San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guevara Shares Vision for Trade, Development

(First in a series on presidential candidates’ positions on the economy, business and trade.)SHARING ports with Panama, attracting dissatisfied Venezuelans and their money to Costa Rica, allowing free trade of electricity across borders and granting property titles in the currently protected maritime zone are just a few of the proposals Libertarian Movement presidential candidate Otto Guevara proposed last week during a meeting of the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).While Guevara acknowledged he may not be elected President in the February 2006 election, he said that regardless, the Libertarian party will be a force to be reckoned with from 2006-2010. In his estimation, they will win 12-19 of the 57 seats in the Legislative Assembly in February. Guevara is ranked third or fourth depending on the poll.“The public policies of this country are going to pass through the Libertarian Movement, whether we win or lose (the presidency). We will have the muscle to drive things for the country… and we will have the muscle to detain things,” said Guevara, who, along with being the party’s presidential candidate, will also likely be the party’s top-ranked legislative candidate to represent San José.LIBERTARIANS protect the rights of the individual, particularly regarding property, above all else, explained Guevara, who was the first of the top five presidential candidates to address AmCham members regarding policies on trade, attracting foreign investment and competitiveness in a series planned for September and October. The party’s stance translates to strong opposition to taxes and strong support for free trade, including the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA). The party also advocates seeking out free-trade agreements with other regions and increasing commercial relations within Central America.Guevara particularly supports strengthening ties with Panama to increase the fluidity of people, merchandise and capital across borders. The neighboring countries should also develop infrastructure and Caribbean tourism mutually, according to the candidate.“If Costa Rica has insufficient ports, we could use the ports of Panama,” he said. “And why should we build an airport in the Southern Zone if there is a good airport in David (in northern Panama)?” COSTA Rica is missing out on many opportunities by failing to promote property rights, both physical and intellectual, Guevara continued. “Property rights can make a poor country rich,” he said.The candidate questioned the concept of granting people concessions to property without giving them property titles – as is done in the 200-meter Maritime Zone (ZMT) along the coast, considered public land. The party is committed to giving people titles to property in the ZMT.Costa Rica must reinitiate incentives common in the late 1980s to encourage foreigners with capital to become residents here, Guevara continued.“We have to set out the red carpet again to certain citizens of other countries,” he said, adding that Costa Rica should take steps to attract citizens of Venezuela who may not be happy with their leftist government, and have the education and capital to contribute here.TO increase competitiveness, Libertarians call for opening up Costa Rica’s state monopolies on telecommunications and insurance, a step Guevara said will improve quality.“I think we are the only country that only has one insurance provider. Even Cuba, I believe, has two or three,” he said.Increased competition from the private sector could also improve the public school system, and the country should adopt a voucher program, Guevara added. Costa Rica should allow more private participation in electricity generation – starting with granting water concessions to private hydroelectric dam builders – as well as road, port and airport construction, Guevara said.Furthermore, Guevara maintains Costa Rica can encourage more development by simplifying the process to grant construction permits, including eliminating preconstruction Environmental Impact Reports, required for new structures. Instead, he says parameters and regulations should be set and enforced afterward, using a “strong arm” to sanction violators. “It’s much simpler: the muscle is in the supervision and the part of prior controls is limited to very particular cases where it is necessary,” he said.This school of thought can be applied to various facets of the public sector, he continued.AS expected, the Libertarian candidate also told AmCham members that increased taxes will kill the country’s ability to compete with other countries for investment, he added.Instead, he advocates a plan of improved tax collection, selling government property not in use, and issuing bonds on the output of a project, such as a power plant. These steps will produce enough income to meet the country’s needs, according to Guevara.Guevara supports issuing bonds not only on new power plants in order to build the project, as in the case of the Cariblanco dam, but also on projects already functioning as a way to solve the debt.This “could produce $2 billion. That is the entire debt of the Central Bank,” he said. AMCHAM will host Citizen Action Party (PAC) candidate Ottón Solís Sept. 28, Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) candidate Ricardo Toledo Oct. 14, National Liberation Party (PLN) candidate Oscar Arias Oct. 26 and Union for Change candidate Antonio Álvarez Desanti at a date to be determined. For more information, call 220-2200.

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