Archive for June, 2010
Thursday, June 10th, 2010
Switzerland’s preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ took a knock as they suffered a shock defeat to Costa Rica in Sion.Winston Parks, who plays his club football in Romania with FC Timisoara, scored the only goal of the game in the 57th minute. The result will have the Swiss contemplating their hopes in South Africa, as the Costa Ricans failed to qualify for the event, losing out to Uruguay in their inter-continental play-off.
Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Switzerland are in Group H for the tournament in South Africa alongside European champions Spain, Chile and Honduras.
Thursday, June 10th, 2010
Tropical wave #14 for the season has reached Costa Rica, bringing rain and unstable conditions. Of particular concern is the central Pacific coast that was hit by the products of two such waves last week.
The waves are troughs of low pressure that move across the globe from the African coast. They can augment the already wet conditions of the rainy season in Costa Rica.
Thursday, June 10th, 2010
Representatives of a peace festival invited Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla to lead a Latin American delegation to the group’s convention in Africa.
Representatives of the Global Peace Festival Foundation, led by Chairman Hyun Jin Moon, met recently with Chinchilla and discussed the group’s activities, including upcoming festivals in Nepal, Indonesia and Paraguay ahead of the Global Peace Convention in November in Nairobi, Kenya.
Chinchilla said she would try to attend one of the meetings this year.
Chinchilla told festival organizers: “In Costa Rica you will always have an open door. Costa Rica has the moral resolve that is important to promote the work that you are doing.”
Moon told Chinchilla the Southern Hemisphere could offer models for peace and development, reinvigorating values and morals in capitalism. Chinchilla answered that she knew the importance of values in solving current global social problems.
“Costa Rica has done so much to provide innovative leadership in the world,” Moon said. “Let’s work together to continue this great tradition and help build models of peace around the world.”
The Global Peace Festival was founded by Hyun Jin Moon, son of Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon, who founded News World Communications Inc., which owns United Press International.
Thursday, June 10th, 2010
General Electric (GE) announced on Tuesday that it would be selling its 75% stake in BAC-Credomatic, which owns among other financial institutions in the region, BAC San José.
The news of the sale was made by Ernesto Castegnaro, president of BAC-Credomatic Network.
“For some time GE has expressed its interest in selling”, said Castegnaro as the US conglomerate’s plans to foce more in industrial, technology and energy sectors.
Russel Wilkerson, spokesperson for GE Capital in the US, confirmed the interest in selling to Bloomberg. “We continue to evaluate all of our businesses for long- term strategic fit, which includes BAC”, said Wilkerson.
GE feels that its stake in BAC is worth us$1.5 billion dollars.
According to a Bloomberg report, the GE sale is only under consideration and that several possible buyers have emerged, but no details on who the buyers might be were being made.
BAC-Credomatic is report to have assets of us$8 billion dollars with operations in Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica.
Thursday, June 10th, 2010
The sale of 3G cellular lines in Costa Rica has not gone the same way as in the past, where within weeks the majority and months the total of all new lines issued were bought like the proverbial pancakes.
No, the 3G lines, although are selling, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) has had to start promoting to warm consumers to the new lines.
The major reason for this is the high cost of 3G phones, which generally run into the hundreds of dollars for a basic unit with a decent browser to take advantage of the 3G mobile internet.
In fact, one of the least expensive 3G phones is the Nokia 2730 that sells in Costa Rica for ¢90.000 colones. While a similar GSM phone, the Nokia 1208, runs only $30.000 or less.
ICE introduced the 3G service last December with 950.000 lines. Today it has sold only 300.000.
Although there is no difference in the cost of the services, the favourite today in Costa Rica is the GSM and that is due to the cost of the units.
Both the 3G and GSM basic services runs under ¢4.000 monthly. The cost of text messaging and voicemail use is the same. The difference is in the mobile internet.
While GSM only offers basic internet connection with connectivity up to 128 Kbps, the 3G allows connection up to 1 Mbps. But for that one needs a 3G phone and decent browser to surf the interent and to receive and send emails. And they are not cheap.
