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‘Good times ahead’ for Costa Rica’s economy, says Chinchilla

February 5, 2014

Days after Sunday’s election, President Laura Chinchilla hoped to regain the public’s attention with the announcement of positive economic news. But election news and questions about whether the unpopular president hurt the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) at the polls lingered.

“The message from the Central Bank is that our economy is solid, stable, and Costa Rica has good times ahead,” said the president, citing growth of gross domestic product, low inflation and improving unemployment numbers.

The Central Bank’s economic outlook, released late last week, estimated that Costa Rica’s GDP could grow 3.8 percent in 2014, and 4.1 percent in 2015. The estimate is similar to estimates from the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean released in December 2013 that forecasted 4 percent growth for the Central American country.

Vice President Luis Liberman said that preliminary figures from the National Statistics and Census Institute suggested that unemployment had fallen to 8.5 percent from 8.9 percent at the end of the third quarter of 2013. If the figure holds, it would mean the fewest Costa Ricans out of work in the last three years.

Despite the presidency’s optimism on improving economic conditions, poverty has remained stubbornly high at nearly 20 percent.

“The government’s policies have worked because the poverty level stayed even and did not rise,” said Liberman, defending the administration’s response, including keeping inflation at historic lows.

The vice president said that the global recession cost Costa Rica some 73,000 jobs. Since 2010, Liberman claimed that the economy generated 168,000 jobs.

“There are people who enter and leave poverty, and much of it has to do with employment,” he said, adding that if Costa Rica could maintain the current trend in growth and unemployment for “2, 3, 4 years,” poverty levels would eventually drop.

Questions about the timing of the news sparked questions about whether the ruling PLN was attempting to campaign for its candidate, Johnny Araya.

Araya finished a disappointing second in Sunday’s election after Luis Guillermo Solís of the Citizen Action Party surpassed him in polls and pushed the election to a runoff.

“I think that question is absurd, I feel like I shouldn’t even answer it,” Chinchilla said, denying the timing of the bank’s report was politically motivated.

When asked to comment on how perceived fatigue shown by her government might have hurt Araya and the PLN’s chances in the elections, the president responded, “When someone does nothing, there’s no fatigue.”

Chinchilla added: “These are circumstances to feel optimistic about as we open the year. We trust that the elements that we’ve achieved will pass on to the government that will take over on May 8.”

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