Business survey gives Ms. Chinchilla lower grade

Graph shows perception indexes of business leaders for the past three months (orange) and their confidence (blue) in the future three months, measured at the end of the first year of three presidents. Graphic: Unión de Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado

President Laura Chinchilla fared badly Wednesday when a survey of business leaders scored her administration lower than the first year of the past two presidents.

The survey also shows a decline in confidence and perception of the future.

The survey is a continuing panel study of some 460 business people in diverse sectors of the economy. The opinions are sought every three month by the Unión de Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado.

The business people appeared to have four major complaint. The first was the failure to speed up doing business with the government. In Spanish, the word trámites is used. This could be applying for permits or any of the other many reasons business people might go to various government agencies. Fully 88 percent of those who responded said that there had been no simplification of permits during the last year. This opinion comes despite central government promises and even laws that are supposed to streamline contacts with officialdom.

The business people also expressed their concern about personal security, the nation’s infrastructure and efforts to reduce poverty, according to the survey report.

The perception of security seems to validate the outburst of a television presenter Tuesday as he reported on four unrelated murders. “Crime is out of control,” he blurted.

That is a serious criticism of the Chinchilla administration because the president ran on a platform of firmness and having a strong arm against crime. She has proposed new taxes and fees to generate more income for security but has not provided the specifics. She also is seeking a $130 million loan from an international development bank, but the details are sketchy.

One telling point was the 74 percent of the business people could not recall a specific achievement of the government last year. And many of those who could cited the border dispute with Nicaragua over the Isla Calero rather than any specific innovation by the Chinchilla administration.

The legislature fared even worse than the president. She received a 6.3 rating based on a 10-point scale with 10 being the best score. The legislature received a 4.5 grade. That compares with a grade of 7 for Oscar Arias Sánchez and a 5.4 for the legislature at the time.

The survey also sought the perception of business people of the first three months of this year when compared to the same period in 2010. It also sought their confidence when estimating what the third three months of the year would bring.

The perception score was 5.3, down from 6.2 for the last three months of 2010. However the current score compared well with the 5.7, the 5.1 and the 5.0 for the first through third periods of 2010.

Confidence in the upcoming quarter of the year also showed a dip from 6.1 to 5.4

“The drop in indictors of business perception and confidence ought to be a call to attention for the authorities to show positive signals with an agenda in the short term of projects and actions that stimulate the development of productive activities with the end of reactivating confidence in the national business economy,” said Manuel H. Rodríguez, chamber president.

The chamber called for the government to begin work with the Limón Ciudad Puerto, which has been approved for two years. The project is a major overhaul of Limón Centro and surrounding areas.

The chamber noted that the decline in perception coincides with the slowdown in economic activity that has been calculated by the Banco Central for the same period.

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