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    For at least the next three months

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    The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) reported that in the next few days it will promote a bill to expand, specifically in this sector, the law that authorizes the reduction of working hours for the next three months.

    This was made known by the minister of this portfolio, Gustavo Araya, in consultation on how the Executive can promote greater stability in this industry with such short-term legislation.

    “There are a dialogue and an enormous will, both from my colleagues in the Executive Power and with the Legislative Power, to, in the coming days, work on legislation that allows, for the tourism sector, to extend the possibility of reducing working hours for more than three months”, he expressed, this Tuesday, during the press conference of the official report of COVID-19.

    The measure would be part of the exclusive plan for the reactivation of this sector, which was announced by the ICT and the main tourist chambers on January 8th. It was promoted in March 2020 as a way to mitigate massive layoffs in the private sector.

    It is estimated that the tourism industry generates around 665 thousand direct and indirect jobs. This sector has been one of the most affected by the global pandemic caused by COVID-19. Official figures estimate the 2020 losses in Costa Rica at about $ 3 billion.

    “The same government opposed”

    However, the possible extension of the reduced hours drew the attention of the Legislative Assembly, where the issue had a debate. According to the Social Christian deputy María Inés Solís, it was the ruling party itself who complicated the expansion of the measure.

    “We had proposed the six months with the tourism sector in mind, but the government itself was the one that opposed it being for six months and we had to negotiate for it to be for three months,” she explained.

    The original term expired in December and after voting on the adjustment of the first debate, the government took the issue off the legislative agenda to force approval of a loan with the IDB.

    Once returned, the deputies had to advance their recess due to COVID-19 cases in the Assembly, and it was until last Wednesday, January 13th, that the measure was final, after being published in the official newspaper La Gaceta.

    Three or four years

    On the other hand, the President of the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels (CCH), Javier Pacheco, responded that what was reported by Segura on Tuesday was not a surprise.

    The representative of the hoteliers assured that they have discussed the issue. However, he underlined the importance of extending it for an adequate period and went beyond what was proposed by Congresswoman Solís.

    “We have been talking with the Minister of Tourism. The reality is that the impact that we are going to have was not a matter for 2020. We are in a crisis that is going for three or four years of recovery,” he said on the consultation of this debate.

    Pacheco advocates for proactive rather than reactive legislation. It states that the extension of the reduction of working hours in the sector should be for at least three years.

    “Let’s do a project for the next three years and if the economic reactivation comes before, thanks to the necessary support, the aid can be eliminated. Otherwise, the sector will not advance”, he added.

    For the spokesperson, it is imperative to avoid a repeat of the situation of a few weeks ago when the law was abandoned for almost a month. He recalled that employment is vital to keep the social structure in force and “no industry can do that, in this country, like tourism.” They are companies that are on the coasts, in the mountains, in rural communities,” he recalled.

    At the same time, Pacheco reiterated the need for the Legislative Assembly to approve file 22,144, Creation of the Guarantee Fund, with the appropriate texts. This bill is in the Tax Affairs Commission of the Legislature.

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