Legal But Improper Appropiation

Using its corporate power and taking advantage of the power vacuum that is afflicting the State, a public university in Costa Rica is paying first world salaries, exacerbating the inequality that exists between Costa Ricans and severely distorting the labor market.

Friday, March 11, 2016

EDITORIAL

The degeneration of democracy which is happening in a lot of Latin American countries has Costa Rica as an example, a country which historically used to be a shining example of the best way to live in society.

Currently too many state institutions unlawfully hold power in this country, taking away the meaning of the democratic concept of "a form of social organization that attributes the ownership of power to the whole of society". Even the right to vote becomes an inane exercise, because those elected by the ballot have no real power, shackled hand and foot by a web of constitutional norms, laws, decrees, regulations, and other provisions, generated precisely by and for the benefit of state officials.

The protection of the "rights" of state officials is effective, absolutely effective. It seems that some Costa Rican public officials -before being efficient in their functions- learn first of all how to assert their rights in order to receive a higher salary every year, how to take advantage of benefits when they get sick, how to take vacations, attend training sessions, neglect their duties to go for coffee, and even committing crimes without being being caught by the long arm of the law, because that arm is the one that is the most tied up by the hellish tangle of rules aimed at protecting them.

It does not matter that such acts by state officials are examples of unethical behaviour, since in 99% of cases the excuse is "it is not right, but it is legal." And for the remaining one percent, the punishment never falls on the offender, who is protected in a thousand ways by blocks of any judicial or administrative decision issued against them.

The publication by deputy Otto Guevara of the salaries paid to officials of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), illuminates this truth of appropriation - legal but not right - of money collected from the Costa Rican society. Four "Preschool Education Assistants" earned respectively in September 2015 salaries of $4,700 (four thousand seven hundred dollars), $3,600 (three thousand six hundred dollars), $3,300 (three thousand three hundred dollars) and $2,640 (two thousand six hundred and forty dollars).

Check the listings of wages at the UCR. Choose any of the months (January to September 2015). Compare the salaries with those in the private sector. Discover for yourself other examples of this pillaging of society, which constitutes not only a grave injustice to those who can not access that 'piñata' (in Costa Rica the percentage of population in poverty is over 20% of the total), but a slap in the face for those who partake in productive activities - employers and employees- to earn their livelihood. And wages of that level - not directly related to productivity- have a negative impact on the labor market by reducing competitiveness of the actual production generated by private enterprise.

This is not just happening in the UCR. Unconscionable salaries that are totally unconnected with the productivity of those who earn them are being paid in many Costa Rican state institutions, but it is much worse that this is happening in academia, at a state university, which is assumed to be the last refuge of the reasonability and protection of the concepts of justice that should govern in a democracy, and basically, of intellectual honesty.

First world wages paid in too many Costa Rican institutions are a serious obstacle to the country´s economic development, and what is more serious, it constitutes a grave social injustice, contributing to the degradation of democratic life.

See: Wages at the University of Costa Rica



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