Some modest proposals for cutting the budget

The legislature is considering up to a 5 percent cut in the proposed budget submitted by Casa Presidencial.

Lawmakers know that the borrow-and-spend philosophy that has dominated the nation’s policies for years no longer is sustainable.

The big problem is that the Costa Rican Constitution and certain laws mandate certain expenses that make a big dent in the budget. Debt service of borrowed money is another big item.

The political apparatus has enriched itself at the expense of the people for so long that some say reform is impossible.

Early in the Laura Chinchilla administration officials promised an inventory of state-owned land that is not being used. That was the last heard of this idea, which still is valid.

Here are some other proposals:

1. How about asking public employees to forfeit their aguinaldo this Christmas. There is no reason to lavish a Christmas bonus on public employees when the country is broke.

2. While on the subject of aguinaldos, such payments, if they are made, should be restricted to full-time employees and not for part-time members of boards of directors and other sweet appointive jobs.

3. Officials should pay better attention to the private use of public vehicles. Just count how many ministry cars with yellow and black license plates show up in Walmart and Mas x Menos parking lots. Sometimes the public employee is bold enough to have kids in the car.

4. Speaking of vehicles, why does each legislative deputy rate a fancy sports utility vehicle?

5. And how many limos and drivers are employed at the foreign ministry to take officials to lunch each day. And who is paying for the lunch?

6. The national pastime appears to be running red lights. Traffic police could bring in thousands of dollars a night just by stationing themselves at some key downtown intersections.

6. Do we really need a ministry of sports? There is a shadow ministry now awaiting approval of a bill in the legislature.

7. How many of the existing ministries does the government really need and why do they keep buying buildings?

Note the culture ministry purchased the decrepit Teatro Variedades on Calle 3 downtown last year for nearly $2 million and then chained it up because there was no budget to run it. A block north there is a mansion and a retail outlet that are vacant after being restored.

8. And could the Ministerio de Hacienda, the budget ministry, please turn off the multicolored lights on the headquarters building after hours?

Other ideas from readers would be welcomed:

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