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Everything posted by induna

  1. One of the things I really like about living in the boonies is the total lack of anything approaching a "big box" store or a mall. I don't even know where the nearest Walmart is, but it is certainly several hours away. Heck, the closest Maxi-Palí is in Rio Claro, which is an hour away, and that's also the nearest the traffic light. To each his own. If I really need to shop for something I can't find in town, I go to Paso Canoas, which is about the polar opposite of Multi Plaza Escazú, but it is always an adventure. I wish the Alajualenses good luck with their new mall, and I'm glad I'm not there.
  2. This website is using a self-signed SSL certificate. Since the certificate is not issued by a publicly recognized certificate authority like Verisign, which costs money, your browsers will warn you that the certificate is not trusted, or some such (they tend to dumb-down the error messages now-a-days). The site is almost certainly safe. It is unclear to me why the State Department feels it is necessary to encrypt such a site since it contains no personal or confidential information.
  3. OK, I guess I'm in a pedantic mood today so I'm going to try to provide a little context to help understand why the Colón is valued as it is against the Dollar, and why the central bank of Costa Rica (BCCR) has the policies it does. It is not my purpose or intent to make any value judgements nor to further an ideological agenda. I merely want to try to communicate the facts, as I understand them, as concisely as I can. Recent History Not long before the most recent financial crisis in the US, Costa Rica switched from a system of mini-devaluations in which the Colón was devalued with respect to the Dollar everyday, to a system of Bandas Cambiarias (Exchange Bands) in which the Colón was allowed to float between a pre-set lower and upper limit. The lower limit was 500 and the upper limit increased slightly everyday. (Note that the BCCR uses the rate on MONEX to determine the value of the Colón.) I believe the exchange rate nearly reached 600 before the crisis hit. From 2008 until January-Februrary 2014, the exhange rate was pegged at the lower band of 500, and the BCCR was forced to make frequent interventions by buying large amounts of Dollars, thus reducing the supply of the Dollars in the CR economy and increasing their price. If the bank had not intervened, it is quite possible that the Dollar would have sunk to 400, or even lower, which would have been disastrous for the export sector of CR. The primary reason for the weakness of the Dollar in CR was because the US Federal Reserve maintained a policy of aggressively devaluing the Dollar and basically giving money free to US banks. This kept interest rates in the US very low making Dollars cheap for everybody and making foreign currencies offering higher interest rate, like the Colón more and more attractive. The combination of low interest rates in dollars and high interest rates colones encouraged a significant influx of dollars into the CR economy from two major sources: 1. foreign investors attracted to higher interest rates, and 2. Ticos borrowing money in dollars to buy homes and cars since the interest was much lower and the Colón so stable at 500. The BCCR took several steps to reduce the potentially destabilizing influx of dollars through these channels, by both placing an absolute limit on the amount of money banks were allowed to loan in dollars to people whose income was in colones, and by implementing a tax on short-term, non-resident capital investments. During the same period the CR government was facing ever increasing deficits. If these deficits were financed by CR banks, it would inevitably lead to a drastic increase in interest rates as the central government began to compete with private business and individuals for colones to borrow. Tis would force the BCCR to print more money, leading to high inflation, etc., ad nauseum. So, under the Chincilla administration the general assembly passed a law allowing the government to issue $1 billion in bonds each year for four years to finance the debt. Although these bonds were called 'eurobonos', they were in fact issued and paid dollars. The Eurobonos worked very well (2015 is the last year for them). Inflation has been kept relatively low - less than 5% for three years and this year probably less than 2% - and interest rates in colones have been stable and reasonable. However, the downside of the bonds is that they significantly increased the supply of dollars in the CR, putting further negative pressure on the exchange rate and strengthening the Colón. 