President Laura Chinchilla on Wednesday night acknowledged in a televised address that Costa Rica’s Social Security System (Caja) faces a severe budget shortage that is affecting public health services (watch the speech here).
“The [Caja] is heading towards a serious financial crisis,” the president said in a brief and edited speech.
In order to address the problem, Chinchilla ordered the Finance Ministry to transfer $170 million to the Caja on an unspecified date. According to internal Caja audits, the institution will end 2011 with a deficit of $184 million.
Chinchilla said that the funds used to pay off some of the government’s large debt to the publicly run health system means that other programs and services will likely see their funding reduced. She did not mention any specific programs.
The president also asked members of the Caja’s board of directors to create a “commission of experts” to analyze the current situation of the institution in order to propose solutions urgently.
Today Chinchilla will meet with those board members at 8 a.m. in the Casa Presidencial.
The announcement of the government’s urgent transfer of funds to the Caja comes one week after several Caja unions announced a general strike to draw attention to the financial problems troubling the institution.
In the past six months, Caja employees and union members have called for government help to prevent “the collapse of the country’s most important institution” (TT, April 15).