Lawmakers give initial OK to bill easing tourism debt

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved Thursday on first reading a plan to provide financially distressed tourism operations up to $175,000 each in a low-interest loan.

The proposal will be financed by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and the Sistema de Banca para el Desarrollo. The interest rate will be 2 percent.

Small and medium tourism operations are eligible to apply to refinance up to a third of their outstanding debt.

The measure is in response to the 2008-2009 economic downturn that had a disproportional impact on tourism operations, many of them in rural areas.

The legislative vote was 42 to 3, indicating that the measure will receive final passage when it again is on the agenda next week. This is bill No. 19.650. The amount that would be allocated for the loans is stated to be $13.5 million.

Lawmakers estimated that the income for some 5,000 families receive direct or indirect income from tourism operations.

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