Stories about the president’s budget are boring and very important

A lot of expats must wonder why Spanish-language newspapers and this one write lengthy stories on the president’s budget.

Even for reporters and editors, these are tedious efforts that generate the need for a nap. In addition, the budgets are not easy to write about in language that generates reader interest.

As one Washington politician is reported to have said “What’s a billion dollars one way or the other.”

Times have changed. Budgets used to generate fights over what program should get money. Now the entire future of the country is at stake. President Luis Guillermo Solís has presented a $15.1 billion budget without any significant cuts.

The Spanish-language La Nación printed a blistering editorial Wednesday on the topic. But Solís is doing exactly what presidents who preceded him have done.

They take care of the short-term problems and ignore the long-time impact. After all they are only in office for four years, and both Solís and former president Laura Chinchilla have scant chances of ever being elected again.

Solís is pushing for approval of a value-added tax to replace the current sales tax. Such a tax generally takes in much more money. He also wants higher income tax rates. La Nación noted that even with new taxes, the country’s financial situation will be grim.

Expats can expect to see many more tax band aids, like the luxury home tax and the tax on corporations. They also probably will see more strikes, social unrest and perhaps even an authoritarian regime. That is what happened in Venezuela as the electorate turned to Hugo Chávez, who had all the answers.

Certainly such protest will disrupt tourism. Already there have been marches by teachers and telecom workers who said they were defending their salaries. A general cut of public employee salaries would provoke chaos.

Although there has been grumbling in the legislature, there is a good chance that lawmakers eventually will approve the Solís budget that consists of 46 percent borrowed money. Lawmakers only have a couple of years left to serve.

The situation is complex, and the politics of the situation pretty much tie the president’s hands.  There appears to be no clear way out of the dilemma.

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