1. Evaluation of the Colon: yes, little by little up to about 2.5%. Not a lot but a little relief. According to the article, the rate is likely to stabilize.
2. New Jobs: Employers looking for English, computer skills, and business admin backgrounds.
3. Mandated Fee Schedule: to benefit the providers, only... medical tourism is not something which is discussed much anymore in media. Medical procedures are no longer the bargain the used to be.
4. Real Estate Developments: Mixed use -commercial / residential in the Heredia area. Lots of new buildings planned. There seems to be lots of money floating around and lots of high hopes for the future... We'll see.
1. Costa Rican colón dips against US dollar
The Costa Rican currency, the colón, has been on a slow slide against the U.S. dollar during the last several months, but analysts say it’s unlikely to fall much farther.
Since April, the colón has devalued roughly 2.4 percent against the dollar, from ¢541 in April to ¢554 at this writing, according to the MONEX exchange. Despite the dip, analysts say the fundamentals of the Costa Rican economy remain strong.
Still, those who earn colones but borrow in dollars could feel the pinch.
The colón to dollar rate remains below the ¢559 it reached in May 2014, its peak against the dollar in the last several years.
Three factors are increasing demand for dollars and driving up the colón:
Higher prices for petroleum
Seasonal fluctuations in dollar flows
Pedro Aguilar, chief economic analyst for Aldesa Securities, told The Tico Times the recent rise in petroleum prices has played a role increasing demand for dollars in Costa Rica. Besides petroleum, which the government imports, everyday Costa Ricans are importing more goods from abroad, like cars, that need to be purchased with dollars.
He added that there is a seasonal element at work: “the green season.” The rains that nourish Costa Rica’s green forests between May and October tend to keep away tourists from the U.S., who flock to Costa Rica with dollars in hand during the winter months in the north.
Analysts did not foresee any dramatic changes in the exchange rate for the near future. Surveys from the Central Bank suggest the currency could fall another ¢10 over the course of 2016 but Aldesa forecasts a slightly smaller devaluation. Aguilar said the Central Bank has plenty of reserves to buy more colones to offset any shocks, among other tools.
Aguilar characterized the devaluation as “relatively normal.”
Luis Diego Herrera, an economist with Grupo Financiero Acobo, agreed the devaluation wasn’t surprising and added that it wasn’t necessarily a bad sign for the economy. The increase in imports could be a sign that companies are making capital investments and people are earning enough to purchase higher-end goods. A weaker colón also makes Costa Rican exports, from medical devices to pineapples, cheaper abroad.
But the devaluation also means those who earn colones but have owe debt in dollars are in a tight spot. The relative stability of the colón’s value and attractive borrowing terms have led people to prefer taking out loans in dollars in recent years, Herrera said, but now that the colón is weaker, monthly payments in dollars are getting more expensive.
Nearly 80 percent of Costa Rican loans in dollars are held by people who earn colones, according to figures from the Superintendence of Financial Entities (SUGEF) reported by the newspaper El Financiero in June.
Both analysts noted that while the exchange rate has been relatively stable and inflation remains low, the country’s fiscal deficit remains a major concern for Costa Rica’s longterm economic health.
2.Companies announce job openings in business, engineering and interpretation services
Companies in the services sector are starting the second half of the year with good hiring prospects. Three of them this week announced they are offering a total of 900 jobs for interpreters and professionals in business administration and information technology.
Business services company Concentrix announced Monday that it is hiring 700 people to expand its operations in the capital San José. The company is looking for professionals in business administration with specializations in recruitment, financial analysis and quality management.
Concentrix is also offering jobs for account supervisors, operations managers, customer service representatives and technical support agents fluent in English, French, German and Spanish.
Job applications can be filed on the company’s website. You also can submit a printed resume at the company’s offices in Pavas near the U.S. Embassy or at the America Free Zone in Heredia, Building D-20. Resumes must include copies of all degrees or diplomas, two letters of recommendation and a photograph.
U.S. software development company Gorilla Logic is also expanding its operations in Costa Rica and plans to hire 100 IT professionals. Recruiters are looking for engineers with experience in software development to work with U.S. companies.
Recruiters will interview candidates next Wednesday, July 27 at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel in La Sabana starting at 6 p.m. Pre-registration is required on the company’s website and resumes must be sent to email@example.com
The Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE) announced that Lionbridge Technologies, Inc. is hiring 100 people for its interpretation services division.
The hiring means the company will double its staff in Costa Rica, one of the 27 countries where it currently operates.
