Crisis opportunities may invite corruption

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding the piece, “The opportunity in commercial crisis is frequently overlooked,” sometimes matters are more complex than they seem.

There are other ways to look at all this. Firstly, the noble art of disrupting wealth creation and citizens going about their normal lives might pay off. It is practiced effectively by taxi blockades and demonstrations in Costa Rica. French truckers, farmers and factory workers excel at such disruption. They often preserve their livelihoods and state subsidies for many years by doing so. Of course, in the long term they cannot do so, but as Mr. Keynes said, “In the long term, we are all dead.”

In the UK, the Luddites slowed the deployment of job by destroying textile machinery during the industrial revolution. They smashed the equipment and blamed the followers of the imaginary King Ludd.  Disrupting new technologies allows continued employment, at least in the short term.

In the case of our taxi drivers, yes they could indeed invest in technology or advertising, or less riskily, simply become Uber drivers. Their case is that they have to meet standards and buy their badges. Uber drivers do not. That is unfair, irrespective of technology.

From a broader perspective, there are many changes in technology and commercial crises that offer opportunities to corrupt officials and the well connected in our societies. We observe that lavish subsidies and concessions are handed out in the U.S., Costa Rica and elsewhere on the basis of crises, such as: national security threats, climate change, energy or water shortages, transportation congestion or unemployment. In most countries, legislators with personal or supporters’ interests seem to win the most benefits and opportunities.

Some of the crises of climate are being used to create opportunities that make no sense. Last weekend, I visited the Nicoya and heard that some local business people want to revive the drought stricken economy by such water-consuming projects as growing organic crops, attracting new immigrants for housing projects and building sustainable tourism. Government and international donations and subsidies are welcomed. Attracting more people to visit or stay in a drought area does not seem likely to improve matters, except for the promoters bank balances.
Aaron Aalborg

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