There are nearly 1.5 million Costa Ricans between the ages of 18 and 35, and of these, 360,000 are neither studying nor working. In an attempt to alleviate this problem, the government will inject up to $100 million into businesses initiated and run by young Costa Ricans.
On March 11, President Oscar Arias signed an executive decree establishing the Youth Business Program (PROJOVEM), an initiative of the Youth Ministry and Council in conjunction with the Labor Ministry. The program creates opportunities and incentives for the country’s youth to start their own businesses.
According to Labor Minister Francisco Morales, he and Arias have been discussing this plan since the beginning of Arias’ administration.
“We realized the country didn’t have a system in place to support young men and women aspiring to open their own businesses,” said Morales. “This could helpyoung people in Costa Rica realize their potential.”
In all, 150 youth from across the country will participate in the initiative. On Tuesday, entrepreneurs from Ulapa, Los Chiles, Guatuso, Sarapiquí, Talamanca, Puriscal, Golfito and Pérez Zeledón all came to San José for the inauguration of the project.
The National Cooperative Council (CONACOOP) will accompany the entrepreneurs and their projects all the way through, helping them deal with finances, regulations, paperwork and any other difficulties that may arise.
After considering all applications, CONACOOP will select which initiatives will receive assistance from the Labor Ministry to begin their project.
Once an initiative is selected, theStateUniversityat a Distance (UNED) will help organize each project’s administration and accounting.
Jeffrey Lacayo, age 24, is part of a cooperative in BriBrí de Talamanca where 28 indigenous youth are attempting to develop their own business cultivating plantains for commercial distribution nationwide. They hope that in addition to producing plantains, they can industrialize the business and begin to use the supplies as products of their cooperative.
“We’ve been planning this business possibility for over a year now, and with the help of the new program, we’re taking a huge step towards making it a reality,” said Lacayo. Another initiative is a youth reforestation cooperative in Bijagua de Upala where local youths will working to preserve and rescue the environment while setting up a rural tour office and heading tours of the area. Edwin Sequeira, 23, president of the cooperative, said they will plant at least 2,500 trees in the area.
“We’re also going to incorporate the environmental aid factor into our tours,” said Sequeira. “We’ll allow tourists to plant a tree themselves, as well as providing information about climate change in Costa Rica.”
Arias, said that although the PROJOVEM initiatitive coincides with the global economic crisis, the crisis was not the reason for its implementation. Nonetheless, he recognizes its potential to help the problem.
“The crisis has affected everyone worldwide, countries big and small, rich and poor,” said Arias. “But it will be the countries who protect and support the ambitions of its citizens who will be the first to leave this crisis behind.”