Recruiters in the next two months will offer jobs for bilingual (English – Spanish) staff with a high command of both languages. Candidates with command of a third language and experience in interpretation will be given preference, CINDE reported.
Job applicants must have access to a landline and will be evaluated for their interpretation skills. Those selected for a contract will be able to work remotely, and the company offers various schedule options.
Those interested can apply online on the company’s website.
CINDE General Director Jorge Sequeira said the number of international companies in the services sector here has grown dynamically in the past 15 years, to nearly 400 companies today.
3. Mandatory prices for medical procedures rankle public, politicians
The latest salvos were fired last week in a national furor over the attempt to set minimum prices for all medical procedures performed by private practitioners in Costa Rica.
On June 27, a consumer group filed a complaint with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, over the medical price floors, which were set by the Costa Rican Doctors’ and Surgeons’ Association in May.
And on Thursday, Christian Democratic Alliance lawmaker Mario Redondo presented a bill in the Legislative Assembly that would ban all professional associations from setting mandatory price floors.
For the past two months, patients, politicians and public health officials have been weighing in — many of them angrily — on the decree passed by the Doctors’ Association, the country’s official medical licensing entity. The decree establishes minimum fees for everything from basic exams to major brain surgery.
Many say the proposed prices for some procedures are much higher than current rates, and they’re concerned that a spike in prices for private medical care could push up insurance costs and force more patients to rely on public hospitals, overwhelming already strained resources.
The 217-page list detailing more than 9,000 medical procedures and their accompanying minimum fees includes everything from a basic mammogram, ¢15,000 ($27), to surgery to repair a cerebral aneurysm, ¢20 million ($36,600).
The price for stitching up a gash up to 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) long on the head, torso, legs or arms would cost ¢210,990 ($380). The same procedure would cost up to ¢703,300 ($1,270) if the wound is bigger than 30 cm (1 foot). (See the full price list below.)
Consumer groups claim the fees for some procedures represent increases up to 300 percent.
Alexis Castillo, president of the Doctors’ and Surgeons’ Association, disputed that assertion in a public statement, arguing that any price comparison is irrelevant since this is the country’s first official price list for medical procedures.
Castillo said the proposed prices were derived from research conducted over the past five years. The Doctors’ Association compiled price data from each medical specialty offered in Costa Rica. It also took into account the complexity of each procedure, how often a procedure is performed and the number of specialists who perform it, among other factors.
Castillo said the list would allow consumers to keep a better watch on their medical bills and give them a tool to denounce abusive costs.
The decree approving the price list was published in the official newspaper La Gaceta on May 2, which means it’s technically applicable. But the Doctors’ Association suspended enforcement of the new minimum fees until September in order to hear concerns voiced by the public, insurance companies and public officials.
Rush on public health services?
Health Minister Fernando Llorca said the new prices would force a large segment of the population to seek attention at hospitals and clinics of the Costa Rican Social Security System, or Caja, straining the public health system and taking away business from private doctors.
Llorca recently met with the Doctors’ Association and asked it to reanalyze the fees and “come up with a list of prices in line with the country’s situation and the citizens’ ability to pay.”
Caja executive president María del Rocío Sáenz said in a public statement that she will wait to see whether the Doctors’ Association issues a revised version of the price list in September before opining on the possible effects on the Caja.
“Initially, I think the main impact would be a possible migration of patients from private practice to public hospitals,” Sáenz said, adding that it could also cause a migration of physicians from public hospitals to private practice, attracted by a potentially higher income.
Elián Villegas Valverde, president of the National Insurance Institute (INS), which issues mandatory workers’ insurance and private policies, said the proposed minimum prices would increase INS medical costs up to 75 percent and therefore policy premiums could rise up to 89 percent.
“That means we will likely see a decrease in the number of people holding an insurance policy and those people will likely begin demanding more services from Caja’s hospitals,” Villegas told lawmakers.
The Ombudsman’s Office also weighed in on the medical price floors, saying they would have serious economic and social consequences for the population. Deputy Ombudsman Juan Manuel Cordero sent the Doctors’ Association a letter asking whether the group had evaluated the potential impact of the new prices on the population before signing them into a decree.
Citizen action, political opposition
Last Monday, the Costa Rican Free Consumers Association filed a complaint with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, arguing that setting price floors violates Article 46 of the Constitution, which guarantees citizens’ rights to economic security and health.
The complaint also argues that the Doctors’ Association should have held a public hearing about the proposed prices, and should have consulted with the Health Ministry.
Assemblyman Redondo, who chairs the legislative Committee on Public Income and Spending Control, said he’s confident that his bill intended to quash the mandatory minimum prices has solid support in the legislature.