Thursday, June 10th, 2010
As a leading distributor of electric cars and light duty on-road trucks in Costa Rica, Electric Cars of Costa Rica, will now distribute Balgon’s medium and heavy-duty electric vehicles and drive systems, and provide service and parts throughout Costa Rica.
Balqon Corporation, a developer and manufacturer of zero emissions heavy-duty electric vehicles for Class 7 and Class 8 applications, will be making its vehicles available in Costa Rica by way of a dealer agreement.
“Costa Rica has been setting the pace among nations for reducing carbon emissions and has declared the ambitious goal of becoming the first country in the world to be carbon neutral,” said Balwinder Samra, president and CEO of Balqon Corporation. “Electric Cars of Costa Rica has been leading the effort to introduce new zero emissions technologies to Costa Rica and has extensive experience in NEV inner city delivery vehicle markets.”
“In addition to introducing all-electric medium and heavy-duty trucks for transportation of goods and services, we plan to jointly develop both the new and conversion vehicle markets in Costa Rica by providing our proprietary drive system and high-capacity lithium-ion battery packs for use in various vehicle platforms,” said Samra.
James Middlebrooks, president and founder of Electric Cars of Costa Rica, commented: “We are excited to deliver to Costa Rica Balqon’s extensively tested and successfully commercialized zero emissions technology for heavy-duty vehicles. We expect these advanced technologies to be quickly adopted by our existing environmentally-conscious customer base of resorts, distribution warehouses, and inner city distribution companies.”
Costa Rica is ranked first among the Americas and third in the world in terms of the 2010 Environmental Performance Index. In 2007, the Costa Rican government announced plans for Costa Rica to become the first carbon neutral country by 2021.
According to the New Economics Foundation, Costa Rica ranks first in the Happy Planet Index and is the “greenest” country in the world. Also, according to an October 2009 article published by Summa Magazine, Costa Rica is the world’s fourth largest exporter of high technology due to the fact that nearly half of its sales from manufacturing relate to products developed with proprietary technologies.
Electric Cars of Costa Rica represents the third international dealer agreement Balqon has established since the first of the year. In Febuary, Balqon signed Autoelevadores Yale, a leading distributor of material handling equipment and electric vehicles in Argentina. In March, Balqon signed Industrias IVOR, a distributor of trucks, firefighting trucks and equipment, refuse trucks, and heavy machinery for material handling products in Colombia.
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Presidenta Laura Chinchilla said that she will not hesitate to shut down the San José – Caldera is the technical reports indicate that is the best thing to do to ensure public safety.
The possibility of shutting down the highway that has been at the center of controversy the past several weeks, following serious landslides and rock falls that have place drivers at risk since the start of the rainy season, and resulting one fatality so far.
The presidenta took a hard line attitude yesterday, responding to a public outcry to either make the road safe or shut it down.
However, the presidenta, explained, it doesn’t mean that the road will be shut down any time soon, just that experts are evaluating the problem and working with the concessionaire of the highway, Autopistas del Sol, to make the necessary changes to make the road safe for all.
Last month a motorcyclist hit a gigantic rock that had fallen on the highway in the middle of the night following a heavy rainfall, killing the passenger who died the following day in hospital.
Dozens of other reports of vehicles being hit by falling rocks, a temporary closure of the highway for several hours and the closure of lanes, have all contributed to the terror felt by many drivers.
However, the San José – Caldera is not the only highway that is suffering from the effects of the start of the rainy season, Ruta 32 (San José – Guapiles) was shut down for two weeks while work crews removed loads of mud from the highway.
The controversy of the San José – Caldera is the accusation that the former government rushed to open the highway ahead of schedule, putting aside safety concerns.
The highway was opened on January 27, 2010, ahead of the original December 2010 and then revised July 2010 opening date.
Playing a role in the possible closure of the highway will also be the Sala Constitucional (Constitutional Court) which has as of yesterday four “recursos amparo” (appeal) against the MOPT and the Autopistas del Sol, asking the magistrates to order a closure of the road.
