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Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís promises to cut extreme poverty by 45 percent by 2018




President Luis Guillermo Solís and Planning Minister Olga Marta Sánchez on Monday, Nov. 17 present the “National Development Plan 2015-2018 Alberto Cañas Escalante” at the National Theatre in downtown San José.

(Courtesy of Casa Presidencial)

Six months after taking office President Luis Guillermo Solís outlined – in a 560-page document – a roadmap for his administration that includes a promise to reduce Costa Rica’s extreme poverty rate by 45 percent by 2018, the year he leaves Casa Presidencial.

Solís presented the “National Development Plan 2015-2018” on Monday night at the National Theater along with Planning Minister Olga Marta Sánchez.

The plan includes three major goals: fostering economic growth by increasing the quantity and quality of jobs; reducing poverty and economic and social inequality; and combating corruption and promoting a more transparent state.

Solís’ main campaign pledge was to reduce extreme poverty, which he defined as the lack of resources to purchase three square meals a day. According to the annual State of the Nation report, some 345,000 Costa Ricans live in extreme poverty.

Vice President Ana Helena Chacón said a study by the administration found different levels of poverty than those reported during the campaign cycle, and proposed budget cuts under discussion at the Legislative Assembly would “make it difficult to meet campaign goals.”

Solís’ plan aims for a 6 percent growth rate in production by 2018, the same goal set by former President Laura Chinchilla in 2010. The Chinchilla administration (2010-2014) fell short of that goal, achieving 3.5 percent growth.

In the next four years, the Solís administration said it would create at least 24,000 new jobs and reduce the unemployment rate — currently at 8.6 percent — by 1.6 percent.

Inflation in Costa Rica has remained relatively low, at 3.68 percent in 2013, and Solís promised to maintain that rate slightly higher at 4 percent in 2018.

The president’s most ambitious goal is poverty reduction: He hopes to help lift 42,000 families out of extreme poverty by the time he leaves offices. (By comparison, his predecessor, Chinchilla, had promised to move 20,000 families out of extreme poverty.) 

To accomplish that, Solís said he would focus on supporting micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses via a national Development Banking System. 

That system, approved by Solís earlier this month, will make use of ₡280 billion ($516 million) in funds to strengthen entrepreneurship programs, especially for women.

Solís’ 560-page plan is named after Alberto Cañas Escalante, a co-founder of the Citizen Action Party and a colorful and prominent politician, journalist and writer who died last June.

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