The bill is co-sponsored by an unusually diverse coalition of lawmakers, including Epsy Campbell and Ottón Solís from the ruling Citizen Action Party, Otto Guevara from the Libertarian Movement, Julio Rojas from the National Liberation Party and Jorge Arguedas from the Broad Front Party.
Besides the social and economic implications, Redondo questioned the legality of the minimum price list. For one thing, he said the approved list includes procedures that are generally performed by nursing assistants or X-ray technicians, not doctors and surgeons.
“They even set a price for setting an intravenous drip,” Redondo noted.
He also said the decree should require ratification by the president, which has not occurred.
Redondo’s bill has just two articles, which would reform Costa Rica’s consumer defense law. The first article would prohibit all professional associations from setting mandatory minimum prices, though they would be allowed to establish suggested prices.
The second article establishes a monetary fine of up to ¢42 million ($76,500), equivalent to 100 monthly minimum salaries, for any professional association that fails to comply.
4. Eight real estate projects are in the process to build in Heredia
Four mixed-use developments will be two commercial and two residential
Municipality states require road plans, but there are pending on domestic routes
The central canton of Heredia expects the construction of eight new real estate projects, which will increase the commercial and residential offer.
The Municipality of Heredia reported that about four mixed-use complex (combined residence, commerce or entertainment, among others): Finca Montealegre Santa Verde, Queen of Coffee and Eco.
In the commercial sector, are recorded other two: the megaproject Oxygen and San Francisco square. Meanwhile, in the residential segment, are developing Flowers and residential Bamboo.
All these initiatives have previous municipal authorizations (rain vent and land use), so that subsequently to submit the license application for a building permit.
However, some have planned to start in the short term and others in the medium, since they depend on the pace that each developer take over other missing permits to obtain the final license.
"Developers must apply for authorization in the entities that apply, depending on location and provision of property or project (MOPT, Recope, Incofer, Minae, INVU, Public Service Company of Heredia)," said Paulo Cordoba, manager of Territorial Development the municipality.
They must have the environmental viability of the National Environmental Technical Secretariat (SETENA), move to the Association of Engineers and Architects (CFIA), then go to review of institutions like the Ministry of Health, Fire, Water Supply and Sewerage and the National Institute of Housing and Urban Development (INVU).
Finally, each project enters the Municipality for approval of the license municipal construction permit, which must verify compliance with the Building Act and its regulations.
Some developers have already made progress and plan their arrival in the short term.
Such is the case of oxygen, the first type human playground development of the country, which will combine thematic areas such as trade anchors, so does Holy Verde project.
The two complexes are developed and operated by Cuestamoras, company will invest more than $ 250 million between two and plans to meet all requirements to begin construction later this 2016, said Javier del Campo, commercial director of Cuestamoras Urbanism.
For its part, the megaproject Finca Montealegre combine convenience trade, gastronomy, entertainment, housing, a university campus and a school, said Agustin Morales, manager of Real Estate Development Portfolio.
The spokesman said that Finca Montealegre will go running in stages and project start in less than three years. It estimated an investment of more than $ 500 million for a term of 20 years.
Real Estate Portfolio is expected that at least 400,000 square meters (sqm) will be for residential lots and apartment buildings of five floors each. In addition, you will have about 23,000 m² and 137,000 m² in trade in office.
Real estate projects also have the possibility of processing permits earthwork, as part of building permits, in part (cut and fill soil in the batch) is, in parallel with the rest of previous efforts to obtain the construction license, said Cordoba.
The above is required to meet the municipal prerequisites (front street alignment, land use and storm vent) and environmental feasibility of the project; in addition to the planes of the works of earthwork, visas to the Association of Engineers and Architects for registration of professional responsibility.
Francisco Navarro, real estate consultant, said the residential sector is the one that would have the highest level of absorption in Heredia, since the area is a magnet for job creation and options of nearby homes provide solution to transfer and mitigate congestion vial.
The specialist believes that commercial absorption go at a slower pace. "The arrival of new commercial options always impacts the rest of existing supply," external Navarro.
And the traffic impact? Regarding the impact of these projects to the area which mostly has connections with national - routes, Lorelly Marin, director of Public Investment of the Municipality of Heredia said that each work must submit Impact Studies vial (EIV).
He added that there are two lines for developers: the development of EIV, which is the technical instrument that allows to know the effect would be given by the new development and, second, that during the approval phase of the vents, the Council , by the Works Committee calls on all developers to submit proposals for road improvements, particularly in access and extensions nearby.