State telecom firm hurt by competition

There is another financial crisis coming into public view, that of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

The state telecom company has taken a big hit from private cell telephone competitors.

The loss of customers was predictable, but the state company does not appear to have taken steps to adjust its budget.

Fear that knowledge of the situation would send more customers fleeing is why a legislative discussion of the company’s finances was secret last week.

Perhaps the most endangered of the firm’s subsidiaries is Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the Internet provider.

The contralora general went to a legislative committee Thursday to discuss the finances the firm known as RACSA, which is a subsidiary in the Grupo ICE. But other topics came up.

The contralora general’s agency, the budget watchdog, issued a statement before the noon meeting that it would be private.  The decision by the  Comisión de Ingreso y Gasto to hold a private hearing attracted the interest and suspicions of newspeople.

Naturally there were leaks, and it appears the RACSA is just the tip of the iceberg.

The firm known as ICE has many holdings in power generating, distribution and communications. But like the country that owns it, the firm appears to be generating budget losses, in part due to high salaries.

Employees of the telecom company fought hard against the free trade treaty with the United States that opened the cell telephone market to private competition. The strong association of employees makes effecting major changes difficult for managers.

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