The San José – Caldera and the Braulio Carrillo (Ruta 32) share similarities, with the only difference is that drivers on Ruta 32 are used to the mishaps and temporary closures.
The ministro of Obras Públicas y Tránsportes, Francisco Jiménez, says that no decision will be made until a full report is tabled. The minister said that technical studies by geologists and the use of a special airplane for an aereal analysis will be used in the report.
For his part, the ministro de la Presidencia and former MOPT miniter, Marco Vargas, assures that the road was opened only after all the various government agencies gave the green light. At a press conference Tuesday, vargas could not name off the top of his head those agencies, but assured that all protocols were followed.
“We will maintain monitoring the highway”, said Chinchilla.
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
The Policía de Control de Drogas (PCD) have been busy this year in their fight against drug trafficking at the Juan Santamaría (San José) airport, as the tally of busts of drug “mules” this year so far is 16. However that number is down considerably from last’s year’s total of 74.
The Ministerio de Seguridad Pública says that the majority of those arrests are men who that used to snuggle out drugs of Costa Rica concealed in their bodies or luggage.
The main countries of destination of the mules are Spain, Italy and Holland, where the price of illegal drugs is much higher.
The 16 now face a hospitality suite in Costa Rica’s prison for between six and eight years.
The PCD is on duty at the country’s main international airport 24 hours a day.
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
As of this Friday many businesses in Costa Rica, including large companies like McFlorida Ice & Farm (Cerverceria de Costa Rica), Grupo Nación, Procter & Gamble, EPA, Intel, McDonalds, etc, will be allowing their employees to enjoy, at least a number if not all, the games of the World Cup.
That means that customer service and staff attention may suffer at times, as well work hours and schedules may be modified. In some cases hours of business may be altered, while others will allow their staff to watch the games during work hours.
World Cup fever is on and even though Costa Rica is not in the games this time around, people remember the euphoria of the last World Cup, even though Costa Rica was eliminated in the first round of play.
Cashing in on the World Cup fever are retailers, offering all types and sizes of television sets at World Cup prices, some with extremely flexible financing.
As to government employees, vice-president, Alfio Piva, said on Monday that no firm decision has been made as yet and will be suject of this discussion during this week’s cabinet session.
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Real estate investment in Costa Rica is starting to grow dramatically as the attractions of the living in Costa Rica and owning a second home are being promoted more by the media. This means huge profit potential ahead, there are solid reasons why this market will continue to see huge capital gains in the years ahead and offer conservative investors great returns on capital including: 1. Government encouraging Real estate investment in Costa Rica is starting to grow dramatically as the attractions of the living in Costa Rica and owning a second home are being promoted more by the media.
This means huge profit potential ahead, there are solid reasons why this market will continue to see huge capital gains in the years ahead and offer conservative investors great returns on capital including:
1. Government encouraging investment
The government has implemented a seven year expansion plan complete with substantial tax breaks to make sure investment in Costa Rica real estate continue to grow – and this means big profit potential
Prices are already up on average 300% in the last ten years and many investors buying in the right location have doubled or tripled their money – in just a few years.
2. The growth of eco tourism
Now the appeal of Costa Rica real estate is reaching a wider audience as the country grows in popularity means Costa Rica is seeing a huge boom in people wanting to buy Costa Rica real estate either second homes or retiring people wanting to live their.
3. Costa Rica real estate is cheap
At 70% less than similar properties in Florida and Arizona, a growing number of Americans are looking at it now, to retire, buy second or holiday homes as prices are cheaper and growth rates are solid
The beauty of Costa Rica is considerable and diverse with stunning beaches, a coastline that borders both the Pacific and Caribbean oceans, towering mountains, rain forest and rolling hills. For a small country Costa Rica has it all.
The best properties for capital growth
Investment is required into accommodation and general tourist facilities and the Costa Rica government are making it as easy as possible, to keep the money flowing in.
An investor interested in commercial property opportunities in Costa Rica should look into the tourist sector.
