Financial Literacy in Costa Rica to Reduce Poverty
Costa Rica is a country in Central America with a population of roughly 5 million. Although Costa Rica is the Central American country with the lowest poverty rate, that does not mean there is no cause for concern. The poverty rate in Costa Rica was 21% as of April 2020 and is only anticipated to worsen in the coming year due to the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19. Because of the global economic slowdown, inequality in Costa Rica can exacerbate as industries contract and unemployment rises.

Financial Literacy and Poverty

In the face of this global economic catastrophe, it is vital to educate the population on financial matters to prevent higher poverty rates. Personal financial literacy is an effective and fundamental tool used to lower national poverty rates. It also helps individuals better manage their finances and business dealings to maximize fiscal stability and growth.

Financial literacy programs have also assisted women in rising out of poverty. Women have a systemic relegation to domestic duties and patriarchal repression in many developing nations. As a result, they are a demographic that have historically been the most vulnerable to global poverty. Financial literacy programs teach women how to manage their own money in order to manage their own businesses. Women can also become more financially independent as opposed to being indebted to others in their family or industry.

Costa Rica’s Position

Costa Rica and Latin America as a region is considered one of the most unequal regions in the world according to the United Nations. One of the most effective strategies to reduce wealth inequality is by implementing education strategies that inhibit intergenerational wealth retention within families. Keeping money in the family and investing in future generations helps children escape the cycle of poverty. It also decreases their likelihood of experiencing marginalization and oppression in society, particularly among women. These tactics justify the use of financial education and programs about financial literacy in Costa Rica.

Solutions

One prominent organization focusing on education regarding financial literacy in Costa Rica is Coopenae. It began as a cooperative of educators in 1966 to give aid to schools and teachers. Now, Coopenae has grown into one of the country’s leading financial institutions to focus on service and education.

Individuals in Costa Rica have had very little education in financial instruments such as mutual funds, pensions and various other commonplace financial strategies. The ability of Costa Ricans to make better financial decisions is a simple matter of informing individuals about how they can access these instruments. Costa Ricans can then begin on the path out of poverty towards financial independence and prosperity. Coopenae plans to assist upwards of 12,000 people within the next two years. It aims at people from primarily low-income and disadvantaged communities.

 

Overall, financial literacy and education programs are extremely effective at reducing poverty rates. They are also effective at giving citizens the ability to properly manage their finances. They also open up the opportunity to start businesses or save for retirement. Therefore, financial literacy in Costa Rica is a smart and effective strategy to diminish poverty and foster a culture of financial responsibility and security.

 

Ian Hawthorne

Photo: Enchanting Costa Rica

Homelessness in Costa Rica
Located in Central America and bordering the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica is home to approximately 4.5 million people. Flourishing on global exports and the travel industry, many know Costa Rica for its exceptional exports in fruits, vegetables and coffee.

However, as a developing country, Costa Rica struggles from problems with sanitation, poverty and homelessness. More than 1 million Costa Ricans live in severe poverty, and approximately 52% of the population suffers from insufficient and unstable living conditions. Within the last few decades, citizens have emphasized the need to reduce overall homelessness, focusing on urban areas. Here are a few unique ways Costa Rican citizens are attempting to reduce overall homelessness.

Aiding the Homeless

The Chepe se baña project in Costa Rica aims to provide a better life for the homeless. Originating from the Promundo Foundation, Chepe se baña hopes to help around 200 homeless people near San José, the capital of Costa Rica. The name of the project references a large bus that consists of four showers and a ramp for people with disabilities. The bus provides efficient and free sanitation toward people living in poverty. Running on generous donations and private enterprises, Chepe se baña provides much help to the homeless in San José.

Costa Rican communities took matters into their own hands in 2015 when social groups Friends of the World and Vaso Lleno worked to provide relief for the homeless. More than 200 volunteers traveled to urban areas, ranging from Parque España to San José, offering daily necessities such as food, water and clothes. These volunteers were able to offer over 1,500 beverages, more than 18,000 kg of beans and hundreds of items of clothing for men, women and children. Volunteers would pack lunches with sandwiches and drinks, and deliver them to people in need.

