SAN JOSE — Costa Rica-China cooperation has transformed into concrete projects in the Central American nation, President Luis Guillermo Solis has said.
The projects, which have been completed or are underway, have been cited by the president to underscore the benefits of Costa Rica’s cooperation with China in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Costa Rica’s new 35,000-seat National Stadium project is a case in point, said Solis.
Described by the San Jose-based English-language daily The Tico Times as the first modern sport and event arena to be built in Central America, “The $100 million stadium was wholly financed by China, and inaugurated in 2011.”
Among the projects are what Solis hailed as the “best” police academy in Central America, as well as a “first world” highway linking San Jose with the country’s Caribbean coast.
“There have been many other contributions in the area of economy and culture that China has made since the two countries established diplomatic relations,” said Solis.
In the lead up to the 10th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Costa Rica and China, to be celebrated in 2017, Solis assessed the relations as being “very positive.”
One of the emblematic projects Solis’ government has been most eager to develop in conjunction with China is the creation of special economic zones.
Ties with China, he said, have helped strengthen Costa Rica’s economic structures and social well-being, particularly through infrastructure building.
“That’s where China has a lot of experience,” said Solis. “Within a few months we will begin the construction of Route 32, which will be one of the most important roadways Costa Rica has ever built toward the Caribbean.”
The project is set to improve connectivity with Costa Rica’s main port.
“The route, along with highway 257 that accompanies it, is perhaps the project with the highest priority and the one we believe will be the most enduring in Costa Rica-China ties, in terms of its effect on the country’s economy and development,” said Solis.
“I am certain we will be able to develop other infrastructure projects in the future.”
However, he noted that Costa Rican bureaucracy, or its “historic logjam” in approving or processing permits and other paperworks for projects, has hampered more fruitful cooperation with China.
As to the ecological impact of the potential projects, Solis said both China and Costa Rica have increasingly prioritized environmental sustainability, and both have rich experience in renewable energy production through hydro and geothermal power.
Costa Rica, he added, has pledged to become a “carbon neutral” economy by 2021, a goal China could help the country to meet if a proposed electric rail project gets the green light.
Two areas where Solis would like to see greater cooperation are investment and tourism.
The two countries have signed a double taxation agreement to promote investment, the president said.
While tourism provides a great opportunity to generate foreign income, Solis said the country needs to overcome barriers, such as long distance, lack of direct flights and lack of knowledge of the Chinese language in the country, to attract more Chinese tourists.
The president said he would continue to strengthen ties between China and Latin America as a whole, as he did when Costa Rica served as president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
“I will continue to do everything I can to expand ties,” he said.