San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Puntarenas Project Seeks to Improve Tourism Infrastructure

By the end of the year, the government plans to have $5 million to spend on boardwalks, restoration projects and other public works aimed at boosting tourism in the Pacific town of Puntarenas, and taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill.

The state-owned Banco Nacional announced plans this week to sell bonds to private investors. These bonds will ultimately be purchased by the private concessionaire Sociedad Portuaria de Caldera, S.A., which operates the port of Caldera, just south of Puntarenas.

Officials from Banco Nacional, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) and the Pacific Port Institute (INCOP), met at the Tourism Institute’s offices Monday to sign a contract to seal the deal, known as a fideicomiso.

Ronald Vargas, the director of Banco Nacional’s Investment Bank, said it will likely take six months to a year for the money to be approved by the Comptroller General’s Office and the Superintendence of Securities (SUGEVAL). INCOP will be in charge of spending the money.

Although where the money will go isn’t set in stone, Tourism Minister Carlos Benavides and INCOP Director Paul Zúñiga have mentioned the possibilities of putting it toward building a boardwalk, restoring the Capitanía de Puntarenas building, restoring the train station and improving the cruise ship dock at Puntarenas, among other projects.

“The project to privatize management of the port didn’t just call to make the port more effective, but to make social spending more effective,” Benavides said.

The Sociedad Portuaria de Caldera, a Colombian and Costa Rican joint venture, took over administration of the Caldera port from the government last August (TT, Aug. 18, 2006).

The concessionaire is expected to buy off the interest-collecting bonds within about four years, Vargas said.


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