Once a paradise for real estate development, Guanacaste has not yet recovered from the 2008 international financial crisis. Nowadays, it accounts for just a humble percentage of the total construction carried out in the country, and the lack of access to water just worsens the circumstances.
According to data from Cámara Costarricense de la Construcción, the northern province is listed as the second lowest in construction in 2015. Only Limón surpasses its stagnation.
Figures are self explanatory. Last year, 6.9 million squared meters were built all across the country.
San José leads the percentages (33.8)
followed by Alajuela (23.5), Heredia (13.5) and Cartago (8.8). Puntarenas accounted for 7.6 percent, Guanacaste 7.2 and Limón, with only 5.2, according to the Cámara de la Construcción.
According to Jorge Arturo González, president of the chamber, just 10 years ago Guanacaste accounted for 40 percent.
He explained that Guanacaste construction business plummeted right after 2008, as a consequence of the housing crisis in the U.S.
However, the reason the building industry has not gotten back on its feet is the lack of water resources.
“That’s what restrains Guanacaste from further development. We also need new roads to boost the economy in that part of the country, but the main issue is access to water.” he said.
“It does not mean there isn´t enough. What we are lacking is the proper infrastructure to dig new wells and pipes. Some have built their own aqueducts to bring liquid from small wells, while others have invested in desalination plants. However that doesn´t suffice.” he added.
Gonzalez recalled that one of the main questions asked when new permits are requested before the authorities is how many liters per second the project is going to need.
Bureaucracy also takes its toll. Gonzalez said that it may take up to 600 days to obtain the required permissions.
“To me Guanacaste is a rough diamond. It has so much diversity and beauty. Probably Santa Cruz and Golfo de Papagayo are not as hurt by the lack of water, but I’d say the whole province is homogenously damaged,” he said.
Gonzalez said he also perceives a lack of leadership and obstructionism from environmental activists.
“I think we need to change the local culture. People need to understand that these investments will help improve the quality of life in the long term.The province deserves much more.” he added.