While Chepe se bana and hundreds of volunteers may not end homelessness in Costa Rica, the support has certainly provided necessary relief for people who are in difficult living situations. It is important to understand that the acts of citizens do in fact create a noticeable difference when attempting to reduce global poverty.

Friends of Costa Rica

Outside of Costa Rica, an American organization called Amigos of Costa Rica is a nonprofit organization that uses funds to directly address poverty — specifically homelessness — in Costa Rica. Through donations and helpful resources, Amigos of Costa Rica has committed itself to aiding Costa Rica in achieving sustainable development.

The organization works alongside nonprofit organizations within Costa Rica, directing funds to Costa Rican nonprofit organizations every two weeks. Funds go towards reducing homelessness, providing better sanitation and distributing food and support to those in need.

Thanks to these and other initiatives, Costa Rica now has the lowest poverty rate in Central America. While Costa Rica continues to struggle to reduce overall homelessness and poverty, efforts to diminish or decrease poverty rates are now showing positive results. With increased efforts to support the homeless population in Costa Rica, overall poverty will likely continue to decrease. 

Elisabeth Balicanta
Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare in Costa RicaCosta Rica is a Central American country located between Nicaragua and Panama. It has a population of more than five million people. Healthcare in Costa Rica ranks among the best systems in Latin America. The level of medical quality matches even that of more-developed countries, such as the United States. In a 2000 survey by the World Health Organization (WHO), Costa Rica was ranked No. 36 for the best healthcare system in the world, placing it one spot above the U.S. at the time. Other statistics from the WHO show that Costa Rica has a high life expectancy — 77 for men and 82 for women. For comparison, the United States’ life expectancy is 76 for men and 81 for women. There are two Costa Rican healthcare systems — the government-run system and the private system. Both of these healthcare systems are constantly improving, with developments in equipment, clinics and staff training.

Public Healthcare

Costa Rica’s government-run public healthcare system, Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), often called “Caja,” has 30 hospitals and over 250 clinics throughout the country. Though the public sector can have waiting lists, like any other healthcare system, it offers citizens and permanent residents full coverage for all medical procedures and prescription drugs. A small percentage of one’s income funds Caja. It is relatively inexpensive, especially in comparison to the costs of treatments in the United States.

Private Healthcare

Private healthcare in Costa Rica is more expensive than public healthcare, but it is of considerable quality. Doctors in private healthcare facilities generally speak English and have received professional training in the United States, Europe or Canada. CIMA hospital in Escazu, Clínica Bíblica in San Jose and Hospital La Católica in Guadalupe (San Jose) are the three most well-known private hospitals in Costa Rica and they are also internationally accredited.

Medical Tourism

The beautiful scenery and relatively low costs of healthcare in Costa Rica have turned the country into a popular spot for “medical tourism.” Medical tourism is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “traveling to another country for medical care.” Each year, more than 40,000 Americans travel to Costa Rica annually to seek healthcare. In 2016, Costa Rica welcomed 70,000 medical tourists according to the Costa Rican Health Chamber, PROMED. The primary procedures for medical tourists in Costa Rica are dentistry and cosmetic surgery.

Both citizens and medical tourists can attest that healthcare in Costa Rica is of great quality and is low-cost in comparison to other systems. With the constant improvements to the universal and private health sectors, Costa Rica rightfully deserves its ranking as one of the best healthcare systems in Latin America.

Emma Benson
Photo: Southcom

Known for its tropical vistas and banana plantations, Costa Rica has also developed a well-deserved reputation for stability. Indeed, since abolishing its military in 1949, the small Central American nation has celebrated seven decades of uninterrupted democracy. While this stability has allowed Costa Rica to make great strides in alleviating poverty, however, nearly 21 percent of the country still remains impoverished. To this end, many in Costa Rica are increasingly turning to microfinance as a potential remedy.

Why Microfinance?

Microfinance is a banking service that focuses on delivering small loans to communities underserved by traditional banks. These ‘microloans’ can be as low as $100 and are specifically designed to help meet the needs of low-income families.