2014 to Today In early 2014 there was a sudden, unexpected change in the exchange rate of about 15% with the Dollar reaching over 570 colones for a brief period. This effectively ended system of Exchange Bands, as the BCCR decided that it need to intervene to contain wild fluctuations in the exchange rate. So CR entered a de facto, and now de jure, system of Administered Floatation in which the Colón has no fixed upper or lower limit, but the BCCR will intervene to damp short-term fluctuations in the exchange rate while allowing the Colón to find its 'natural' level against the Dollar in the medium and long term. Since about April of 2014, the BCCR has been very successful in achieving its goals. The exchange rate has been steady at around 540. It is important to note, however, that the same forces that made the the Colón so strong in 2008 are still in play. The BCCR has had to intervene several times since 2014 to keep the exchange rate from dropping. There is an excess of dollars in the CR economy because the FED is still giving away free money, the local deficit is still being financed in dollars, and the Dollar is still a very attractive currency to borrow for individuals and businesses. Virtually every economist, banker, and politician in CR understands that the Colón is both too strong to be healthy for the export sector, and that, barring another economic catastrophe in the US, the value of the Dollar must and should increase. However, a rapid and substantial increase in the value of the Dollar would have some very bad effects. The major reason for this is that are a large number of individuals and businesses which have outstanding loans in dollars but whose incomes are exclusively in colones. If the Dollar becomes 10% more valuable, their loans become 10% more expensive. The potential consequences are obvious. So the BCCR is playing a waiting game. They are trying to control the amount of debt held in dollars while waiting for the FED to finally raise interest rates, putting what they hope will be a gradual upward pressure on the exchange rate that will allow the Colón to be slowly devalued while not driving those who have loans in dollars into bankruptcy. The Future It is probably inevitable that the exchange will rise in the medium to long term. It should. The question is how much, how fast, and with what consequences. The major problem is the increasing amount of public debt and how to finance it. This is the last time the government has authorized itself to issue bonds. If they have to turn to local financial system to finance the debt in 2016 it will almost certainly raise interest rates in colones significantly and probably make the Colón weaker. It will also almost certainly be inflationary as the BCCR has to increase the money supply. The government has already approached China about assuming some of its debt at favorable rates. What the FED will do, and what and how drastic an effect it will have, are unknown. It is the sleeping tiger. That's how I understand the current situation. The Colón is where it is due to many structural factors both internal and external to the CR economy. It is not being propped up, quite the opposite. The government and financial sectors do not want a strong Colón since it puts CR at a competitive disadvantage. President Solis' current statements on the exchange rate were made in the context of a debate brought up recently by the general assembly over whether or not the BCCR should actively intervene to significantly devalue the Colón. The have decided not to do that. Factual corrections and additions are always welcome.
  4. I'm with Eleanor on this one. By far the best sources of news are the Spanish language sites. I read La Nación (in print even) most every day, and CRHoy.com is a good, free online source. And there's always Diario Extra if you like gory crime photos. The English language sites are heavily filtered for stories 'of interest to expats' and are often biased by the ideological divisions currently fashionable in the USA which have little relevance in Costa Rica.
  5. OK, I couldn't read all of that. It was just too all over the place for me. However, I would just like to make one factual observation with respect to the value of the Colón. Virtually all of the central bank's interventions have been to prop up the value of the dollar, not the Colón. Without intervention the tipo de cambio would be lower than it is now, not higher. There are many structural reasons for the Colón being too strong, but the central bank's policies are not one of them. Here is a link to an article from last week's La Nación about this issue: http://www.nacion.com/economia/banco-central/Central-programa-reservas-atajar-dolar_0_1514048604.html. (I know that La Nación is now a pay portal, but everyone is suppossed to get 12 free articles a month.)
  6. If you use a deadly weapon, an arrow, against someone who does not represent an immediate threat, e.g. who is running away, you are certainly guilty of a crime in CR, and in many other countries, including many US states.
