San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Blue-ribbon panel presents 97 recommendations to improve governability

A presidential blue-ribbon panel on Thursday presented President Laura Chinchilla a final report on how to improve governance in Costa Rica.

The document contains 97 recommendations, elaborated by a group of six former government officials and political leaders, and among them a series of constitutional reforms that would allow, for example, the president’s re-election in one consecutive term.

The report includes, as made public last week, a controversial recommendation to increase the number of lawmakers from 57 to 87. A large number of the recommendations in the 45-page document have to do with the operation of the Legislative Assembly.

The experts recommended changes in regulations to eliminate the possibility for lawmakers to submit bills to consultation by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV.

These consultations have resulted in the withdrawal of bills that took years of discussion, and in other cases, forced lawmakers to rewrite the text of many of them that had already been approved.

According to the experts, “there is a risk that power relations are affected as a result of constant legislative consultation of constitutionality.”

Panel members recalled that these consultations were removed in recent years in several European Union countries and the United States, as it is not considered appropriate for a constitutional court to participate in the process of creating laws.

They also recommend establishing maximum periods of three months for approval of priority projects, as well as for the appointing of key government officials as court justices, comptroller general and vice comptroller, or ombudsman.

Chinchilla highlighted the work of the panel and noted that the “executive branch will prioritize the recommendations to streamline the government’s actions, especially the reforms of the Legislative Assembly, as well as those related to Sala IV.”

The panel was formed at Chinchilla’s request and includes ex-lawmakers Constantino Urcuyo and Francisco Antonio Pacheco, constitutional lawyer Manrique Jiménez, former president of the Social Security Fund and Supreme Court Justice Rodolfo Piza Rocafort, former diplomat and ex-presidential candidate Vladimir De la Cruz and former justice vice minister and constitutional lawyer Fabián Volio.

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