The multidimensional crisis, derived from the Pandemic, poses new challenges for economic recovery and inclusive and sustainable growth. Regional organizations, such as the Secretariat for Regional Economic Integration (SIECA) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), are drawing attention to the need to promote a structural change in the economic development model, incorporating new axes of productive reconversion and transformation, for the promotion of chains and articulations between the productive sectors of the different economies of the region (input-product matrix).
Among these new dynamizing axes of the productive apparatus is the development of the “bioeconomy”, in which Costa Rica has a great variety of biological resources (endogenous nuclei for sustainable development), as well as an institutional culture of conservation and use of biodiversity, that needs to be updated and improved.
Thus, the structural change (first condition) that is proposed in the National Bioeconomy Strategy, which was recently made public, must be accompanied by a process of institutional change and innovation (second condition), key to the design and consolidation of an institutional legal framework (governance scheme), which provides guidelines and promoters of public policy and public-private alliances, around the promotion and consolidation of what is understood as the bioeconomy sector (with all its complexity and multidimensionality ).
The third condition that accompanies structural and institutional change for the development of the bioeconomy is that which refers to technological change (R-D + i). Social and institutional innovation becomes a nerve center for inter-institutional coordination and cooperation at the different levels of governance (national, regional and local).
Likewise, a territorial approach is required to identify and develop social capital (associative capacity), endogenous resources and territorial competitive advantages, around which to define precision productive policies, which respond to the particularities of each territory and its endowment of resources (natural, human and institutional).
The recognition and participation of stakeholders, public and private, in the process of identification, design and implementation of programs to promote the bioeconomy, at the territorial and local level, is key for their equity and sustainability. In this same direction, the formation of a dynamic and highly competitive sector of small and medium-sized enterprises, organized in associative schemes and with institutional support, will contribute to productive employment and the well-being of households in the communities.
In this way, the National Bioeconomy Strategy has the task of identifying productive activities with high potential in the different territories (fourth condition), from which governance schemes appropriate to the particularities of location and nature of the productive processes are built (fifth condition).
The ideal will be to generate economies of agglomeration (clusters) around catalytic and dynamic economic activities of local and regional economic development, with strong backward and forward linkages. The way to carry out this operational process is through the identification and definition of localized and specialized production systems, taking advantage of the static competitive advantages (Porter) typical of the territory and accompanying them with public policies of productive reconversion, with great precision and efficiency in the selection and resource allocation, to convert static advantages into dynamic competitive advantages (sixth condition).
The localized systems for the development of bioeconomic activities, part of a geographical delimitation in which a series of public and private institutions with a diversity of resources and capacities are located (financial resources, human capital, technical training, research-development and innovation (I -D + i) and market management).
These institutions and their resources interact with local actors and agents, generating synergies and cooperation processes for the dynamic functioning of the system. In this way, the generation of productive and sectoral chains are articulated with institutional chains, through which a virtuous circle is generated between the allocation of resources (investment), the increase in the levels of productivity and competitiveness of productive activities and greater participation in the markets.
The localized and specialized system is based on a productive structure characterized by the cooperation and associativity of the agents based on productivity and competitiveness, which allows not only the generation of economies of scale, but also economies of differentiation or economies of scope, as they are known in the literature.
The potential of Costa Rica to develop localized systems, based on specialization in bioeconomy activities, shows us a horizon painted in colors. For example, the country has coastal areas, rich in natural resources and marine biodiversity (blue economy), for the development of multiple sustainable economic activities, such as: ecological tourism and scientific research, which can be promoted through agreements with international universities and research institutes specialized in marine diversity, for bioprospecting and in situ courses and workshops, the sustainable cultivation of marine species, such as the projects promoted by the Pacific Marine Park of the National University, in conjunction with other institutions and communities in the Gulf of Nicoya.
Along the same lines, progress can be made towards the reconversion of services associated with coastal tourism, based on the promotion of good environmental practices, green and sustainable public purchases by municipalities and implementation of programs, such as Blue Flag, by local communities. This is also valid for the Caribbean, as well as for the South Pacific, where a good part of the national biodiversity is concentrated.
In need of articulation
Articulating productive activities with the conservation of these resources must follow an ecosystem approach, where the sustainable use and exploitation of resources is complemented with the human development of the population, in order to reduce the territorial asymmetries that are reflected in high unemployment indicators, poverty and inequality in these territories (seventh condition).
Similarly, there are multiple possibilities of generating economies of agglomeration around national parks and protected areas (green economy), which can make them sustainable in the long term. Income from visiting some of these national parks could be increased if institutional policies were articulated to promote sustainable productive activities, with territorial planning (regulatory plans) that order and guide the economic development of the territories where they are located.
A key aspect in this regard is the design and implementation of a scheme of governance for the formation of service clusters with a green seal (orange economy), which allows the generation of greater production chains and at the same time makes the process more sustainable, along the value chains.
Likewise, the natural links between tourism services (medical and wellness tourism) and the conservation and use of biological resources can be further strengthened in those territories (such as Liberia and San Carlos) that have already demonstrated the conditions for specialization in these activities.
New lines of agribusiness, oriented by the use of sustainable management technologies and techniques and with good practices (precision agriculture, organic agriculture, biomass, biological control, fair trade), can be successful in the Brunca, Chorotega, Huetar Norte and Huetar Caribe.
Another sector with multiple advantages of location and natural resources is clean energy; so much so that a corridor has been identified that territorially articulates hydroelectric energy sources, wind energy, solar energy and geothermal energy, which crosses several territories in the province of Guanacaste. To this must be added the successful experience, which incorporates R-D + i, of the company Ad Astra Rocket, with the plasma engine and projects for the production and storage of renewable energy, which could have a great impact on development of sustainable markets and in the positioning of our country in the reconversion of its energy matrix; which is articulated with the National Decarbonization Plan in the Greater Metropolitan Area.
Finally, the sectoral and territorial approach of the development strategy for the bioeconomy sector must contemplate the process of construction and reconversion of sustainable cities and territories, framing it within objective 11 of the Agenda of the Goals for Sustainable Development: cities and sustainable communities. Advancing in this objective is key for the consolidation of the bioeconomy strategy and for entering the world’s leading networks, such as the C40 CITIES, which establish parameters and policies to move towards urban sustainability.
From the reduction of CO2, the use of renewable energies, the adequate management of waste, clean public transport networks, green corridors and inclusive and pollution-free public spaces, urban gardens and access and distribution of sustainable basic services (drinking water, energy , connectivity); they are all components of the city’s healthy metabolism.
Evolving towards sustainable cities offers multiple opportunities for agglomeration of economic activities related to the specialized services sector, transport infrastructure and logistics, technology and innovation, art-culture-gastronomy-recreation, construction and architecture, health and well-being, training of human resources, among many others.
In the context of the systemic crisis we face, thinking about the opportunities the country has to step forward and emerge speaks positively of our historical resilience and vision. The National Bioeconomy Strategy is part of a shared aspiration in our social contract: productive transformation with social-territorial and environmental equity.