San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Where Are All Those Taxes Going?

Dear Tico Times:

Living here for a month, I really like Costa Rica, and eventually, I want to retire here. The people are helpful and compassionate, and the weather is lovely. However, as a cynical writer, I can’t help but point out the myriad problems this city is facing, namely pollution and security.

When I first arrived to San José, I noticed the dilapidated roads and sidewalks, a slew of litter, the distinct smell of auto emissions and urine, cranky drivers and clustered roads. I thought, “How could this be the epicenter of ecotourism that I’d read about?” To put it simply: It isn’t. But it should be.

So I wonder, why isn’t there more of a priority to clean up San José? I assume that many tourists fly into San José as a jump-off point, but what an awful first impression to give tourists.While cans, plastic bottles and bags, papers, and other debris fly through the streets, surely this city is losing revenue as tourists scamper into the quiet comfort  of the country, away from the din of honkinghorns and beggars.

Whether for the sake of posterity or out of environmental concern, citizens should be concerned more with cleaning up the streets (in more ways than one) than living pura vida.

Another question is:What the hell do  cops here do? I rarely see police patrollingthe streets (although to their credit, a few  have helped me while I’ve been lost). Perhaps the role of the police force itself should be expanded to control crime (assuming it is a major concern). But if the concern is bringing in more money through tourism, then making tourists feel safe by a larger presence of police would be a wise decision.

No offense to the security guards defending stores and restaurants day-andnight, but if I were a criminal, an old man carrying a billy club would not be a deterrent.

They are no substitute for real law and order. Another problem with these guards is accountability. I’ve seen several of them toting guns, but that doesn’t mean they know what they are doing. And what happens if he draws his pistol and uses it hastily?

I asked a big group of Ticos if they knew where their taxpayer dollars were going, and not one knew. These were all relatively intelligent people. Realistically though, one doesn’t need to look far to wonder where the money is going. The streets are deteriorating and dirty, police and firefighter presence is lacking, and I have no earthly idea what the education and health care systems are like in this country (although I hear bad things).

So where is taxpayer money going and where should it be going? What is a priority for Ticos? What do they demand of their government? And are they getting what they should be?

Felipe Medina-Marquez

San José


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