  7. Paul, It's 15 free articles from the website, not 15 free issues of La Nación. Issues of La Nación have not been free online for a couple of years. The website, however, has been. It only required a free account. Now the free accounts are entitled to read only 15 articles each month unless they subscribe for 3.000 colones a month.
  8. Sorry about that. You're supposed to be able to read 15 articles a month for free. I get the paper delivered, so I get access to the website included.
  9. Well, it looks like a first of July protest: http://www.nacion.com/nacional/transportes/Vecinos-Paquera-bloquean-impiden-atraco_0_1497050357.html
  10. As Bob said, the large decrease in exports last year was almost exclusively a product of Intel closing it's manufacturing plant. The rest of the export has had mixed, although generally positive results. If anyone is really interested in what is going on with the economy, the government's actual policies, and the concerns of the private sector, I highly recommend subscribing to La Nación and/or El Financiero. It beats 'the sky is falling' rhetoric.
  11. Paul, Remove this if you will, but I just want to make two statements to clarify my comments. Ron, First of all, I said that the excerpts from the article were 'drivel', not that what you wrote was drivel. If I insulted anyone, it was the author of the article, not you. You solicited comments on the article, and I provided mine. Second, I think it is pretty obvious that my comparison of Costa Rica to pre-WWII Germany and South Africa was decidedly tongue in cheek. It is my recollection that the DIMEX cards now issued by Migración were introduced around 2010. Cédulas de identidad, issued to citizens, do not currently use the same technology.
  12. Ron, Now I am really confused. Why would you ever want to get a Costa Rican cédula? It is a national ID which you are required to carry and to present to any official on demand. Your cédula number is public information and is tied to all of your official transactions with Registro Nacional, Migración, the TSE, etc. In addition to your name, birthdate and picture, your cédula will also include a digitally encoded version of your fingerprints and signature. It is now clear to me that Costa Rica must be exactly like Germany in the mid 30's and South Africa from 1952-1992 because it has a national ID card. OMG. I'm packing as I write this... The excerpts are drivel designed to inspire fear.
  13. Lucy, I think you can see by my tagline where I come down on the whole "expat/immigrants" thing. I prefer immigrant because for me it embodies my intention to assimilate into Costa Rican culture and my commitment to to the country beyond simply being somewhere to hang my dollars until someplace 'better' comes along. The term 'expat' for me has always implied being a consumer of culture more than a participant in it, and someone who identifies themselves by where they used to be rather than where they are. I'm going to leave the issue of the relationship of these two terms with the politics of Race and economic power alone in this forum. I started to write about that issue, but came to realize that the possibilities for misunderstanding and ire in a forum like this were probably grater than any benefit to be gained from the discussion.
  14. As someone who grew up in New Jersey and who lives in Costa Rica I have two comments: It is simply not conceivable that any company anywhere in New Jersey would ever try to minimize the use of crude expressions no matter the language. It's the State that invented FYYFF after all. I am embarrassed to admit that I am utterly unable to live up to my heritage in the use of colorful language in Costa Rican Spanish. Thank you for the intro, although I fear I simply am not moving in the right circles to acquire the proper education. Perhaps going to the local fútbol games in the Liga de Ascenso will help?
  15. I deleted my posts from this thread. I decided that this really isn't the proper medium for me to discuss this issue and I really shouldn't have contributed to this thread at all.
  16. Well, Tingos, you know there's only one way this can end up -- government subsidized pasta!!
  17. And just to be a pain... The DRAE says the following: ojalá. (Del ár. hisp. law šá lláh, si Dios quiere). 1. interj. Denota vivo deseo de que suceda algo. So, what Tingos said
  18. Both the Catholic Church and the State of Costa Rica have publicly stated that Costa Rica should change from an 'estado confesional' to an 'estado laico' -- from a state with the Catholic church as the official religion to a secular state. The current government is strongly behind this. There appears to some minor resistance to the idea, but the major debate seems to be about what position religious organizations in general will have after the change. It will happen. However, since the privileged position of the Catholic Church is defined in the constitution, the constitution will need amending, which requires that a super-majority in two successive assembleas approve the amendment. I believe that the votes also have to separated by at least three years. I would be surprised if the current government did not pass an amendment during its term.
