SEATTLE — Costa Rica, a Central American country, has seen tremendous success in its energy and healthcare department. Although some aspects of infrastructure in Costa Rica could use improvement, such as transportation, Costa Rica is seen as one of the powerhouses of Latin America when it comes to infrastructure.
Developing more ways to produce clean energy has been an important goal for Costa Rica, and 2017 is another year of milestones for this effort. All of Costa Rica’s electricity has been produced from renewable energy for 300 days straight since the start of the year, which breaks 2015’s record of 299 days. Costa Rica has spent years investing in different renewable energy methods. 78 percent comes from hydropower, 10 percent from wind, 10 percent from geothermal energy and the last 1 percent comes from biomass and solar. Costa Rican clean development adviser Dr. Monica Araya calls this a “fantastic achievement,” especially compared to other developed nations. For comparison, the United States currently only receives 15 percent of its energy from renewable methods.
Costa Rica has one of the best healthcare systems in Latin America, which is one of the reasons why the life expectancy in Costa Rica is about nine years longer than the world average. The healthcare infrastructure in Costa Rica is split into two systems: a government-run system and a private system. The government-run system is called Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, and is a form of universal healthcare. The Caja system’s monthly payments are about 7 to 11 percent of the applicant’s monthly income, but this payment can also cover a dependent spouse. Regular doctor visits cost only $60, and specialists only cost about $30 more. This is a fraction of what doctor visits could cost in the United States.
Costa Rica’s private system, although more expensive than the government system, is still well known for being cheap when compared to international prices. This has sparked a new market known as “medical tourism”. For many surgeries and procedures, it is often cheaper to fly to Costa Rica, get the surgery with Costa Rica’s private healthcare system, stay in Costa Rica during the recovery period and fly back than it is just to get the surgery in the United Staes. This has made knee replacements and hip surgeries two of the most popular procedures in Costa Rica.
While infrastructure in Costa Rica has succeeded in the energy and healthcare departments, there is room for improvement in the transportation department. When compared to similar countries like Panama and Chile, which rank 40th and 45th respectively in infrastructure, Costa Rica lags behind in 103rd. The main cause of this underwhelming placement has to do with Costa Rica’s monetary investment in its infrastructure. To meet its needs, 3.7 percent of the GDP would have to be invested, but Costa Rica currently only invests 1.1 percent. Also, when Costa Rica does invest, projects sometimes fall through. On November 20, talks began to cancel plans to build a 29.7-kilometer stretch of road between Sifón, San Ramón and La Abundancia in San Carlos. When the project was proposed nine years ago, it was only supposed to cost $61 million. The current projection has increased by 250 percent to $213 million. Since some production has already begun, they are looking into different ways to complete the job, trying to find the most cost-effective answer. This may mean changing the road plan, offering different companies the contract or starting over.
Costa Rica has become well known for its energy and healthcare programs, and will continue to find ways to improve the departments that need work, such as transportation. The foundations it has already established will help the country grow and improve the everyday lives of its citizens.
– Scott Kesselring