Future rankings, with New York, Chicago and Houston claiming the top three positions. The new ranking combined fDi’ s existing North American Cities of the Future ranking with a new Latin America ranking.

fDi Cities of the Future shortlists are created by in independent collection of data by fDi Intelligence division across 405 cities across North and South America.
This information was set under six categories: Economic Potential, Human Resources, Cost Effectiveness, Quality of Life, Infrastructure and Business Friendliness.
A seventh category was added to the scoring – FDI promotion strategy. In this category, 100 cities submitted details about their promotion strategy and this was judged and scored by our independent judging panel.

Cities scored up to a maximum of 10 points under each individual criteria which were weighted by importance to give the overall scores.

The fDi Intelligence division compiled the majority of the data for the American Cities of the Future ranking with the exception of the FDI promotion strategy.

According to Costa Rica's Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX) in 2010 Costa Rica attracted us$1.45 billion in FDI exceeding the target by 12% (su$150 million). In 2011, Costa Rica expects to attract around us$1.85 billion.For this category information was submitted by individual cities and scored by our independent judging panel.
The top ten Latin America cities by fDi:

1.   Santiago de Chile, Chile

2.   Lima, Peru

3.   Monterrey, Mexico

4.   Bogotá, Colombia

5.  San José, Costa Rica

6.   Guadalajara, Mexico

7.   Querétaro, Mexico

8.   Barranquilla, Colombia

9.   Hermosillo, Mexico

10. São Paulo, Brazil

Lessons From Costa Rica In Environmental Sustainability
July 9, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
The earth’s population spends more money on killing the planet than saving it, according to Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, VP for conservation policy at Conservation International.
Rodriguez, also formerly Costa Rica’s Minster of Environment and Energy, was speaking in Cape Town, South Africa, last week at the Cambridge Resilience Forum about how Costa Rica has been one of the most successful countries in the world in working towards a low-carbon economy using a system known as payment for ecosystem services (PES).
Rodriguez was a pioneer in Costa Rica in the development and implementation of this system, where Costa Ricans are paid for any carbon sequestration, water and biodiversity ‘services’ they provide.  “[Costa Ricans] have learned that we are unable to succeed in achieving our standards, targets and goals of social development and economic development without investing heavily in wisely using our natural resources and ecosystem,” he said.

Costa Rica is a biodiversity ‘hot spot’ where, in 1940, 75% of the country was covered in forests. This dropped to only 21% in 1987 as the financial incentives of the time were geared to changing unproductive landscapes into productive landscapes. Forests were mostly considered unproductive, resulting in deforestation. In 1991, the Costa Rican government realized that the incentives being paid were essentially bad investments and needed to be reconsidered.
In the early 1990s, Costa Rica subsequently analyzed the benefits from healthy ecosystems. The analysis resulted in a policy which identified that owners of forests were supplying environmental services to the country in the form of carbon sequestration and so could be paid for those services. The intention was that this would encourage further reforestation by other landowners.
Environmental Services
Vehicles such as carbon taxes were implemented, which then created the income that could be paid to the providers of the environmental services.
The PES system was dramatically successful and payment for carbon sequestration services resulted in the restoration of a significant number of forests and, by 2005, the forest-covered area of the country increased to 52%. PES meant it had become profitable for landowners to reforest.
The system had other benefits which were not initially anticipated. Of the people that received payment for environmental services, 30% were considered extremely poor, said Rodriguez. Unwittingly, the Costa Rican government had designed a market instrument for forest conservation that also had a significant human benefit as a by-product. Rodriguez was able to show examples where communities had used PES funds to build homes and schools and, in doing so, uplifted themselves.
In addition to payment for carbon sequestration, the PES system now also pays for water and biodiversity services. He said that payment for water services “is an area where I see a great opportunity for South Africa”.

Costa Rica should be an example for South Africa as it has shown that environmental sustainability and social development can go hand in hand.
Where it was once the poorest country in the western hemisphere, it now ranks top of the ‘Happy Planet Index’, which measures the wellbeing of people in the nations of the world while taking into account their environmental impact. Costa Rica aims to be fully carbon neutral by 2021. By: Jean McKenzie, Engineeringnews.com.za

Concentrix Expands Operations in Costa Rica
July 8, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Concentrix, a SYNNEX Corporation Company inaugurated its new building in San José, Costa Rica - investing upwards of $4 million. The new facility, located in Pavas in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy, has capacity for up to 1,200 staff.
Currently, Concentrix Costa Rica employs 250 people who provide pre-sales, technical support and customer service in seven different languages including English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Dutch and Italian. The Company expects to hire 150 additional employees in the next six months.
The official opening took place this morning with guests and dignitaries including the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Minister, Anabel González; the Promotions Director for the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), Irving Soto; Senior Vice President and General Manager, Concentrix, Christopher Caldwell; and Concentrix Vice President and General Manager, Costa Rica, Manfred Kissling.
According to Caldwell, "In Costa Rica, we are making an investment to grow our business based on a good mix of skilled talent, infrastructure and business climate. This new facility complements the global value we provide our customers from Asia, the United Kingdom and United States.”