Alternatively, a Costa Rica real estate investor can cater for any of the following:
1. Self catering properties for short term rentals
2. The growing number of people retiring to Costa Rica
3. People looking for holiday homes for sale in Costa Rica.
The resorts on the Pacific Coast have seen the biggest gains and currently offer an investor the best rental yields available in the country as well.
4. A Safe Secure Investment
In terms of safety of investing in Costa Rica real estate the country has been politically and economically stable for many years.
The country has strong ties with the US, which makes it a safer emerging market for property investors than many in Central America.
Why take the risk of less established nations that are politically volatile and don’t have a track record of gains?
Costa Rica real estate offers peace of mind.
5. The economy is expanding
The economy has been gaining strength since 1997.
The government is committed to maintaining the growth of the economy by attracting more overseas investment and this is paying dividends for Costa Rica and those investing in real estate as investment soars and investors make money.
6. Big gains still to come
How much can you make?
This is difficult to answer, but we have had good growth in the past with 300% Average growth in 10 years and many investors making more.
These gains should continue for reasons outlined above.
Importantly, investors in Costa Rica real estate know that they are investing in a market that is safe and stable and growing, and this gives it the edge over many other emerging Latin American countries.
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Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Costa Rica is widely known for its low cost and high-quality health care. While medical costs are significantly cheaper than in the U.S., it is still possible to accumulate hefty charges, particularly in cases of emergency. Many expats protect themselves from potential financial disaster by purchasing health insurance coverage through the government-owned company INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros), which held a nationwide monopoly until the recent CAFTA free trade agreement.
INS offers both regional and international plans for foreign and national residents. Although some private companies also provide health insurance in Costa Rica, they are a bit more expensive. As of early 2010, most expats choose a government INS plan, or enroll in the socialized medical program known as the Caja (pronounced cah-hah).
INS vs. the Caja
The Caja is the country’s public health insurance system, available to all citizens and legal residents. It is short for Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), the Costa Rican Social Security Fund. Treatment is restricted to Caja-affiliated doctors and certain hospitals, which often equals lengthy wait times for routine check-ups and general surgery. There are ten major public hospitals – four in San Jose, including the Children’s Hospital – affiliated with the Caja. For non-emergencies and everyday medical care, small clinics are located in almost every community. The cost to affiliate with CCSS is based on a sliding scale and is roughly 10-11.5% of your income.
While INS’s insurance plans are more expensive, they are also much more flexible and convenient. Members are free to enjoy a broader network of options and have the ability to choose their doctors from modern private hospitals like CIMA and Clinica Biblica. Children are permitted to remain on their parents’ plans until the age of 25, which is an advantage because collective family-plan rates are lower than individual ones. Prescription drugs, certain medical exams, sick visits and hospitalization are covered at 70% cost, and surgeon and anesthesiology costs are covered at full cost. Currently, private medical insurance costs about $50-$100/month per person, depending on age, gender and other factors.
For all INS plans, a waiting period of ten months is required before using maternity benefits or filing claims for preexisting conditions. A 24-month wait is necessary for transplants (unless it is needed because of an accident). Injuries due to professional sports and high-risk activities – like canopy tours or whitewater rafting – are excluded. There is an annual exception of $10,000 to treat recreational diving or soccer injuries (Costa Ricans certainly do love their soccer!).
To apply, candidates must complete a questionnaire about their history, listing specific conditions like epilepsy, alcoholism, high blood pressure and mental illness. It may be necessary to have additional medical records sent from your U.S. physicians if questions about a condition arise.
The INS regional plan covers clients under 70 years old for up to $200,000 per calendar year. This can be used toward expenses like walk-in care, surgery, lab work, exams and medications required during a hospital stay within Central America. It also secures a wide range of emergency care including air ambulance service and heart, liver, lung and bone transplants. A free health checkup with eye exam is included after the first year.
One of the perks to the Regional Plan is a low annual premium. For example, a 25 year-old male on an individual plan would pay just $497 per year, and a female $592; a 50 year-old male would pay $995 and a female $1,131. While it does include some coverage while traveling in a foreign country, most procedures must be pre-approved and $200,000 doesn’t go as far in a country like the U.S.
