San José, Costa Rica         Friday Edition,  February 23, 2018         Vol. 18, No. 223
Real Estate
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Low hopes of getting new taxes approved any time soon

By AM Costa Rica staff

There are no current indicators that the Legislative Assembly is going to approve the fiscal bills with the most important changes.

On the contrary, everything seems to point out that the problem will be inherited, once again from one legislature to another legislature. The difference is that the next government will have less room to react to their predecessors.

Currently, with a deficit of 6.2 percent of the gross domestic product projected to reach 7.1 percent by 2018, the 57 legislators seem determined to leave the country's finances on the edge of the cliff, without major spending cuts or generation of enough financial resources.

To date, the agreements for the approval of the bill for the Strengthening of Public Finances (No. 20.580) are insufficient and seem to disappear, which would result in a new four-year period without any solutions.

This file is the last option left for these legislators to stop a public debt of around 50 percent of the gross domestic product, a burden that, without prompt attention, threatens the sustainability of the country's social advances and its institutional framework.

Among other ideas, the fiscal bills includes the transformation of the sales tax into a value added tax, as well as some reforms to the income tax and public employment, and a fiscal rule that would allow controlling the expenses in relation to the country's indebtedness.

Everything seems halted in the full Legislative, where the initiative of constitutional fiscal rule is hardly discussed (No. 20.179). That bill would be a fast track to new taxes.

The Broad Front Party bloc openly opposes the fiscal rule and has already submitted 44 motions to block the project.

The head of the Broad Front Party, Francisco Camacho, said they have a direct disagreement against the bill, since it would open little gates to breach state obligations and make cuts.

Libertarian legislator Otto Guevara, has already said that he is ready to block any proposal that creates new taxes.

The support of minority groups and the independent deputies to the fiscal projects also remain in the air, since together they add 11 votes that could be crucial to any ballot.

A.M. Costa Rica archive photo      
The second election round and changes to be made to the legislative drafts forecast low possibilities for at least part of the fiscal reform.

As a result, everything stays in an environment of intrigue and paralysis, while the growing monster of the deficit and debt is observed on the horizon if no action is taken.

Parliamentary inactivity has been evident in recent weeks with quorum breaks and the impossibility of starting legislative sessions, an inhospitable context in which to find solutions.

Meanwhile, the fiscal rule remains stagnant in the full legislature and the bill to strengthen public finances is in the same condition in the legislative Treasury Commission.

The 12 lawmakers of the ruling party seems to have a sense of resignation.

In this regard, the head of the faction, Javier Cambronero, said that "space is too small to maneuver," which implies the need to prioritize discussions, such as No. 19.144, another fiscal rule that limits the creation of expenses without sources of financing.

According to Cambronero, the strengthening project would allow cutting the deficit between 1.5 and 1.8 percent of gross domestic product and for the state to continue functioning, so "there should be more pragmatism so that other parties could understand the situation and harmonize wills."

Authorities confirm the presence of
clandestine tourists at Poás Volcano

By AM Costa Rica staff

In order to deceive the authorities and with the audacity to expose themselves to danger, groups of people have climbed clandestinely to the top of the Poas volcano.

They do not mind walking up to five hours in mountainous areas and do so from Bajos del Toro seven kilometers away.

The Poás Volcano National Park has been closed since April 13 last year due to the increase in eruptive activity, although that activity has been decreasing since November.

Preventive measures on the site were not issued without reason. Even workers of the National System of Conservation Areas waited five months after the closure to return to their active crater viewpoint in an effort to protect their health.

The order that restricts access to visitors to an area two kilometers around the crater is still valid for health and safety reasons, officials maintain.

Conservation officials explained that they have already caught two groups of people for illegally entering the park.

Both were reported to the Public Ministry for the crime of contempt of authority and are subject to criminal prosecution.

However, park officials believe there are many more who defy the danger due to the impossibility of full time monitoring.

Apparently the groups leave a private estate located in Bajos del Toro and climb to the edges of the crater.

Although there have been no eruptions in recent weeks, the Poás Volcano constantly issues gases and vapors requiring permanent safety measures.

Between April and May last year, the National Commission of Emergencies recommended caution for those who tried to climb the volcano with the help of private guides.

A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo       
In the last two weeks small business owners have demanded the park to be re-opened before Holy Week.

Currently the state authorities are working on a plan to reactivate the entry of tourists to the national park.

It is estimated that the conservation system has lost about $ 2 million since Poás was closed.

At the moment, there is no definite date to reopen since some improvements requested by the emergency commission and accredited scientific bodies, such as the National Seismological Network and Volcanological and the Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica, are required.

The park still requires installation of protective posts and equipment that serve to measure the gases, officials said.

The necessary investment is not yet quantified but all parties agree that opening the park is a priority for the tourism sector.

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