  19. Gayle, That's encouraging. I think I'm going to give it a try on Monday. I plan to bring to bring my best smile and friendliest Spanish. I'll report back.
  20. That's also true. So full disclosure of the monthly costs for our house: Rent $300 (charged and paid in dollars) Electricity 15-17 mil TV Satellite only. Pick your poison. Can be anywhere from $30 to $90+. Internet Kolbi prepago with a 3G router and the 'descarga' plan, 15 mil, but it kinda sucks. (My next challenge is to get ICE WIMAX service with no cédula. The service has been in the house before.) Water, trash pickup, and yard service are included in the rent. There are rentals that are significantly less in this area as well. However they will all be unfurnished, advertised by word-of-mouth, and with Spanish speaking only proprietors. So ,they can take some time to find and patience is a must. We found our house by following the advice frequently given on this board. We came down here and stayed in a B&B and then a short term rental for a couple of weeks. We put the word out and then drove around looking. We finally contacted a very nice guy who had a small sign on the side of the road and who ended up knowing everyone around here. He took about 10 days to find this place, which had just become available. One of our main desires was a nice view, which he delivered in spades. Initially all of our communication was by email in Spanish. None of the properties we saw or have heard of being available here are ever on the Internet. Our experience pretty much supports what has been said on these forums many times with respect to finding a place to live. The only thing I want to emphasize is that, in the very rural areas in particular, the ability to speak some decent Spanish, as well as to read and write it -- email and texts are, obviously, increasingly important -- will save a lot of frustration and may be required. For those planning on moving here, take the time to learn Spanish. Of all the things I did to prepare for our move over six years, learning Spanish (I still have a lot to learn), was the most valuable and important. I can't imagine living here without it.
  21. It's a newish technology that can run the refrigerator's compressor at multiple 'speeds', instead of just on and off. This allows the compressor to run longer at lower levels, which is more efficient. Or so they say. All I can know is that our electric usage is really low -- less than 200kWh a month with an electric stove and dryer -- and the anual energy usage rating on the fridge was just over 300kWh, 50% or more less than similar sized units with the old style compressors.
  22. It was unfurnished for sure. Furnished rentals are next to impossible to find around here, as I imagine they are in most rural areas. (Although our house did have three barstools, one small closet, and a really nice built-in closet in one of the bedrooms.) Since we had nothing more than a car and four suitcases, we did have several busy days buying the things we required. Luckily we are close to Golfito and were able to save quite a bit on the large appliances. Our landlord was also very accommodating and let us move the appliances and furniture in before the lease actually started. Another advantage of this is that we got to buy much more energy efficient appliances than we might otherwise have had. (I swear these new 'inverter' refrigerators use almost no power at all.) In addition, finding the rental required speaking, and reading and writing, Spanish for sure. The two guys we had looking for us, and our landlord, are not English speakers at all. I think that is also to be expected in the more rural areas. The resident Gringos we knew at the time were so well established in their lives that they knew very little about the rental situation, although they were very helpful in other ways. Other than a couple of pretty hectic moments, during which I began to really appreciate and learn from the Tico way of tranquilidad, it has really been a lot of fun. Pura vida.
  23. San Vito de Coto Brus is right next to the Panamá border in the mountains on the west side of the Talamanca range. GAM stands for Gran Área Metropolitana, which is the heavily populated area surrounding, and including the central valley. It extends from Alajuela to Cartago, and some say all the way to Turrialba. Over half the country lives in the GAM. It is a term that is frequently used in the press, by government officials and agencies, and Ticos. Of course you can always just call it all 'Chepe', which is slang for San José, but, at least around here, I think can be translated as "that mess up north"
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