A bill that would inject a $72.5 million World Bank loan into a major revamping of Costa Rica’s Caribbean port and city of Limón won the Legislative Assembly’s approval Tuesday evening in the first of two votes needed to pass the bill.
The World Bank approved the loan January 2008 to help Costa Rica finance the $80 million Port-City of Limón Integrated Infrastructure Project, while the Costa Rican government has agreed to cover the rest.
Forty-four of the 46 legislators were present for the first debate, leaving one more debate, slated for Thursday, before President Oscar Arias can sign the legislation into law.
José Luis Vásquez, a lawmaker from Limón, said if the bill is passed it will be the second most important development in his province, after the creation of the Atlantic Port Authority (JAPDEVA).
“I have no doubt tomorrow will be a day of celebration for all the people of Limón,” Vásquez said Wednesday of his province, which he feels has been neglected over the years. “We’ve been fighting for this for a long time.”
Since his campaign, Arias has advocated that helping the province of Limón and its people are one of his main priorities.
“This project will ensure that Limón will never again be a forgotten province,” said Arias in a press release. “I’ve said it before I’ll say it again: What we’re doing with this loan is beginning to pay off a historical debt.”
The project’s four components include the revitalization of the urban area, local economic development, strengthening the municipality and supporting the development of the two ports.
Regarding the city of Limón, the project will include restoring historic buildings, building cultural and recreational parks, providing a sewage system for Limón residents and building structures to keep the Río Limoncito from flooding, according to Inter-Institutional Coordination Minister Marco Vargas.
The plan also includes creating easier access between Limón and the country’s other Caribbean port, Moín, by rehabilitating the railway between them for cargo.
They are also constructing 800 meters of railroad between the supply yards and loading docks to decrease the traffic problems in the area.
Eighty percent of Costa Rica’s foreign trade passes through Limón and Moín, and over the past few years, national pressure to develop and modernize the ports has intensified.
Despite the satisfaction expressed by the government and legislators, the JAPDEVA Worker’s Union has not expressed similar excitement.
According to their press secretary Liroy Pérez, this project is more about putting some make-up on Limón than actually providing solutions to its fundamental problems. Pérez does acknowledge that cleaning up the city will likely promote tourism, but said that no direct jobs will be created during the Port-City Limón project.