On her behalf, the Foreign Trade Minister, Anabel González, indicated, "Concentrix knows how to leverage Costa Rica´s potential by establishing a significant operation in our country. We are pleased to witness how the Company has increased its number of employees, generated high quality jobs and promoted better living conditions in such a short time.” "Concentrix is a success story that validates the quality of the services that companies obtain from Costa Rica. It has been able to provide a wide variety of services in multiple languages, making Costa Rica a central location for the Company’s global customer base,” explained Irving Soto, CINDE´s Promotions Director.

Costa Rica, Chile to promote "Alliance of the Pacific"
July 8, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Costa Rica and Chile agreed to promote the newly launched "Alliance of the Pacific", in a bid to increase cooperation between Latin American and Asia-Pacific nations, officials said Thursday.

The consensus was reached by Costa Rican and Chilean Foreign Ministers Rene Castro and Alfredo Moreno, respectively, during a meeting of the two, during which the two sides stressed the need for that effort, said a statement from Costa Rica's Foreign Ministry.The bloc was launched by leaders of Chile, Peru, Mexico and Colombia on April 28, who signed a pact to deepen their nations' existing commercial ties and further open doors to lucrative Asian markets.
"Costa Rica is following these steps with interest, not only in terms of trade relations, but as a way to expand cooperation on education, culture, and the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime," the statement said.

Costa Rica Exports Liquor to China and Panama
July 8, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
The first shipment of Costa Rica's guaro left port headed for China and Panama. The Fábrica Nacional de Licores (FANAL) reports that last month it shipped its first 1.600 cases to China and in the last few days 2.000 cases to Panama. The next on the list of guaro destinations could be Russia and the Czech Republic, said FANAL,  who is looking outside of Costa Rica to improve its financial situation.
The state manufacturer of liquor says its financial situation is improving as sales have picked up, with expectations to sell more than 170.000 cases this year, some of to foreign markets.  Another boost for the FANAL are stricter controls on businesses selling national liquor products, police raiding clandestine operations and liquor outlets.The growth of exports will depend on the acceptance of the Costa Rican product.

Boston Scientific In Costa Rica Looking To Hire 250
July 6, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Boston Scientific, a global leader in the medical device industry, is looking to hire 250 new employees in the area of engineering, production, quality control and processes development.
The hiring is due to the expansion of the firm’s Global Park centre located in Heredia.
The company currently employees some 2.000 in Costa Rica, beginning its operations in the country in 2004 in Global Park, followed by an expansion in June 2009, opening a second plant in El Coyol, en Alajuela.
In Costa Rica the products manufactured are in the area of Endoscopy (Gastro Intestinal Forceps Biopsy, Polypectomy Snares), Urology and Cardiology. Boston Scientific in Costa Rica has the most exports in the Life Sciences sector in the country.

 

 Fitch Affirms Banco Internacional de Costa Rica's IDR at 'BB+'; Outlook Stable   July 8, 2011 Inside Costa Rica
Fitch Ratings has affirmed Banco Internacional de Costa Rica's (BICSA) long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at 'BB+'. The Rating Outlook is Stable. BICSA IDRs reflect Fitch's opinion that the bank would receive support from its shareholders, Banco de Costa Rica (BCR, 'BB+' IDR), if needed. The individual rating reflects BICSA's adequate capitalization, conservative risk management, good asset quality, and enhanced profitability metrics, which previously were considered to be modest. However, high borrower and creditor concentrations continue to limit the bank's individual creditworthiness. 
Fitch expects profits to improve over 2011 as well-contained costs combined with higher business volumes should benefit the bank's performance.  BICSA's asset quality is sound, reflecting its moderate risk appetite. However, borrower concentrations remain high and are not expected to decrease over the foreseeable future. Loan loss reserves cover 211.7% of non-performing loans but are low in view of the concentrated portfolio. Positively, the enhanced risk management provides some comfort relating to likely growing credit costs
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Costa Rica makes its way off tax-haven blacklist
July 05, 2011 Tico Times
Finance Minister calls the achievement “a major step for the country.”
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported Tuesday that Costa Rica has undergone sufficient tax reform to be taken off a tax-haven blacklist of countries that do not meet international tax standards.

In 2009, the OECD cited Costa Rica along with Malaysia, the Philippines and Uruguay on its list of blacklisted countries “that have not committed to internationally agreed tax standards.”

