President Luis Guillermo Solis of Costa Rica has recently completed his first 100 days in office. Recall, Solis, a professor and not a career politician beat the Liberation Party and vowed to get Costa Rica back on track (Tico Times link below). I am no political analyst and will refrain from any political ranks — especially in a country where I am a simple resident and not a bonafide citizen, I will however, comment that Solis has his work cut out for him. It’s pleasing to hear the majority of those polled think he’s doing a decent job, but it’s early and knowing how politics operate in a free enterprise society, this will be an interesting 4 years for Solis. Remember – we all had very high expectations for Laura too, and according to her exit polls, Ticos were very, very disappointed in her performance. Solis’s top campaign agenda items include: root out corruption, fight inequality and reinvigorate the state’s productive capacity. May sound simple but being a foreigner in this beautiful country, I’m here to tell you there is serious work to do!
I first came to this country as an expat working for a Fortune 10 company on special assignment in San Jose (Santa Ana). I got to know the country as a professional rather than a vacationer. That perspective was indispensable — I understood how to do business in this small, capitalist, quasi-socialist, young, often complex, developing nation as well as appreciated how Ticos think and act and do. It can be very complicated (especially for foreigners, many of whom just don’t get it) but that’s the local character and it’s indigenous to how Ticos operate. From that perspective, I saw how Costa Rica “won” the business of a major corporation who moved their administrative operations for the Americas to this tiny, free, democratic, educated, non-waring country. I realize this “off-shoring” of services is another controversial subject — one country wins (big!) and another losses (chalk another one up to………), Anyway, that was 1999 and here we are today, this same huge US corporation (P&G) has expanded their business in San Jose (as well as their Free Trade Zone status) and then there are others like Intel, that have opted out and are moving to Asia. The Intel decision to close manufacturing operations in Costa Rica, is a huge blow to the country in general and more importantly the economy of this very small country (Intel’s operations in Costa Rica are worth around $2 billion a year, making up about 20% of the country’s exports). It’s this type of economic development that will continue to put Costa Rica on the map as real player in business. I believe, Mr. Solis has a tall order to continue the momentum of the early 2000’s, and to continue promoting Costa Rica as a country easy to do business with and one where large and small corporations want to move their operations to for all the right reasons. It is my hope that Mr. Solis does not leave Guanacaste in a trail of dust (no pun intended with our el Nino drought this season) by not recognizing the enormous potential Guanacaste possesses in terms of land, modern/new airport, intellectual potential, real estate, accessibility, weather, livability, natural beauty, and a superb lifestyle that is nothing like the urban, over-crowded, congested chaos of San Jose.
When I see Mr. Solis’s agenda and his desire to root out corruption, I know this is an extraordinary task and one that needs to include Guanacaste in its agenda. The potential of this area of the country is extraordinary and should not be overlooked. I would never want to promote spoiling Guanacaste by making it another San Jose, although there is plenty of room for growth and improvements and could easily be the next area to entice businesses to move their operations or expand their businesses in the little country that could. Really now, look at Sele — the Costa Rica national Soccer team — they overcame surmountable odds to reach the 2014 Brazil World Cup Quarter Finals and put Costa Rica back on the map as a real player — and that was no fluke. Solis could do it too!
Blog by Pamela Lewis