San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Municipal workers protest bill to privatize some services


The National Association of Public and Private Employees (ANEP), a group that helped spearhead the anti-CAFTA movement, Tuesday morning led its second mass demonstration against a bill that would allow municipalities to create mixed public-private companies to provide municipal services.
Last week’s and Tuesday morning’s marches were held to protest the Creation of Municipal Businesses Bill, which was approved by the previous Legislative Assembly and is now awaiting the signature of President Laura Chinchilla.
ANEP spokesman Randall Vega said he expected at least 1,000 marchers from various municipalities across the country. By 11:30 a.m., marchers had reached Plaza de la Democracia in the downtown court district.
The bill would allow municipalities to privatize many of the services that city and town councils currently provide, such as trash collection and administrative services. Protesters say this would cause thousands to lose their jobs. ANEP also claims the law is unconstitutional.
Libertarian Movement political director, José Manuel Bustos, sees the bill as a mechanism that would allow municipalities to improve their existing services and to undertake new projects and services. The San José Municipality, under a little known clause within the existing Municipal Code, already contracts a private company to do nighttime trash collection. The new bill would make it possible for municipalities to broaden this practice by spelling out the conditions under which mixed businesses could be set up and how they would operate.
Impressed by similar mechanisms he saw on a recent trip to Europe, Bustos feels Costa Rican municipalities will only be helped by the bill, allowing them to combine the best of public and private entities to tackle pressing needs. He said the bill is not intended to instigate layoffs of public workers, but rather to allow municipalities to set up businesses in which 51 percent of the shares are public and 49 percent are private to undertake projects or provide services.

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