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‘Three challenges and one opportunity’: Read President Alvarado’s COVID-19 blog

April 14, 2020

President Carlos Alvarado on Tuesday published a blog post about his thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic and Costa Rica’s response to the global crisis.

Click here to read the original post in Spanish. We have translated it to English below:

* * * *

The Covid-19 pandemic presents us with three extremely serious challenges in the immediate term: 1) flattening the virus curve to avoid saturation of the health system and minimize deaths as much as possible; 2) supporting thousands of people and homes that in this period have lost their income or seen it reduced, preventing hunger and despair while protecting our work and business fabric; and 3) achieving the previous two without bankrupting public finances, as that would also have very serious economic and social consequences.

We must have the skill of a juggler. These three challenges — health, social, economic — are like the three spheres that we must keep in our hands and under control, because if one of them fell, it would not only spoil itself, but the other two.

We are not going to drop them!

To achieve this, in health matters we must strictly follow the guidelines of the Health Ministry and of specialists and scientists. In addition, from the public sector and with the support from the private sector, we will continue to expand our testing capabilities for Covid-19, and increase our capacity of respirators, protective equipment and other facilities.

Sanitary measures related to migration issues have also been strengthened, since what we have done well to protect our country should not be affected in any way by the lack of measures by the Nicaraguan government, as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) itself has stated.

Socially, we have already implemented from the Labor Ministry, the Mixed Institute for Social Aid (IMAS) and the National Emergency Commission (CNE) what is necessary to support families who have been seen their economic income affected due to unemployment, the suspension of their contract or the reduction of their working hours as a consequence of Covid-19. We are committed to start distributing those grants, with the first available resources, this upcoming week.

With these supports and under the principle of equality, we have also considered the vulnerability of informal workers, women, older adults and people with disabilities. We must protect our population, maintain social peace and basic supplies in this difficult period. Likewise, the approval of the law to facilitate access to the Labor Capitalization Fund (FCL) resources approved by the Legislative Assembly and which is already in application.

From the economic point of view, the first measures have already been established to face the situation — mainly alleviating the most affected households and giving temporary relief to companies of all sizes and sectors, so that they can restart in the best way when the crisis subsides. However, as a country we will have to take other measures in this area in the coming weeks, both to help people and to maintain an economically viable state.

There is a menu of options, both from Government and from proposals arising from different sectors. My job is to lead and decide, but I’m also going to listen. I will listen in the coming days and weeks to the sectors of different corners of the country, to know first-hand their impact and also their ideas.

Technique, science and data must help us prepare decisions, and the will of a plural but united country, in search of a common destiny and leaving no one behind, must guide us.

The opportunity

A fourth sphere that we balance is our historical opportunity. We cannot waste this crisis to do what we have to do and lay the foundations for the world that is about to be born.

The three spheres mentioned above are the basic preconditions for getting out of the pandemic relatively well. However, that will not be enough to resume a path of shared prosperity.

The great challenge as a country is to manage the three complex challenges that we already face, and at the same time we tackle this fourth sphere that consists of concretizing an agenda of development and progress. If we manage to materialize it in parallel to good attention to Covid-19, we will be in a better position to take off faster once this pandemic is gone — and we know it will be gone.

What does that agenda contain? Covid-19 keeps our attention, but simultaneously the country culminated the approval of the 22 rigorous committees to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and for us to be part of the nations with best public policy practices for its people. At the same time, the Garantías Sociales (Social Guarantees) road overpass was inaugurated and work has continued on other crucial infrastructure projects.

Congress passed a law to regulate dataphone commissions and is set to vote on the usury rate, for which it has waited more than a decade to ease people’s pockets. These are signs that we can go further, even in the midst of the pandemic.

We must continue with important reforms such as public employment, the organization and closing of some decentralized bodies, the reform of CONESUP, and the improvement of educational quality, the new modalities of working hours, the extinction of domain, the reform and modernization of the INA and the petroleum ban. We must also move forward with public investment projects to move our economy and improve our quality of life, such as the Electric Train, the San José- San Ramón and San Ramón-San Carlos highways and Route 2 to Cartago, and investment in police delegations, among others.

If we only adopted the concept that the public and the private are not antagonists but natural and necessary allies, we would advance light years. We see that spirit in public and private institutions working together and innovating to make respirators in record time, distribute food and medicine at home, develop protective equipment with 3D printers or create a hospital like CENARE in 11 days.

That is what we are able to do when we work together and that is how we should always work.

With great challenges ahead, Costa Ricans, let’s continue forward with our sleeves rolled up. In union, Costa Rica will get ahead and rise stronger in its bicentennial. Let’s get to work.

– Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of the Republic of Costa Rica

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