The unemployment figure revealed this past week by the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) is heartbreaking, 468,000 unemployed people (20.1%), that is, one in five Costa Ricans has no job.
Thus employment is another victim of the Pandemic, just like people locked in their homes, bedridden in a hospital, crying alone for a loved one who is no longer there, just like the closing of the business and companies, the reduction of working hours for thousands of people or the suspension of contracts for many others. All the stories contain their own tragedy.
Costa Rica has a peculiarity and that is that it started this Pandemic economically on the wrong foot. In the first quarter, it already had 12.5 percent unemployment, one of the highest in the last 10 years. Closing 2019 with a deficit of 7 percent of GDP, the highest since the crisis of the 80’s and was projected that this year would close at 8.6 percent, now there is talk about a deficit of 9.7 percent of the GDP.
2019 also concluded with complicated debt figures, 58.5 percent of GDP, projecting that this year the debt would reach 61 percent of GDP and now, the authorities of the Treasury maintain that 2020 will close with a debt of 68 % of GDP.
But the country also has important challenges ahead. A 20% poverty percentage that in 25 years has not managed to vary significantly, an unequal country (48 Gini coefficient), and an expensive country, the OECD already tells us that it is largely due to the number of bureaucratic obstacles.
There already has been a discussion – driven by the business clamor – to advance an economic reactivation agenda that would allow generating more jobs and more wealth, hopefully, better distributed, when, as a bucket of cold water, the Pandemic caused by COVID-19 arrived, putting to the world on its knees.
And although the INEC numbers are necessary for analysis, sometimes they seem cold because in this case, they are not just numbers, they are people, families with dreams, truncated illusions, fears, and despair. Today those numbers represent a dangerous path that puts our social peace at risk. We are facing one of the worst crises in our history. Our lives, our health, our work, our food, our security, and our social peace are at risk.
The country has arrived at a moment that possibly very few could have visualized. It is such a serious and complex situation that it clearly exceeds the capacity of a Government that, alone, will not be able to face such an enormous challenge.
It is here that it causes surprise that President Carlos Alvarado has not yet called for a broad national dialogue, a national agreement, a dialogue table or whatever they want to call it. The way out of this crisis must count on the solidarity participation of all the political, social and economic sectors of the country. It is time to put aside personal, group and sectoral interests, to think about a superior common good.
The country will not be able to get ahead if there are greedy political-electoral calculations involved. It is not worth, at this time, to think about the image and the ratings. The time has come to think about a united Costa Rica, to think about our family, our children, the neighbor, the coworker, the one who has no roof, and the one who does not know tomorrow if the food will be missing from the table. And for all of them, generating the spaces for dialogue necessary to achieve true solutions that give us peace, prosperity, and confidence.