The INS International Plan is quite similar to but much more extensive than its regional counterpart. It covers up to $2,000,000 per year and includes additional benefits like travelers’ insurance and up to ten days of hotel stays abroad due to injury. Reimbursement is possible anywhere in the world – and not just for emergencies. Doctor visits have a $10 deductible within network in Costa Rica or Central America, and a $20 deductible for international and out-of-network visits.
International Plan premiums are quite reasonable. For individual plans, a 25 year-old male would pay $986 per year, and a female $1,173; a 50 year-old male would pay $1,967, and a female $2,236. It is important to note that leaving Costa Rican soil for more than six consecutive months invalidates coverage.
International Plan with Large Deductibles
The International Plan with a large deductible is a slight variation of the aforementioned International Plan, except that it allows for lower premiums and higher deductibles. For individuals wanting a $15,000 deductible, a 25 year-old male would pay $305 per year, and a female $343; a 50 year-old male would pay $571, and a female $618.
Deductibles also come in $10,000 and $5,000 increments, with the lower deductibles corresponding with higher yearly premiums. Prices are even lower still if paying on a collective family plan.
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Around the third week in April, the typical blue skies of mid-afternoon made way for clouds, which showered fat raindrops over the Costa Rican landscape. Temperatures cooled. The morning dew on now-green grasses resembled tiny emeralds and the scenery erupted with colorful flowers in bloom. The green, or wet season had come early this year.
In most of Costa Rica, a typical day during the green season (May through mid-November) begins with clear skies and transitions into rain by early afternoon. Thunderstorms are common, occurring at least once weekly, and usually last an hour or two. During the first months of the rainy season, some days may see no rain at all, swapping cloud cover for perpetual blue skies. However, there is no set weather pattern during this period: you may experience morning showers, all-day cloud cover, nighttime storms, or warm, sunny days with not a cloud in the sky. My best advice is to go about your day as usual; just buy a sturdy umbrella or raincoat and take it with you everywhere. (Note: The Caribbean coast is a notable exception, as its weather generally follows the opposite pattern of the Central Valley and Pacific coast: May-October is the Caribbean’s drier season.
New residents are often surprised to hear that I love the rainy season. But it’s true – there are so many advantages to experiencing Costa Rica during its greenest months, starting with the country’s physical beauty. During this time, Costa Rica’s diverse tropical flora come to life, and even in my mountain town (elevation: 4,000 feet), the rains bring blooming hibiscus, flowering fruit trees, and a veritable explosion of all things vibrant. It’s a treat for the senses and one I find myself looking forward to year after year.
Due to cooler temperatures, Costa Ricans often refer to the wet season as the winter (known in Spanish as el invierno). While most North Americans smile at the thought of a tropical winter, your tolerance to temperatures is relative – after a season of 75-80º F days, 60º F sends me to the closet for oversize sweatshirts and socks. Perhaps it’s because I’m from the northeastern USA, but there’s just something about balmy, chilly air – something that makes me feel cozy and happy.
When it’s time to venture out from under my cocoon of blankets, I always find this to be an excellent time to travel around Costa Rica. During the rainy season, most hotels offer deep discounts, generally in the neighborhood of 10-40% off their high-season (December-April) rates. There are also fewer crowds, which means you spend more one-on-one time with your naturalist guides, get the best surf waves all to yourself, and have even better opportunities for quiet contemplation in the rain-forest. My green season travel style amounts to packing lots of activity into the mornings and doing my best sloth impression in the afternoons – and booking a spa treatment or dinner reservation for the evenings. The perfect vacation, at a fraction of the normal costs. So don’t be dissuaded by a little rain; the green season is the perfect time to revel in Costa Rica’s natural splendor!
Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
Legislators are calling for the temporary closure of the San José – Caldera while the concessionaire, Autopistas del Sol, make the necessary modifications to make the highway safe. At least that is the petition of some legislators made to the ministro de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT), Francisco Jiménez, on Monday when he appeared before the legislature to appease concerns arising from the recent landslides and rock falls.