Because the principal of a microloan is much smaller than that of a traditional loan, lenders can afford to take on risks they otherwise could not. This means less stringent requirements on things like documentation and property, which are traditionally the largest obstacles to acquiring credit for those living in poverty. As a result, microfinance has become a favorite tool of activists in the developing world.

Costa Rica is no exception in that regard. With more than half of Costa Ricans unable to raise needed funds in an emergency, microfinanciers provide the country a crucial service.

Keeping Small Farmers and Rural Communities Afloat

One reason microfinance has been able to take off so quickly in Costa Rica lies in the country’s history. In the 1980s, a prolonged economic crisis prompted traditional banks to retreat en masse from Costa Rica’s rural areas. This left many small farmers suddenly lacking access to badly needed credit.

To help combat this issue, organizations like FINCA began seeking ways to encourage sustainability in rural financial markets. One such solution was microfinance.

Beginning in 1984, FINCA Costa Rica set about building a series of ‘village banks’ in the areas hit hardest by the loss of financial services. These were largely community-run, shared-liability ventures whose purpose would be to offer microloans to farmers. It did not take long for the model to become a success. Village banks quickly began to attract Costa Rican farmers, many of whom would have had difficulty acquiring a standard loan. In fact, the village banks would prove so popular that within a decade they had already become self-sustaining.

Others in Costa Rica soon took note of FINCA’s success. Though not all would copy the village bank model, many other microfinancing operations began to sprout up around the country.

Empowering Costa Rican Women

While FINCA’s village banks primarily served a demographic consisting of rural, male farmers, modern microfinanciers pursue a more diverse client base. Women in particular are a focus for many.

Research demonstrates a sharp gap in financial access along gender lines in Costa Rica. Thirty-nine percent of Costa Rican women lack a bank account, for instance, compared to 25 percent of men. This is a pattern that largely holds consistent across the developing world. Although in many cases women provide necessary income for their families, they often lack the means to build upon those earnings. This leaves them more vulnerable to the sudden economic shocks that can devastate a household, like personal medical emergencies and unexpected changes in consumer trends.

Microfinance institutions empower these women, however, by offering them the credit needed to start a business of their own, and by providing them with a newfound resiliency.

Thanks to the efforts of organizations like Fundación Mujer, women now own more than 22 percent of Costa Rican businesses. And, as the number of women gaining access to loans and other financial services increases, that percentage is only expected to grow. This means greater social mobility for Costa Rican women and a stronger ability to weather the storm in times of crisis.

The Future of Microfinance in Costa Rica

Microfinance in Costa Rica has come a long way from its first experiments with village banks in the 1980s. As it stands, Costa Rica is now one of the world’s largest microfinance markets. And, with the industry expected to grow by a further 5-10 percent in Latin America over the next decade, it is unlikely that will change any time soon.

While experts caution that microfinance cannot be seen as a ‘miracle cure’ for poverty, it is undeniable that it can provide real benefits to those in need. To see that, one only has to consider the success of microfinance in Costa Rica.

– James Roark

Photo: Pixabay.com

Hunger in Costa RicaCosta Rica, officially known as the Republic of Costa Rica, is a Central American country located just south of Nicaragua. Over the past decade, many Central American countries, including Costa Rica, have had struggles with malnourishment. Hunger in Costa Rica was a national issue between 2011-2013. According to a report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 8.2 percent of the population of Costa Rica was “chronically malnourished.”

Poverty in Costa Rica

Costa Rica does not have a problem producing food. When there are foods it cannot produce they are imported. Costa Rica’s food problem is that citizens cannot afford the food they need. Estimates placed the unemployment rate at 18 percent, a bad mix with the fact that Costa Rica already has a high cost of living due to its location.

However, by 2017, there had been massive improvements and reductions in hunger in Costa Rica. The International Food Policy Research Institute found that by 2016, Costa Rica has already reduced its proportion of undernourished citizens to just 3.8 percent.

As mentioned before, the economy was the biggest factor that contributed to hunger in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has focused on building its economy over the past five years. In fact, Costa Rica has grown its economy by 3.5 percent annually at that time.

