Lawmakers and Limón group press for two Chinese loans

Some lawmakers really are pushing for approval of twin loans that will provide the funds for a Chinese company to begin widening Ruta 32 more than 100 kilometers from Limón to Río Frio.

Meanwhile some residents of Limón engaged in a march to the capital to press the case for the $465 million job.

Elibeth Venegas of Partido Liberación Nacional and other lawmakers held a press conference Tuesday to characterize the project as a necessity. She was accompanied by members of what is called the  Fuerza Caribe, an organization from the Caribbean coast.

The measure, which is approval for two loans, has been reported out of committee and now is in the hands of the full legislature.

The principal opponent is Manrique Oviedo Guzmán, a legislator of the Partido Acción Ciudadana. He has said that the price the country was ready to pay for the highway job was $165 million too high. He based his comments on a Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo estimate provided by a private firm. The lawmaker has raised the issue repeatedly.

The deal is unusual because there has been no engineering work. The job consists of making the two-lane highway four lanes and also building a number of overpasses.

China Harbour Engineering Co. Group and China Road and Bridge Corp. already have been picked for the job, but the legislature must approve the loans.

The Export–Import Bank of China would make two loans, one for $100 million and one for $296 million. Costa Rica is putting up $90 million, including an extra $20 million for expropriating property and relocating public services.

The larger loan would be at 4 percent interest, and the smaller one at 2 percent.

Other lawmakers object because the ruling contract is in Chinese and the project is covered by Chinese law even though the job is in Costa Rica. The loans are denominated in Chinese currency, which may face exchange rate problems in the future.

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