THE Costa Rican Chamber ofCommerce and the Costa Rican-AmericanChamber of Commerce (AmCham) bothheld awards ceremonies this month tohonor businesses that have made outstandingeconomic and social contributions toCosta Rica.The AmCham Contribution to theCommunity awards, presented Wednesday,honored four businesses for theirefforts in the areas of education (Microsoftand Proctor & Gamble), environment(Kimberly Clark) and social development(Pfizer).Microsoft has invested $610,000 infour computer education projects foryouths and adults with limited resources,and installed technology centers in schoolsin areas with high levels of unemployment,teen pregnancy, domestic violenceand sexual exploitation. Procter & Gamblebuilt the Wing for the Visually Impaired ata school in Sixaola, near the Panamanianborder, among other projects.In the field of environmental contributions,Kimberly-Clark spends an average of$2.5 million per year on recycling projectsthroughout Costa Rica. Pfizer, winner inthe social contribution category, overseesvarious educational and public health projects,including the donation of medicationto patients with HIV and AIDS.COSTA Rican President AbelPacheco, the guest of honor, said that afterhearing about the contributions of thesebusinesses to Costa Rica, “I have no doubtthat Costa Rica has a marvelous future.”The head of state took advantage of hiscaptive audience of business executives torefute the idea that corruption is the normin Costa Rica.“In this country one does not have topay bribes, prizes or commissions to beable to invest, compete, get contracts, produceor provide services,” Pacheco said.Thirteen businesses in all were nominatedfor the AmCham awards. Besidesthe four winners, the list included EatonElectrical, Ericsson of Costa Rica, FloridaIce and Farm, Hotel Punta Islita, ITSInfocomunicación, McDonald’s CostaRica, Merck Sharp & Dohme, RAEIngenieros, and Schneider Centroamérica.Roberto Artavia, president of theHarvard-affiliated Central AmericanInstitute of Business Administration(INCAE), said corporate social responsibility,defined as voluntary contributionsto the community on the part of privatecompanies, is its own reward, since it providesa business with greater stability inthe long run.He pointed out that the ratio betweenthe income of an average citizen in theworld’s richest country, and an average citizenin the world’s poorest, has increasedfrom 5:1 in 1776 to 290:1 today.“We must acknowledge that this gapexists and is in danger of becoming evenwider,” he said, adding that corporatesocial responsibility is the key to improvingthe situation.AT the Costa Rican Chamber ofCommerce event Nov. 4, businessesreceived awards in 14 different areas.One of the night’s “pleasant surprises,”according to a statement released by thechamber, was the announcement thatLarissa Páez of the Larissa Páez NutritionCenter received the award for YoungEntrepreneur of the Year. She is the onlywoman to receive an award this year.Ricardo Amador, of Irex Costa Rica,received the John M. Keith award forBusiness Executive of the Year, and OmarJiménez of the newspaper La Naciónreceived the Edmundo Gerli Manager ofthe Year award.The Democracy and Liberty awardwent to Eduardo Ulibarri, former editor ofthe daily La Nación.Other award recipients includedHortifruti, Chavarría Pharmacies, theLatin American University of Science andTechnology (ULACIT), Dos Pinos,Alimentos Jack’s, LaCarretica.com, engineerJaime Molina Ulloa, ATH and SwissTravel. Winners were chosen by the chamber’sboard of directors.