Report: Development in Past Decade Insufficient

October 29, 2004

INSUFFICIENT. That is how hundredsof researchers in dozens of organizationshave summed up Costa Rica’s economic,social and political development inthe past decade. They reach the conclusionin the 10th State of the Nation report,released Tuesday.While the country has made importantgains in health coverage, education, foreigninvestment and environmental awarenessand conservation, these improvementsand others have not been enough,the report says.Costa Rica must spend the next decademaking development leaps instead ofsteps, or risk losing the ground it hasgained in recent years, according to JorgeVargas, coordinator of general research forthe report.“THERE is a sense of urgency,”agreed Sonia Mora, president of theNational Council of Rectors and rector ofUniversidad Nacional (UNA). “We can’tread this book sitting. We have to read itwalking, taking action.”Of primary concern is the growing gapbetween rich and poor in a variety of indicators,including employment, educationand income growth, according to projectdirector Miguel Gutiérrez-Saxe.The poverty level has remained relativelystatic, at 20%, and the country hasseen an increase in robberies, assaults andfirearm- and drug-related deaths, headded.The country’s growth “is not sufficient.It is not sufficient that today we areable to attract three times the foreigninvestment than we did 10 years ago. It isnot sufficient that we can export threetimes what we did,” Vargas said.Gutiérrez-Saxe pointed to the country’sroadways as an example of insufficientimprovement. The amount investedin roads has grown from 0.2% of the grossdomestic product, to 0.5%. However, fourtimes that amount is necessary to maintainthe current roads, without building anymore, he said.UNA, along with the country’s threeother public universities and theOmbudsman’s Office, are the primarysponsors of the 400-page State of theNation report, although many more nationaland international agencies wereinvolved.The State of the Nation project wasstarted ten years ago to provide policymakersand others with a better understandingof the country’s real situation.The report is a collection and analysisof a variety of statistics and indicators ofsustainable development.While most annual reports focus onshort-term changes from year to year, thisyear’s report thoroughly analyzes thecountry’s progress in the past decade,according to Vargas.“Costa Rica has undergone deepchanges, economical changes, politicalchanges, social changes. The tragedy isthat they are not sufficient. We know prettywell where we are heading. And there isno way with our levels of productivity,with our current levels of education, ourlevels of infrastructure, we are going tomake it,” he said.THE general conclusion is thatprogress has been made, but not enough,Gutiérrez-Saxe agreed.In the past 10 years, Costa Rica hasgrown from a population of 3.05 million to4.17 million. The population has becomemore urban – 59%, versus 50% a decadeago – and more diverse.“Ten years ago, we had an aspirationthat we were in a country that deservesbetter, but we were actually worried aboutthe effects of the 1980s. We were asking ifthe new era of growth was really tricklingdown to the people,” Vargas said. “Now,the burning question of the day is, are wegoing to make it?”

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