According to Clemens Fuest, research director of the Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation, tax havens are generally small, politically stable countries that offer low taxes to foreign investors and businesses. Fuest wrote in a July 2011 article for The World Today that tax havens have recently come under increased international scrutiny because they are seen as helping firms and wealthy individuals evade taxes and regulations of their home countries.

Costa Rica was not included on the OECD’s July 2011 list of tax havens because the country now practices international standards of fiscal transparency, according to the OECD report.

The country has reached a total of 12 tax-information-exchange agreements that allow foreign governments to monitor the monetary activity of their citizens in Costa Rica. The country has signed information-exchange agreements with Australia and northern European nations Finland, Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
In a statement released Tuesday, Costa Rican Finance Minister Fernando Herrero said this is a major step for the country, not only in addressing commitment to transparency but also in putting Costa Rica in a more favorable position to attract international investment.
Costa Rica's neighbor Panama also was removed from the blacklist.

Costa Rica ranked top 10 investment destination in Latin America 
July 05, 2011 Tico Times
Two international business and investment publications released reports ranking Costa Rica and its capital city as top 10 investment locations in Latin America.
In the quarterly “Euromoney Country Risk” survey, the London, United Kingdom-based financial publication Euromoney ranked Costa Rica as the 7th safest investment destination in Latin America and 68th safest country for investment in the world. Panama ranked the highest in Central America at 51. Chile, ranked 25th in the survey, was considered the safest investment destination in Latin America.

Costa Rica improved five places in the survey’s rankings during the second quarter of the year due to “limited economic risk” and “improved political stability.” Euromoney also considers credit ratings, debt indicators and accessibility to capital markets when generating each country’s overall score.

On Monday, the publication “FDI Intelligence”, a division of the business journal The Financial Times, ranked San José as the 5th best “Latin American city of the future” for foreign direct investment (FDI). The study examined investment possibilities of 405 Latin American cities and chose San José as the top FDI destination in Central America.
According to the Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX), Costa Rica aims to bring in $1.85 billion in FDI in 2011. President Laura Chinchilla has said her administration hopes to generate $9 billion in FDI through 2014.

New arrivals helping to free the Internet of its chains
July 5,2011 Special to A.M. Costa Rica
Opening of the telecommunications market in Costa Rica is starting to provide real options for Internet consumers in Costa Rica. The biggest change happened earlier this year when Amnet cable decided to drop Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the state-owned Internet provider, in favor of Navega as its Internet backbone provider.

Both companies are subsidiaries of the multinational parent company, Millicom. The relationship with Radiográfica did not make sense strategically as the company is competing head on to lay fiber optic cable in the ground for large businesses in Costa Rica.

The most visible change for residential Internet consumers came last week when a Venezuelan firm announced wireless broadband Internet for San José, Jacó, Quepos, and San Isidro de El General. The service based on WiMax technology competes directly with Radiográfica’s Evoluciona, and offers roughly twice the bandwidth for half of the monthly fee charged by Radiográfica, which is known as RACSA.

On the high end, Metro Wireless offers a package with 4 megabits of downstream bandwidth for $75 a month, which competes with ADSL connections offered by the state-owned telecom company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, for $102 a month plus the cost of a fixed telephone line. On the low end, Metro Wireless has a $23 package, which competes with RACSA at $29 and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad at $14 plus the $7 a month for the fixed phone line.

Calls to Metro Wireless confirmed that service connections are now available for the Central Valley. However service in the central Pacific is not quite ready. The company bought a local wireless provider, Skylynx, in May and plans to expand into Liberia and Guanacaste. A press spokesperson for  RACSA confirmed the company is in the process of reevaluating price structure and service offerings.

WiMax or Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access should not be confused with the 3G Internet access provided via a cell phone networks. The WiMax implementation in Costa Rica uses fixed antennas with line of sight to receivers on mountain tops. Cellular Internet access is limited because battery-powered handheld devices receive relatively poor reception, and good service requires a high density of cell phone towers.

Expats in other areas of Costa Rica can also take advantage of broadband Internet delivered through a fixed Wimax antenna from authorized providers. The company CRWIFI serves customers in Alajuela, San Ramon, Grecia, Sarchi, Naranjo, Guacima, Santa Ana, and points along the Pan American highway from Barranca to Alajuela. San Carlos Wireless offers service to Grecia, San Ramón, San Carlos, Los Chiles, Guatuso, Upala, and as far northeast to the Nicaraguan border. Another company, Inasol, provides access primarily to beach areas, including Potrero, Lomas, Liberia, Playa Hermosa, Jacó, Esterillos, and in the southern zone, Matapalo, Puerto Jiménez, Mogos, Golfito, Pavones, Zancudo and Paso Canoas on the border with Panamá.
At present, the best that residential customers can count on in Costa Rica is a 4 megabit Internet connection for the same price that would get a customer on the East Coast of the United States between 20 and 100 megabits. Those U.S. customers who still prefer cable television to Internet movies and high definition broadcast television can order a triple play package with television, phone line and Internet for between $99 and $150 a month. Internet-only packages with 6 megabits of download are available for $50. However, apart from WiMax the Internet without a telephone or cable television subscription is not an option for residential customers in the Costa Rica.

