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Country Just Sets Itself Up For One Crisis After Another

by Garland M Baker on April 30, 2007

The rule of thumb in Costa Rica is when you cannot plan — or do not plan — panic.

This malady is part of the culture. People in the campo, the rural areas, learn this from childhood. Parents instruct kids sent to the pulperia, the corner mom and pop grocery, to buy one egg for breakfast. Not two, one for breakfast and one for lunch, or three, one for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner. Just one. One for breakfast.

Why, because the parents were not taught to plan and organize by their parents, so they do not teach their kids to do so.

What happens? The kids grow up into adults and this happens:

The country gets a Registro Nacional that has collapsed for the past month. It has been literally impossible to use online. This is an entity, that is in theory, the cornerstone of public records in Costa Rica.

Very poor, if any, planning went into designing the system in the first place. The day it came online — some years back — the organization’s computers could not handle the daily traffic. Today it is a disaster. Crooks use this fact to their advantage everyday. Fraud is rampant. Good people just twiddle their thumbs.

Now in a panic, Registro workers are trying to fix the ills of years applying band aid solutions to the problems, and nothing works.

Speaking of band aid solutions to real problems: Now there is insufficient electricity. There is no money to harness the power of Costa Rica’s rich thermal power resources, at least according to the local news reports.

It appears no one has converted plans to action. No one in power has correctly interpreted usage requirements or population growth. A union for the professionals at the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) said in a full page ad Sunday that the power shortage was not its fault. The Sindicato de Ingenieros y Professionales said they have been warning of shortages for two years.

Now the country is in a panic, rationing electric power. Some people have it, and some people do not. Every day it is a roulette wheel decision as to who gets it and who does not.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez is going to save the day with an executive decree to buy new oil burning electric plants for $150 million dollars. This sure reeks of a panic solution to a panic problem.

Oops, I forgot to mention cellular phones. When Millicom International Cellular S.A. set up an adequate cell phone system in Costa Rica in 1989 and people started to use it widely, panic mode struck fast. Costa Rica worked quickly to quash the license and take over the system with predictable results.

These are only three of a multitude of examples. Everyone has his or her own list, most starting right at home. How many times does one hear living in Costa Rica, the last of this or the last of that was used until the moment it was all gone.

Add a little graft to the no-planning, no-organization recipe, and what does one get?

A great way to make money. The reason, because there is never anyone to blame, nothing worked anyway.

A company in México sold the Registro its computer system by winning a bid during the presidency of one of those presidents currently on the hot seat facing a corruption investigation.

The U.S.-based Millicom set up the first cellular telephone system in Central America in Costa Rica, and without even a “thanks” was booted out of the country in May 1995. The company had to stop its operations because the Sala IV found that its activities with cell telephones was contrary to the Costa Rican Constitution that gives the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad a telephone monopoly.

This which made room for one of the biggest frauds to the public involving almost every level of government. Former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez is still under investigation for his role, if any, in a kicback on a contract to a French telephone company. Agents of the French firm have been indicted in the United States.

Of course, a lot of people say that when things go wrong and panic sets in, its just part of living in Costa Rica.

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