Business leaders have chance to assess state of nation

Another report is due of the confidence and perceptions of the economy by business leaders. The triple Index that is produced by the national business chamber has shown vast improvement since scraping the bottom during 2009.

Yet, most business people are waiting for the other legislative shoe to drop.

There was a general sigh of relief in the business community when the Sala IV constitutional court sidetracked the Chinchilla administration plans for massive tax increases. But now that appears to have just been the end of Round One. Many lawmakers who were in the opposition last session appear to have cast their lot with the party of President Laura Chinchilla. The major barrier to the tax plan was a coalition of opposition parties. That coalition no longer exists.

The Partido Liberación Nacional managed to win the leadership spots in the new legislature. That was May 1. Members of independent parties who voted with Liberación got the titled jobs in the legislative directorate. But Liberación managed to get all the powerful slots as presidents of commissions. The commissions are the committees that get a first look at legislation, become experts on the topic and eventually produce a draft which may or may not be similar to the original effort.

The Asamblea Legislativa is not considered highly. In its last three-month survey the Unión de Cámaras y Asociaciones de la Empresa Privada asked business leaders to assess the job both the president and the legislature were doing. President Chinchilla got 5.4 on a 10-point scale, but the legislature, being led at the time by opposition parties, got 4.6.
With Liberación now in charge, some form of the original tax plan is expected to be resurrected. Ms. Chinchilla issued an interim directive putting the sales tax on what her aides considered luxury foods. The list has had to be revised three times.

Ms. Chinchilla, her administration being ravaged by allegations of corruption, did what any head of state would do in a similar situation. She went to Europe for two weeks.

No legislative action is expected until she returns. However, lawmakers have a measure that would allow the country to borrow $2 billion more, mostly from foreign sources. That may be an easy way out of the nation’s financial crisis. Half the annual budget already is borrowed money, and interest rates are creeping higher.

Presidential elections are in February 2014. Already would-be candidates have come forth. Others are more coy. All are professional politicians who have not outlined a plan to step away from the current tax-and-spend policies. Many would-be candidates are members of the legislature. So they may not want to put their name on a new tax bill.

The legislature is two years old this month, and members still are wrestling with revisions of the new traffic law that was left for them by the prior groups of lawmakers. That has priority as do two dozen other bills.

How these are handled will give an indication if the new leadership is functional.

Meanwhile, the business chamber’s Pulso Empresarial gives a good look on how non-politicians assess the economy and the country’s future. The latest survey results come out this week.

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