Increasing Business

One of the ways its economy has grown is to make the business environment more attractive. Costa Rica has reduced its licensing requirements, which will take away some of the hurdles for new business owners. Costa Rica has also focused on growing its trade market. Exports and imports together make up about 72 percent of GDP. The majority of these exports are bananas, coffee and sugar.

Although increasing the economy has helped reduce hunger, a new type of malnourishment is becoming a problem: obesity. Almost a quarter of the adult population is obese, and more than 60.4 percent of people are deemed overweight. Even the adolescent population is suffering from obesity: 8.1 percent of children under five are overweight.

Many Costa Ricans do not view obesity as a problem because being bigger is seen as “normal”. There is a term used called “gordita.” A gordita is a type of Mexican pastry, and the word is used as a slang term used affectionately for someone who is overweight. Costa Rica, as well as the rest of Central America, has a growing problem with obesity. Just like its struggles with hunger, the country will find a solution to this rising problem.

Scott Kesselring
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty Among Indigenous Peoples in Central America
Indigenous people in Central America have struggled against prejudice and a lack of visibility for hundreds of years. This struggle to maintain their place throughout the region has taken a toll on the living conditions and health among their communities. Here is more information about poverty among indigenous peoples in Central America.

Costa Rica

Approximately 1.5 percent of the population of Costa Rica is made up of indigenous people. They are considered among the most marginalized and economically excluded minorities in Central America. Approximately 95 percent of people living in Costa Rica have access to electricity. The majority of indigenous peoples in the country are included in the remaining five percent. Many believe this is due to a lack of attention from the government in the concerns of indigenous people and the living conditions in their communities.

A lack of education is also a problem among indigenous peoples in Costa Rica. The average indigenous child in Costa Rica receives only 3.6 years of schooling and 30 percent of the indigenous population is illiterate. In the hopes of reaching out to indigenous communities and reducing their poverty rates, the University of Costa Rica instituted a plan in 2014 to encourage admissions from indigenous peoples from across the country. By 2017, the program was involved in the mentoring of 400 indigenous high school students and saw 32 new indigenous students applying for the university.

Guatemala

Indigenous peoples make up about 40 percent of the population in Guatemala and approximately 79 percent of the indigenous population live in poverty. Forty percent of the indigenous population lives in extreme poverty. With these levels of poverty among the indigenous people, many are forced to migrate, as the poorest are threatened with violence among their communities. Ninety-five percent of those under the age of 18 who migrate from Guatemala are indigenous.

One organization working to improve the living conditions for indigenous people in Guatemala is the Organization for the Development of the Indigenous Maya (ODIM). ODIM, which was started with the intention to support the indigenous Maya people, focuses on providing health care and education to indigenous people in Guatemala. One program it supports is called “Healthy Mommy and Me,” which focuses on offering mothers and their young children access to health care, food and education. These efforts are benefiting 250 indigenous women and children across Guatemala.

Honduras

In Honduras, 88.7 percent of indigenous children lived in poverty in 2016. Approximately 44.7 percent of indigenous adults were unemployed. Nineteen percent of the Honduran indigenous population is illiterate, in comparison to 13 percent of the general population. Despite the wide span of indigenous peoples across Honduras, they struggle to claim ownership of land that belonged to their ancestors. Only 10 percent of indigenous people in Honduras have a government-accredited land title.

Due to the poverty indigenous people in Honduras face, many seek opportunities in more urban areas, but the cities simply don’t have the capacity to support them all. As a result, many settle just outside of the cities to be close to opportunities. There are more than 400 unofficial settlements near the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. Despite the difficulties they face in living just outside of a city that has no room for them, being in urban areas does have its benefits for indigenous people. Ninety-four percent of indigenous people living in urban Honduras are literate, versus 79 percent in rural areas.

For those among the indigenous peoples in Honduras who struggle with poverty, Habitat for Humanity has put a special focus on indigenous people in its construction programs. Habitat for Humanity worked with different ethnic groups within the indigenous community to provide homes for those most in need, reaching 13,810 people throughout Honduras.