Legislators of the Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), Movimiento Libertario and the Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC) – the opposition – made the demand of the minister.
Jiménez was called in by legislators to give them an explanation of the cause of the problems on the highway that has aggravated with the start of the rainy season last month.
The minister told the legislature that, for now, he will take in the recommendations of his technical staff that recommend only partial closure of the highway in the case of an emergency to reduce the risk of accidents.
However, not all legislators took the news well.
Manrique Oviedo said “the minister came her to bolster the concessionaire and ignore national interests”. Other legislators like Marielos Alfaro were less kind to the MOPT.
“The minister says the landslides are occurring because of the rainy season. I am an engineer and find it in admissable and the rain just an excuse”, said Alfaro.
For his part, Víctor Granados, of Partido Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión (PASE), assures that technical reports indicate the serious dangers on the road wich places at risk the lives of drivers on the highway.
“Geologists tell us that there are areas of great instability and all due to the rush in getting the highway opened quickly”, said Granados.
Originally the San José – Caldera was to have been opened December 2010. The Autopistas then announced that the highway would be opened in July, almost six months ahead of schedule, then moving up the opening to the end of March.
In the end, former president Oscar Arias inaugurated the highway on January 27, 2010. And it is the rush to the early opening by the former administration that is being questioned and being blamed for the problems faced today.
In the end, minister Jiménez was confronted with criticism and attacks by legislators.
Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
The answer to the continuing problems of falling rocks and mudslides is the expropriation of more lands adjacent to the San José – Caldera, that will end up costing taxpayers and additional us$1.3 million dollars.
The concessionaire of the road, Autopistas del Sol, says that it needs adjacent lands to reduce the steepness of the slopes that are the cause of the rock falls and landslides between Atenas and orotina.
Francisco Jiménez, the ministro de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT), said his ministry is in the process of identifying the parcels of land required to be expropriated.
The minister assures that the process will be quick and will not delay work on the road that has been a constant problem for drivers since the start of the rainy season last month.
The concessionaire was given an ultimatum by the MOPT and ordered to provide a report or face the shutting down of the highway. Jiménez said that Autopistas delivered the report ahead of the deadline, noting that 15 of the 18 points of high risk have already received attention. The other three points, however, will take months to resolve.
In addition to solving the problems if rock falls and landslides, the MOPT asked Autopistas to better services along the route, with better monitoring and prevention, especially in the areas of high risk.
Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
The Unión Nacional de Técnicos y Profesionales en Tránsito (Unateprot), representing the majority of the Tránsito (traffic officials) is questioning the qualifications of the chief of the Tránsito police force, César Quirós. Joselito Ureña, head of the Unatreprot, says that Quirós does not meet the minimum requirements by Law to head the force.
“He has never been a cop, never completed the basic training of a cop, the requirement of 12 years of experience, old an A4 drivers license, never completed a course to carry a firearm or the use of a breathalyzer unit and the operation of a ‘handlheld’ (the traffic cop’s electronic ticketing unit)”, claims Ureña.
In addition, the union leader says that police chief should have been given the green light for his appointment by the Controlaría General de la República (CGR) – Comptroller’s office – to leave his post as auditor for the Consejo de Seguridad Vial (Cosevi) to be chief of the Tránsito police.
The union head said that he has sent a letter to the Junta Directiva del Consejo de Seguridad Vial, spelling out the deficiencies of the requirements of the police chief, but has not received any response.
The attack against Quirós is another tactic by the union to pressure the government to making good on an agreement reached six months ago for a pay hike for the 900 Tránsitos.
This past week, Tránsitos have been on a work to rule, only fining speeding and drunk drivers and threatening a full out strike for this week if the pay hike situation is not resolved.
Quirós assures that the attack against him from the union is a pressure tactic and will not argue with nor justify his position and that his 25 year record in public service speaks for itself.
The police chief said that he is working on getting his officials their pay hike as soon as possible and will not be side tracked by the union leader’s attacks.