The Caribbean port city of Limón has long lagged behind the rest of the country economically and been tagged by many guide books as a place to avoid.
With the signing of a new law Wednesday and an $80 million investment, the government is hoping to change that.
Acting on a promise he made on the campaign trail four years ago, President Oscar Arias is directing a $72.5 million World Bank loan, along with public funding, to revitalize the area.
“I come to fulfill a promise and settle a debt with the limonenses (people of Limón),” Arias said before signing the bill.
“I come to bring money for the port city of Limón (project), which already is being implemented…”
The plan consists of 17 individual projects divided into five major areas. It includes revitalization of cultural buildings and sites, construction of sanitation and drainage systems, economic development among microand small enterprises, a strengthening of municipal institutions and support for port modernization and rehabilitation.
With an initial investment in port modernization, Arias is hoping to attract $860 million more in private funding to transform the port into one that will enable Costa Rica to better compete in a globalized world.
The plans were stalled by the Atlantic Port Authority (JAPDEVA) Worker’s Union, which objected to the project on the grounds that it created no direct jobs. But Arias responded by saying that if JAPDEVA were to take control of this project (and rely solely on public funds) it would take 154 years to finish the project, and the people of Limón can’t wait that long.
Speaking to a crowd of both public and private sector leaders Wednesday morning, Arias said, “Like many of you, I dream of a more developed Limón – a Limón with a human face, a Limón that is no longer the forgotten province of Costa Rica…a Limón in which the dreams of our sons and daughters don’t just remain on paper, but will be fulfilled with new and better opportunities for education, safety and employment.”