Costa Rica and the impossibility of doing business

For all of you who think that living in a surfing paradise is easy.

This past week was especially difficult for us who depend on simple things like water, electricity, roads and internet.    The weather has been sunny all week, and the only saving grace is that I have a Blackberry on the Costa Rican 3G Network.  Although, the actual speed of the 3G here reminds me of AOL dial-up circa 1998.

I think that Friday really summed things up with an email from AYA, the government run water monopoly who at least had the courtesy to send out an email for those of us who opted in.  It was as follows:

DEAR CUSTOMERS, We have problems in transportation lines and the network of water supply. This is because the repairs to the streets of Tamarindo, which take place at this time. For this reason and to repair existing damages will be suspended water service.  We have no definitive time to finish our repairs. We can not estimate a time to return to provide water service. We apologize for the inconveniences it may cause you.

Thank God we have a two huge water tanks buried under the garden, which means we can enjoy long showers and washing our cars for at least two weeks while the rest of Tamarindo bathes in the Pacific.

We lost power a few times this week.  It’s kind of expected in the rainy season, but during the sunniest weather we have had in months?  Perhaps the government subsidized monopoly  gave it’s employees a day off at the beach?  In reality, tourism season has started and the air conditioners probably drew too much load off the grid and the electricity company was unprepared.  It’s not like we have had tourists here before, right?

And on that note, the main highway called the Inter American Norte has been shut down for parts of last week.  This is the only route for commerce to move from the ports or from our neighbors to the north.  I guess that closures like this account for such a low GDP as you need to be able to transport good to sell them at market.  Funny concept I know.

And finally, the internet.  Also run by a government monopoly, we have had problems at the house for the past two months and have had countless technicians visit and try to determine the problem.  They tell me that for some strange reason there is not enough bandwidth coming up the hill to my house.  They can’t seem to figure it out, even after having 6 workers here on Wednesday for 5 hours.

I told them the problem.  Someone has parked a server in town and is eating up all the bandwidth so they need to (a) find the server and put him on a dedicated server or (b) increase throughput on the cable lines.

They assured me that I knew not what I was talking about and that it didn’t matter how many people were on the internet at the same time because bandwidth can’t get used up and slow up download/upload speed.

No, I am not kidding.

And then on Thursday, most of the country lost internet for about 40 hours.  No explanation.  No apology.  And no discount on the bill for sure.

25% of the people in the country who are employed work for the government or a monopoly, and this has led to an attitude of ineptness among the same.  They get paid no matter what and have a union that is so strong that the President would not have been elected without their support.  Next month,  all employees of Costa Rica must be paid a full month’s wages as a bonus as mandated by law.  Plus, they all get about 2 weeks off.

Is it no wonder that the country is close to being bankrupt?

I guess my overall point is to let people who think that they can carry out a remote business like I do, is that it is next to impossible.   I have to start a company in the New Year, and if this country had a dependable infrastructure, I could stay here and employee Costa Ricans.  As it turns out, I am moving to Canada where they have competition and people who care about your effectiveness to create wealth and contribute to the country’s GNP.

November 20th, 2010  in Uncategorized No Comments »

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