The Poor Have No "Acquired Rights"

As unemployment rises and poverty increases, the Costa Rican Minister of Finance has declared "urgent" the payment of bonuses to central government officials.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

EDITORIAL OPINION

If you are an official in the central government of Costa Rica, your bonus this December will average 15.6% higher than 2010. But if you are poor, and most likely also unemployed, the only thing that will increase is the number of your neighbors in the same situation.

The Finance Ministry’s statement is emphatic: paying the bonuses "is an obligation that must be addressed urgently, regardless of the country's fiscal situation." And it's true: the non-payment of bonuses to central government officials could be considered a crime, since it would be a violation of their sacred "vested rights" established through collective agreements and other arrangements for managers and leaders and that can always be called upon to ensure wage increases and other perks.

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC in Spanish) announced that the unemployment rate rose from 7.3% in 2010 to 7.7% this year, while poverty increased from 21.3% to 21.6%, which means there are now 37,000 people in Costa Rica who are poor, and 105,000 people without work.

Maybe it's time to include in the proposed general increase in taxes, currently under consideration in the Legislature, a clause stating that it will review all collective agreements and other rules abuses which give irrevocable power of vested rights to the bureaucracy. Because if you can change the rules for the private sector and remove tax exemptions - or even increase taxes, which amounts to the same thing - why can’t you change the rules so that the central government workers also have to tighten their belts?

Perhaps then the tax bill would deserve the pompous and dishonest name "Solidarity Tax Act."



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