What the country needs is a balanced budget amendment

A drunken sailor in port on leave has a more stable financial situation than Costa Rica.

The central government is spending about twice as much as it brings in. Now the finance ministry is setting up roundtables so that the public can have a chance to comment.

Few of the public will attend, and the sessions will be dominated by special interests. After all, how many citizens can talk intelligently on national fiscal policy and national debt?

There is no secret to solving the governments problem. Officials must spend less, reduce the state workforce and encourage private enterprise. Unfortunately, just like in Washington, these are not words politicians want to hear. They want to continue handing out somebody else’s money to get votes.

What Costa Rica and the United States need are balanced budget amendments. The amendment should say that spending cannot exceed income. Some U.S. states have this, and the state lawmakers know that if they fail they could face criminal charges.

That is not what the various special interest want. There are so many boards, panels and such that probably even Edgar Ayales, the minister, knows where the money is going.

We have said in the past that every colon spent should be listed in a Web site with the name of the recipient and the reason for the expense. That is called transparency, which is esteemed more in principal than practice. The technology to do this is here now with the Internet.

In the short-run Costa Rica (and the United States) have some hard decisions. They must divest unneeded government property. What ever happened to the inventory of state-owned property that was ordered here three years ago?

Consider how many mostly empty pretty buildings the Costa Rica government owns. And they keep buying and fixing up more.

Many politicians pay lip service to the phrase that those who have more should pay more. That is a justification for progressive taxation. Why is this true? We suspect that these politicians have been hanging around Europe too long where the socialist states are in full bloom.

How about some of these measures:

• Require every patient who visits the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social for medical care, hospital or clinic, to pay 1,000 colons, about $2.

• Revisit the nation’s environmental policy and consider again the benefits of gold, oil and natural gas production.

• Get that dry canal running from Limón to Caldera on the national rail line. Unload ships in Limón and put the cargo on another boat in Caldera. This is cheaper than going through the Panamá Canal.

• Eliminate aguinaldos, the Christmas bonus, from part-time board positions and other administrative posts that are not real jobs.

• Do a complete inventory of state-owned vehicles to see which are necessary. Too many officials are being driven to lunch in state vehicles.

• Mandate that any new spending bills here or in Washington to include a statement as to from where the money is coming.

• Give corrupt politicians real prison sentences instead of a couple of years suspended.

• Reduce the number of ministries as well as the number of employees. Does Costa Rica really need a sports ministry?

• Consider some sting operations as a reader suggested Thursday to catch evaders.

• Eliminate the dedicated taxes that tie the hands of central government budget writers

We wonder how many of these obvious actions will show up in the final proposed tax laws the finance ministry comes up with.

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