Solís staffer promises economic fix this Sunday

An optimistic presidential spokesman promised Wednesday that his boss will unveil a plan Sunday to give the economy a push.

The spokesman is Sergio Alfaro, who holds the title of minister of the Presidencia. He also said he was confident that the security ministry would begin actions to control shootouts between drug gangs, according to a summary of  his comments at a press conference.

The minister gave no details on the plan by President Luis Guillermo Solís, but he contended that the economy already is growing based on statistics he did not detail.

The president will be speaking on the brief Sunday night television spot called the Cadena Nacional. That usually is aired at 7 p.m.

In addition, after the brief television appearance, Solís will speak to reporters Monday to expand on his economic plan, said the minister.

Alfaro said he hoped that private business would interpret the president’s proposals as signs that the economy is continuing to grow.

Many business operators have adopted a wait-and-see approach as they expect new taxes to be levied. They are waiting to see what form the taxes will take. The president has proposed a value-added tax that would begin at 14 percent and move in a year to 15 percent. The tax would have much greater coverage than the current 13 percent sales tax.

Expats are concerned by suggestions that their foreign income would be taxed at 15 percent when they withdraw money from automatic tellers, although that may be a misinterpretation of the proposed legislation.

Regardless of the president’s proposal, the legislature may make vast changes. The tax is needed because the central government has overspent its income for years, mostly on social programs and salaries.

The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos estimates that unemployment in Costa Rica is 10.9 percent as of  June.

Alfaro also had words for the thousands of public employees who are planning a general strike Friday. They fear that their salaries will be reduced to help cover the deficit.

Alfaro repeated the president’s promise to keep the doors open for dialogue. The unions have not yet taken the president up on his offer.

The minister said that the main reason for the general strike is fear that public employees are being blamed for the deficit. Nearly half the annual governmental budget is borrowed money.

Murders have been in the news after a holiday weekend with many more killings than the average. Alfaro blamed the increase in crime as being motivated by confrontations between drug gangs, the standard explanation.  Some 202 of the murders up until August this year are related to drug gangs, the security minister, Gustavo Mata Vega, said Tuesday.

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