Panama

Poverty affects more than 70 percent of indigenous people in Panama. Among their communities, health problems and a lack of access to clean water are common.

In 2018, the World Bank approved a project to improve health, education, water and sanitation among 12 different indigenous groups in Panama. The Comprehensive National Plan for Indigenous Peoples of Panama aims to implement positive development in indigenous communities while protecting and maintaining the culture within those communities.

The aim of this project is to create a positive relationship between indigenous peoples and the government in Panama to further developments of their communities down the road. It is projected to assist some 200,000 people through improved living conditions and infrastructure among indigenous communities.

With poor access to an education and a certain level of prejudice fueling a wage gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people, natives globally face a unique challenge in their efforts to escape poverty. In many countries around the world, indigenous people are forgotten and often fall to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. This creates particularly difficult circumstances for indigenous peoples of regions that already have high poverty rates overall. However, people like those who work with the World Bank are working to see a reduction in poverty among indigenous peoples in Central America and see that indigenous people are not forgotten and are no longer neglected.

Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Sanitation in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a truly unique place; it contains 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity and people categorize it as one of the happiest countries in the world. Its economy is stable, showing a little more than a 3 percent yearly growth rate. Costa Rica has had some challenges with sanitation but is working to improve it throughout the country. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Costa Rica

  1. Around 99 percent of the population has access to a water source, but only 82 percent have continued access to a reliable water drinking source. This number has improved since 2015 when only 92.4 percent of people had access to a clean water source. Moreover, clean water access is continuing to improve with community and public-based programs such as Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA), an organization that works to raise funding to expedite current projects to provide nationwide access to water.
  2. Costa Rica’s unpredictable climate and susceptibility to natural disasters are its biggest hurdles to developing better infrastructure for water sanitation. For example, a drought in Costa Rica from 2014 to 2016 caused by El Niño drastically hindered the construction of new infrastructure to expand water access in the country. A study by the Inter-American Development Bank predicts that Costa Rica’s water supply will reduce by half by 2050, despite increasing demand.
  3. The Integrated Water Supply Programme for Guanacaste (PIAAG) works with other organizations to implement fixed and long-lasting solutions to water sanitation. Proposed solutions to improving water sanitation include irrigation, drainage and drinking water projects. More institutions developed a plan from 2018-2030 to maintain ecosystems while improving water sanitation and access.
  4. Pollution of water sources, mainly through human activity and inefficient land usage, also drastically affects the availability of water to citizens. In order to fix the problem of water pollution, Costa Rica provides incentives to clean up water sources. The National Water Laboratory monitors the use of agricultural pesticides and their runoff.
  5. Costa Rica currently treats only 14 percent of wastewater before releasing it to the public, but Costa Rica is trying to fix this problem. The National Wastewater Sanitation Plan emerged in 2017, and it hopes to safely manage all wastewater by the year 2045. The organization allocated $3.6 million to expand access to water in urban areas and $2.5 million to increase water access and quality in rural areas. The National Wastewater Sanitation Plan became public policy in 2017.
  6. Across the country, several projects to clean sewage are taking place, including eight projects in tourist areas and 10 to improve the conditions of existing sewage plants. For example, the Administrations Associations of the Systems of the Aqueducts and Communal Sewers (ASADAS) works to build, monitor, operate and maintain rural water aqueducts. Water sanitation projects in Costa Rica receive funding from inside the country and from foreign countries, like Germany, which funded eight coastal projects.
  7. The fast population growth and desire of citizens to live in urban areas of the country, rather than rural areas, has further complicated the sewage problem. This, in some cases, leaves inadequate sewage in the overcrowded cities. In the most populated cities, only 19.4 percent of sewage receives treatment. Many regulations in Costa Rica, such as “Ley General de Salud” (General Health Law), have emerged to establish basic requirements for water sewage in Costa Rica.
  8. Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health is an important organization that works to provide people improved access to sanitation. For example, the Ministry of Health controls the National Observatory of Human Resources in Health. It establishes academic and research institutions to study the causes and effects of poor sanitation, along with social government organizations that advocate for government action through public policy.
  9. During Hurricane Otto in 2016, waterborne viruses such as Zika and dengue spread among the population, and the Ministry of Health sent workers to help control the outbreak. Soon after, President Luis Guillermo Solís stated that the government would build more toilets, showers and water fountains for residents. The Ministry of Health also sends garbage trucks to pick up trash around especially populated urban areas.
  10. The last of the 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica discusses child mortality in Costa Rica, which has decreased greatly over the past few decades, going from 68 per 1,000 live births in 1970 to about 8.8 per 1,000 live births in 2018. One can attribute the decrease to an extension of health care programs to rural and communal areas.

