With more than an hour of enthusiastic explanation and some labyrinthine graphs – “Don’t be scared,” he told the audience – Second Vice-President and Planning Minister Kevin Casas presented the government’s fouryear National Development Plan Wednesday night at the National Theater.
The document, which all presidential administrations must prepare once in office to establish their goals, outlines the steps President Oscar Arias and his administration expect to take to achieve campaign promises such as a reduction of the nation’s poverty level from 20% to 16%, improved health coverage and security, and better infrastructure.
According to Casas and President Oscar Arias, the plan is more realistic and resultsoriented than those of other administrations in recent memory.
“The National Development Plan became a document so extensive that they wouldn’t even send it to be printed, and so complex that no citizen, no matter how intelligent, could understand it,” Arias told a crowd of Cabinet ministers, legislators,mayors and other leaders during the glittering event, which also honored former Vice-President Jorge Manuel Dengo. “In consequence, improvisation took over our policies, and (surviving) day to day became the government’s best.”
To change this, Casas said, the administration plans to increase evaluation of its goals, publishing a twice-yearly report on how they’re progressing, and streamline the sprawling web of bureaucracy that is the Costa Rican government. The Planning Ministry,which had been sidelined somewhat in recent administrations, is resuming its prominence as the coordinator of government efforts and key advisor to the President; in addition, plans and evaluation will be conducted across entire sectors – social policy, production, environment, culture and others – rather than within each of the hundreds of government institutions, as in the past.
Among the key initiatives included in the 133-page plan are the expansion of grants and school-lunch funding to reduce inequality in the schools; a curricular reform to emphasize the teaching of art, music and citizenship; broadening vaccine coverage, giving San José a sewer system and addressing the country’s trash problem (“for the love of God,” Casas said, “how is that (we)…aren’t capable of taking out the garbage?”); meeting 100% of the country’s electricity needs with renewable sources by 2010; and strengthening municipal governments (see separate story).
Much of the plan, of course, is dependent on whether the Legislative Assembly passes the required legislation, such as a Constitutional amendment to increase education funding to 8% of the gross domestic product (GDP), and the controversial Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).
For more on the plan, visit www.mideplan.go.cr.