Blue economy in Costa Rica According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), poverty affects 26.2% of households in Costa Rica, representing more than 1.5 million people. This is the highest number since 1992. The Costa Rican poverty rate increased drastically because of the economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic development and improvement, through initiatives in creating a blue economy in Costa Rica, will help to reduce poverty and improve standards of living with sustainable development.

What is a Blue Economy?

According to the World Bank, a blue economy can be defined as the use of oceanic resources through sustainable methods in order to improve lives and job opportunities, while maintaining a clean marine ecosystem, which essentially stimulates economic growth. The main goal of a blue economy is to protect the health of the ocean and stimulate economic growth with increased opportunities in the areas of employment and innovation. A blue economy consists of several sectors that specialize in marine production like fisheries, aquaculture, renewable marine energy, marine biotechnology and maritime transport.

Establishing a Blue Economy in Costa Rica

Since Costa Rica is a coastal country that is rich in natural marine resources, the development of a blue economy will open new markets and result in economic growth. Costa Rica is abundant in offshore resources like tuna. Systems created by a blue economy can use these resources in sustainable ways. Another potential boost to the economy is the growth of sport fishing and ecotourism, which also results in increased job opportunities. The Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura (INCOPESCA) developed the $90 million Sustainable Fisheries Development Project to support the growth of a blue economy in Costa Rica through the development of sustainable fisheries and the support of fishing families.

Another project, the Oceans Economy and Trade Strategies (OETS) project, was implemented in Costa Rica in 2018 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United States Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS). The OETS project supports Costa Rica in the development of sustainable use of marine resources and maximizing potential economic benefits. Under the project, Costa Rica can develop sustainable fishing strategies to improve food security and health among citizens, which is characteristic of a blue economy.

Opportunities for Women

A blue economy in Costa Rica opens up more opportunities for women in the workforce. Gender inequality is a global issue that affects women in many areas, including jobs. If the gender gap is narrowed, the global GDP is estimated to grow by $13 trillion in 2030. Since women make up most of the workforce in fisheries and maritime tourism, blue economies benefit women the most in terms of poverty and health. Blue economies advance gender equality through an increase in technology and resources, which women oftentimes lack in the marine workforce. Increasing job opportunities for women in fisheries and marine tourism will diversify innovative aquaculture, which aids in further boosting the economy.

Additional Support

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) shows support for the strides made toward blue economies in Central America. The Central American project implemented by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) in 2019 aims to help regulate challenges in the blue economy. The GEF contributed $6.8 million from the GEF Trust Fund toward the development of blue economies in Central America. The contribution goes toward assessing challenges and opportunities in the blue economies of Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama. The financing will go toward collaboration within Central America to create the best methods to flourish in a blue economy.

Conclusively, these efforts will not only eradicate poverty in Costa Rica but also lead to more food security. Furthermore, they boost and empower the economic opportunities of women.

– Simone Riggins
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Argentina

With political uncertainty and inflation rising, homelessness in Argentina is growing. In Buenos Aires alone, 6.5 percent of the population is homeless. This translates to approximately 198,000 people. This problem is not specific to the nation’s capital either. In fact, a report from the National Statistics and Census of the Republic of Argentina estimates that up to 5 million people are homeless (approximately 10 percent of the overall population).

According to the Social Debt Observatory of Pontificia Universidad Católica, while the national poverty rate was 29 percent in 2015, the current poverty rate is 35 percent. Rising homelessness is only the most visible manifestation of Argentina’s current economic crisis.

Economic Downturn

Recently, inflation reached 54 percent, while the peso fell by 30 percent. This depreciation follows Argentina’s recent primary election, which showed support for opposition to the current president, Mauricio Macri. Fearing these results indicate future political upheaval, international investors retreated from the market and caused the peso’s sudden drop in value.

On top of the decreased spending power of Argentines, the government recently discontinued subsidies for utilities and public transportation. Rising prices hurt average Argentine households.

Within the past year, the price of natural gas rose by 77.6 percent. Electricity and water suffered similar price jumps, rising by 46 percent and 26 percent respectively.

As Matias Barroetaveña, the director of the Center of Metropolitan Studies reports, seven out of 10 families consider basic utilities to be a strain on their finances. With the cost of living inflating, it is not surprising that homelessness in Argentina continues to rise as well.

The Reality

Homeless families and individuals end up living primarily in makeshift shelters around urban areas: in plazas and parks, as well as outside shopping malls and bus stations. There aren’t enough shelters around Buenos Aires to handle the homeless population; all of the current shelters are at capacity. Additionally, shelters divide everyone by gender, so families often forego them in favor of staying together.

Free meals from soup kitchens and similar organizations are staples for many as well. The National Institute of Statistics and Census (INDEC) projects that food prices will increase by 80 percent by December. INDEC also expects the situation will worsen, so that one out of every 10 Argentines will experience extreme poverty or homelessness by the end of the year.

Helping the Homeless

Project 7 (Proyecto 7 in Spanish) helps homeless individuals in Buenos Aires and works to raise awareness about homelessness. In addition to distributing donated clothing and supplies, Project 7 works on various initiatives to give voice to homeless people. Through initiatives, such as “La Voz de la Calle” (The Voice of the Street), Project 7 offers alternate ways to think about and discuss homelessness in Argentina.

According to Horacio Ávila, co-founder of Project 7, one of the most difficult aspects of homelessness is the psychological toll. As he puts it, “when people live on the streets, they feel like they’re a waste of space like they deserve to be there. Your opinion of yourself is so low.” Project 7 not only improves the living conditions of the homeless but also supports legislation addressing the homelessness problem on a national level.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Wikimedia