While Costa Rica still has far to go in improving its sanitation, the overall sanitation of the country has improved greatly over the past few decades. These 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica demonstrate Costa Rica’s planned pathway to improving sanitation, and overall, Costa Rica’s future is looking bright.

– Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Renewable Energy in Costa Rica
Located in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. Costa Rica is famous for its thriving wildlife, but what many may not realize is that Costa Rica prides itself as one of the greenest countries in the world. Here are 10 facts about renewable energy in Costa Rica.

10 Facts about Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

  1. Most of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources. More than 99 percent of the energy in Costa Rica was generated from renewable sources in 2019. According to the country’s National Center for Energy Control, Costa Rica has been running on more than 98 percent renewable energy since 2014. The majority of this energy, 67.5 percent, comes from hydropower. Additionally, wind power generates 17 percent, geothermal sources make up 13.5 percent and biomass and solar panels comprise 0.84 percent. The remaining 1.16 percent is from backup plants.
  2. Costa Rica has universal access to electricity. Costa Rica has an estimated population of 5.05 million people. In 2018, at least 79 percent of the population lived in urban areas, and 20 percent lived in rural areas. Both rural and urban populations benefit from renewable energy in Costa Rica, as 100 percent of the households have access to electricity generated from renewable sources.
  3. Costa Rica lasted 300 consecutive days on renewable energy alone. Costa Rica set the record in 2017 for most consecutive days with renewable energy. The previous record for this feat was in 2015 when Costa Rica lasted 299 consecutive days on pure, clean energy.
  4. Deforestation has successfully been reversed in Costa Rica. Deforestation is detrimental to both civilization and wildlife. It can make agricultural practices and maintaining food supply difficult as it can lead to climate change, desertification, soil erosion and increased greenhouse gases. Beginning in the 1980s, the government of Costa Rica implemented policies to protect its natural forests. By 2016, the amount of land covered by forest has doubled to more than 50 percent of the country’s total landmass.
  5. Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program. Costa Rica created the PES program in the 1990s as part of protective policies put in place to combat deforestation. The success of renewable energy in Costa Rica is partially due to the pioneering of this program. Through it, landowners receive direct payments for ecological services when they adopt techniques that do not negatively impact the environment and maintain quality of life. The ecological services that can be provided include clean water, irrigation, energy production, biodiversity and scenic beauty. This allows for landowners, especially farmers, to earn an extra income even during unprofitable seasons.
  6. Costa Rica is producing so much energy that it can be sold. The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) began selling its energy surplus to Central America’s Regional Electricity Market in 2015. The electricity helps power Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador. By 2019, Costa Rica has earned more than $180 million in sales of surplus energy.
  7. Costa Rica has committed to eliminating fossil fuels. In 2018, Costa Rica’s new president, Carlos Alvarado, announced at his inauguration that he plans to ban all fossil fuels and become the world’s first decarbonized country. The plan will begin in 2021 and features ideas that tackle problems in the transportation sector, such as implementing fully electric trains by 2050.
  8. There’s a roadblock in Costa Rica’s green vision. The transportation sector is one of Costa Rica’s weakest links. Much of the infrastructure, even in cities, is in poor condition. This leads to more people relying on cars than on public transportation. Costa Rica’s State of the Region reports that there are 287 cars per 1,000 people. Fewer than 2 percent of these cars are hybrids or electric cars. This generates a demand for fossil fuels (oil) with gas spending on the rise.
  9. Additionally, 82 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water. Nearly all households in Costa Rica have access to an improved water source. An improved water source includes piped water in a home or from another source, such as a public tap, wells or rainwater collection. However, this doesn’t mean that all households have water safe for drinking. Even though most of Costa Rica’s renewable energy comes from hydropower, the water supply is not very clean. About 18 percent of Costa Rica’s population lacks access to drinking water due to a shortage of infrastructure and government support. Unfortunately, minority groups make up this 18 percent, including people who are indigenous, impoverished, Afro-descendants and migrant workers.
  10. People in Costa Rica live healthier, longer lives. In a 2015 study by Bloomberg, Costa Rica was ranked as the healthiest country in Latin America and 24th in the world. Additionally, Costa Rica has one of the highest average life expectancy at 80 years. In fact, according to a study in 2016, Costa Rica’s poor live longer than the poor in the United States. Further, the lack of access to healthcare in the U.S. could be part of the reason why. This could also be due to psychosocial factors. Costa Rica’s unofficial slogan is Pura Vida, meaning “pure life.” Pura Vida is about slowing down and relaxing to enjoy what life has to offer.