Demand for broadband Internet access in Costa Rica will continue to grow as it has worldwide. However how broadband is defined here is likely to change. Ticos who can afford a broadband subscription rarely spend more than $30 a month for a 1-megabit connection. Costa Rica is preparing to equip schools with access nationwide and build computer centers for low-income people. One of the goals is to provide 6 megabits of bandwidth for every 10 students.

Keeping pace with the rest of the world will require that the definition of high-speed Internet in Costa Rica takes a leap forward. In the past, the private cable television providers have been reluctant to offer affordable broadband. Their business risk is that streaming video and Internet content in general reduces demand for cable television. Also, business and high-end users have been willing to pay the premium for higher bandwidth.

The biggest competitor for the cable companies has been the state-owned telephone company, which has an ADSL network limited to 4 megabits of download per connection. Over the years the rates and level of bandwidth provided by ADSL has set the market for Internet access in Costa Rica with the cable companies playing catch up. That system may now be near its end of life, especially given the worldwide trend is to replace traditional telephone wire with coaxial or fiber optic cable.

Experience in other countries shows that cable companies, despite reluctance, do offer robust broadband when sufficiently pressured by competition. Representatives for both Amnet and Cable Tica confirmed they have the capability and are currently evaluating plans to offer connections that exceed 4 megabits over their coaxial cable networks. Competition via WiMax and the possibility of a 4G network from a private cell phone provider may soon replace the market standard set by the state-owned telephone company.

Netflix expanding to Latin America
July 05, 2011 Tico Times
The video giant plans to stream TV shows and movies online in 43 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

U.S. movie enterprise Netflix announced it will expand its film and online TV streaming services to 43 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean later this year.

Once launched, residents in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean can choose from a variety of TV shows and movies made available through the web, according to a press release from the company. Customers will have access to the site in Spanish, Portuguese or English. The service can stream videos to computers, mobile devices, or Internet-connected television.

Netflix, which has 23 million subscribers, has streamed in the United States since 2007. The California-based company started streaming to Canada last year. Netflix also offers delivery service in the U.S., but its international expansion will only involve streaming videos.

Those interested in Netflix in Latin America can go to www.netflix.com and register to receive an email when the service launches later this year. Netflix did not say how much it plans to charge once it expands nor did it reveal what countries specifically would receive online streaming from the company.  News agency AFP contributed to this story.


Costa Rica Jaco News & Info up to July 4, 2011


  

Umbrellas are obligatory for July 4 celebration
 
 July 4, 2011  By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The forecast for today's Independence Day activities in Escazú is a little uncertain. The general forecast for all but the Caribbean calls for afternoon downpours and thunderstorms, but there has been little consistence in the weather.
While Juan Santamaría airport got 28.6 millimeters (1.12 inches) of rain Sunday and Pavas reported 53.7 millimeters  (2.27 inches), other areas were dry or nearly so. A low pressure area lingering in the Pacific off the Guanacaste coast is one good reason for July 4 celebrants to bring umbrellas.

The big party today is at Avenida Escazú, the outdoor shopping mall behind Hospital CIMA on the Próspero Fernández highway that recently became the Autopista del Sol.
This year the celebration begins at 4 p.m., and a parade down Avenida Escazú is planned. A fireworks display provide a climax at 8 p.m. 
 
The celebration is  joint effort by Avenida Escazú and the American Colony Committee. For years, the American Colony Committee picnic was in the  morning to avoid the possible afternoon showers.  One colony committee member said that the entire picnic was in jeopardy until Avenida Escazú made overtures. Committee members invested a lot of time and labor in last year's celebration, and they were not sure they could do so again, said the committee member.
The U.S. Embassy and its consular services will be  unavailable today because the day is a U.S. legal holiday. That also means banks and other services expats here use in the United States will be unavailable.Residents can look for a little better weather during the last two weeks of July. This is the annual canicula period that sees a buildup of high pressure in the Atlantic Ocean that keeps the instability and rain in the Pacific from entering the country.
Until then afternoon thundershowers seem to be inevitable. 

 

Feria de Seguridad in Jaco, Saturday July 9th 8:00 am. to 4:00 pm: