1. CR Financial Woes: A good article summarizing the current situation. Personally, I think this year will be the year the government will not be able to kick this problem down the road any longer... they have to deal with it... but after Christmas at the beach... I believe there was a big colon devaluation in 1988... a significant event and it was an overnight implementation... I remember reading reference to this a week or so ago... might it happen again? fortunately, I do not hold much in colones but it will make US dollar denominated debt really difficult to repay.
2. COVID Vaccine priorities: There you have it.
3. Public Schools: CR is proud of its educational system... and without any real proof to back up the pride. I am not a fan and do not buy into the government BS. In my assessment, the public school system and many (perhaps not all) of the teachers are woefully derelict, students are short changed for today's work. Only the private school system, which is expensive -$600+ mo per child provides a decent education... those going through the public system are barely able to read, write, and do basic math, virtually no world history, geography, computer skills, thinking ability... I am really disgusted when I read / hear / see / experience the reality.
1. Costa Rica’s dire financial situation
Two years after passing a controversial fiscal-reform project, Costa Rica remains on tenuous financial grounds.
At an individual level, the pandemic and related measures have exacerbated unemployment. Nearly half of Costa Rican workers are unemployed or underemployed, representing tens of thousands more people in that situation compared to 2019.
At a national level, Costa Rica has the third-highest public debt in Latin America, according to a new report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL).
Public debt — the amount of money a government owes to outside debtors — reached 66.2% of Costa Rica’s GDP, trailing only Argentina and Brazil in the region.
Consequently, the government is spending more on interest payments. According to CEPAL, the amount Costa Rica allocates for interest grew more than for any other Latin American country over the last year.
As a result, Costa Rica has turned to outside financial institutions for loans, which the government says would allow it to renegotiate debts, spend less on interest payments and invest in social programs.
The International Development Bank (IDB) has approved a $250 million loan, but the decision by legislators not to approve the financing before their end-of-year vacation means the country will almost certainly lose access to this money.
Another source of financing is from the International Monetary Fund. In January, Costa Rica will begin negotiations for a $1.75 billion loan over three years from the IMF.
This, too, faces significant internal opposition; earlier this year, Costa Ricans across the country protested the potential IMF deal, because the government had planned to raise some taxes to pay back the loan.
Costa Rica’s new IMF proposal includes fiscal consolidation worth 3.0% of GDP, of which 0.8% would come from new taxes.
The Costa Rican Presidency argues that even if the country can reduce spending, outside financing is necessary.
“In the 1980s, we already experienced a crisis born from debt problems,” a video produced by the government said. It referenced the skyrocketing inflation, devaluation of the colón and poverty that characterized that period in Costa Rica.
But even if Costa Rica does obtain IMF financing, experts say the country will face ongoing debt challenges.
According to U.S.-based Fitch Ratings, the IMF loan “could serve as a policy anchor to support fiscal consolidation and free some additional multilateral funding at lower borrowing costs.” However, without additional measures, it “might prove insufficient to stabilize central government debt.”
“We forecast interest payments will reach 38% of central government revenues in 2020, or 21.4% of general government revenues,” Fitch Ratings says.
As the Legislative Assembly adjourns — delaying most new legislation until the new year — Costa Rica will end 2020 with critical financial decisions unresolved.
2. Who gets the coronavirus vaccine first?
Costa Rican health authorities on Wednesday provided a roadmap detailing which populations will receive the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
The National Commission of Vaccination and Epidemiology, part of the Health Ministry, indicated the priority will be as follows:
- Staff and residents at retirement or nursing homes.
- First responders, including health personnel.
- Costa Rica’s older population, defined here as those ages 58 and up.
- People with risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness, kidney disease and obesity, among others.
- Teachers and other staff within the Education Ministry (MEP).
- Imprisoned people and judicial staff.
- Workers for the 911 service.
- Health science students and related technicians in clinical fields.
- People ages 40-57 without any of the aforementioned risk factors but whose work puts them in contact with others. This includes laborers in agriculture, constructionservice industries, etc.
The Health Ministry on Tuesday authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in Costa Rica. However, there is still no date for the arrival in Costa Rica of the first doses of the drug.
“Tentatively, the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in our country would be carried out in the first quarter of 2021,” the Health Ministry said.
Costa Rica and Pfizer-BioNTech have an agreement for 3 million doses of the vaccine, enough for 1.5 million people. The Central American country also has a deal with AstraZeneca and is a member of the COVAX facility.
3. Costa Rica will resume in-person learning in 2021
The Public Education Ministry (MEP) announced this week that Costa Rica will resume in-person learning in 2021 using a blended model. Public schools will return to classes on February 8, and private learning centers may begin in January.
While MEP is promoting a blended learning model — where students attend in-person on certain days — each institution can create its own plan, as long as it follows the national guidelines.
Masks will be mandatory for teaching and administrative staff, as well as for students. Schools must limit daily in-person attendance to ensure appropriate physical distancing between students.
In most cases, students will alternate days attending class in-person and learning online. However, each school will determine its own policy and communicate it to parents. Students without reliable internet access should be prioritized for in-person learning.
Finally, schools must differentiate arrival, exit and recess times for different grades to help prevent large crowds.
MEP says it will continue distributing food packages to students who rely on schools for their dietary needs.
In-person learning has been suspended since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. In August, authorities announced that Costa Rica wouldn’t resume in-person learning in 2020.
Struggles to adopt distance learning
The Education Ministry has detailed difficulties in the country’s transition to distance learning in 2020.
In March, more than 1 million Costa Rican students were provided with an institutional email account in order to facilitate distance learning. As of late August, just 590,136 had completed account activation in order to use the online platform.
Additionally, data provided by school directors indicate 35% of students’ homes don’t have an internet connection.
Costa Rica is advancing with plans to install broadband internet in every public school by the end of 2021. The first-of-its-kind strategy would especially benefit rural communities that otherwise don’t have reliable connectivity.
In addition to online resources, MEP broadcast educational materials via public television and radio.
UNESCO and ECLAC have warned that the coronavirus pandemic would exacerbate gaps in terms of educational access, equity and quality across the region.