- Category: Business
- Published on Tuesday, August 17 2010 09:56
- Written by Rod Hughes
- Hits: 1017
Although one should be cautious accepting the sincerity of politicians' promises, it appears that the Chinchilla Administration is serious about cutting red tape and backing small and medium-sized businesses.
Since President Laura Chinchilla took office, the theme of leveling the playing field for what Tico Times business writer Adam Williams calls "the little guys" has been constantly reiterated by cabinet members.
In late July, while paying a ceremonial visit to the 35-employee Corporacion Robiisa Internacional, the President said, "The values on which small businesses are based have been fundamental in improving this country. In the next few year (they) will make up the essential core that guarantees that Costa Rica continues economic growth, solidarity and sustainable development.
Robiisa is an example of the niche-market business that is stable and, having earned $1.14 million in 2009, medium-sized for this country.It is dedicated solely to making labels for packaging of food and beverages, numbering the milk-producing giant Dos Pinos and the Monteverde cheese factory among its customers.
Founder of the 30-year-old business Humberto Chacon has no grandiose expectations of continued expansion. "We are more concerned with limiting our waste, reducing our use of energy and ensuring that we are an environmentally friendly operation."
Since those are the avowed aims of the President, it was no accident that Chinchilla chose Robiisa to repeat an old campaign promise: She again pledged to make certain the banks had credit available to small and medium businesss--PYMES, as they are known in Latin America. She also promised to make obtaining permits and licenses simpler and faster. adding that technical and educational opportunities for small business employees would be improved.
Two days later, Luis Liberman, her chief economic advisor and Second Vice President, echoed this pledge to to a meeting of retailers and mechants, placing bank credit and removal of bureaucratic obstacles for the country's 925 PYMES at the top of his list. (See previous story on Liberman on this blog.)
Lucy Conejo, chief of the Economy Ministry PYMES program, told The Tico Times she had the same things in mind. Tops on the Ministry six-point list: cut red tape and loosen bank credit. For businessmen like Chacon, such steps are long overdue. He had to mortgage his home to get a national bank loan to fund Robiisa.
As for red tape, "The process of getting something approved here is terrible," he said, "Getting registered for a health permit takes three to four months... something that could be accomplished in one or two hours. It's maddening."
It's even worse for the fast-moving computer products field. Ryan Villalobos of Digital Imports, a computer and electronic component importer, told the newspaper, "We just wait and wait. When when a permit is finally given, sometimes an updated version of the product has already been released. The length of the tramite (paperwork) process makes some of the products useless." Import and export businesses are especially affected.
That two successive National Liberation Party administrations should be paying so much attention to the needs of business is facinating to political observers. For decades, Liberacion Nacional governments were, if not actively hostile to business, insensive to the angusihed cries of businessmen, content to take the public cut in the form of taxes while obstacles mounted.
Yet, despite this neglect, small and medium companies like Robiisa continued not only to survive but many to prosper, a tribute to the resiliency and dedication of Costa Ricans and their foreign counterparts.