Costa Rica is by no means perfect. As the government devotes much of its efforts to environmental sustainability, it takes away from maintaining infrastructure throughout the country. However, it is clear that Costa Rica is doing something right. The majority of the population has access to clean water and electricity, which is due to the enormous production of renewable energy. “Pura Vida” may just be a saying in Costa Rica, but it certainly connects to the country’s commitment to relying on what nature has to offer.

Emily Young 
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Fisheries in Costa Rica
The world knows Costa Rica, a country in Central America, for its fishery practices. Tourism and recreational fishing produces about $331 million yearly and has also created more than 60,000 work opportunities. Fisheries in Costa Rica are notorious for the increasing number of women that manage the nation’s industry; only 2 percent of women are entrepreneurs in Costa Rica.

Women’s Work in Fisheries

Jeannette Pérez, a business leader, began working at a local fishery after moving to Costa Rica a few years prior. In 2018, Pérez began taking part in the Action Plan of the National Platform of Sustainable Large Pelagic Fisheries, organized by UNDP through its Green Commodities Programme. The Green Commodities Programme’s goal is to discover modern solutions to progress the environmental, economic and social operations of pelagic species such as tuna, mahi-mahi and swordfish, which are all fish that have suffered a recent decline.

Pérez has nearly 30 years of experience in the recreational fishing industry. She is also the main leader in Costa Rica’s mission to implement sustainable practices as per the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Pérez is also the first female to serve on the Board of Directors of the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Pérez feels that the organization, National Platform for Sustainable Large Pelagics Fisheries, is necessary for the fisheries in Costa Rica to maintain their fishing practices and to conquer the current issue involving a limited supply of fish.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, which oversees the fishing industry in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment and Energy, runs the organization. The United Nations Development Program developed it with funds from the Global Environment Fund.

National Plan for Sustainable Practices

Costa Rica is also the first country across the globe that has implemented a National Plan for Sustainable Pelagic Fisheries. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock oversees it with the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Ministry of Environment and Energy. The Global Environment Facility also provides support and funds.

In 2018, the nation introduced legislation that would ensure the expansion of the traditional fishing department of fisheries in Costa Rica and also serve the community.

A Community Based Approach

The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) establishes a plan for the essential conduct of small-scale fisheries in Costa Rica by incorporating suitable resolutions, increasing government support and advancing economic resources. In conjunction with this bill, the nation highlighted the importance of acknowledging the efforts of smaller fisheries in providing a supply of food as well as nutrition security, which has the potential to decrease poverty, particularly in regard to employing women in local fisheries.

Altogether, Costa Rica plans to develop a foundation for the fisheries based on human rights, such as satisfactory labor, economic opportunities, gender equity and climate change. It also intends to continue to focus on safe fishing practices along with market promotions.

Costa Rica has begun making progress by collaborating with federal officials, other fishermen, the community and other organizations along with higher education research. It is doing this by learning about how other countries manage their fisheries across the globe.

– Diana Dopheide
Photo: Max Pixel