Animal health agency defends purpose of new tax

The nation’s animal health agency acted swiftly Friday to put a positive spin on a new arrival and exit tax that had quietly become law.

The Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal called what it characterized as an emergency press conference after the Spanish-language La Nación and A.M. Costa Rica revealed the existence of the new tax

Unlike most taxes, this one was not passed by the legislature. The tax is being imposed by means of a presidential decree.

The animal health agency said Friday that the new levy is expected to raise about $4.5 million from travelers.

The agency, which is part of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería, said in a statement that it needs the money to reduce the probability that an exotic animal disease enters the Costa Rican territory. In case that happens, the agency needs to detect it quickly and take the necessary steps, it added.

The agency confirmed that the tax applies to all who enter or leave the country, not just air passengers.

The money collected will be used to maintain correct quarantine infrastructure and provide equipment such as scanners, it said. The money also will provide maintenance to laboratories 

and modernize equipment to analyze animal samples and animal products and what was called subproducts, it added.

The new acting director of the animal health agency is Alexis Sandi. He was quoted saying that climate change is bringing new challenges
and that the agency had detected in the last year diseases or insects not found here previously. He cited these as Newcastle disease, a poultry virus, and a bee hive beetle, presumably Aethina tumid, an insect whose larvae damages honeycomb.

Sandí confirmed that the decree, No. 39600-MAG, showed up in the La Gaceta official newspaper May 25. He said that the agency still is working with the Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago to arrange collecting. The bank collects similar taxes.

Sandí also tried to differentiate the levy from a general tax. He said the money specifically is to provide quarantine services for individuals, and suspicious packages and baggage that is entering the country.

That technicality seems to be how central government officials are explaining why a decree established the tax instead of the normal legislative route.

Casa Presidential usually does not keep copies of presidential decrees on its Web site. Usually they are not announced but just show up in the official newspaper.

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