Costa Rica’s long-term strategy to 2050

Mountain landscape with forests in Costa Rica
Digitalised, decarbonised, inclusive and decentralised - this is where Costa Rica’s long-term development is heading. Photo: GIZ Costa Rica

Digitalised, decarbonised, inclusive and decentralised - this is where Costa Rica’s long-term development is heading.

Digitalised, decarbonised and decentralised: these three keywords are the guiding lights for the long-term economic development of Costa Rica as a country. In March, Costa Rica’s government unveiled its long-term strategy (Estrategia Territorial para una Economía Inclusiva y Descarbonizada 2020-2050), which will serve future administrations as a roadmap for turning words into deeds. 

“The strategy will accelerate our country’s territorial development while offering us the chance to create jobs and opportunities, and  work to close existing gaps in social equality. Our vision of Costa Rica in 2050 includes equal opportunities for all citizens in every region of our country, allowing everyone to share in our progress,” emphasised President Carlos Alvarado during the launch event.

Decarbonised …

Paired with the updated NDCs that were published in December 2020, the new long-term strategy enables national goals for decarbonisation and resilience to be applied to topics such as renewable energy sources, biodiversity conservation and the knowledge-based economy. The integrative and decarbonised development model in the long-term strategy therefore accounts for the targets and milestones in the national decarbonisation plan.

The plan envisages integrating decarbonisation into the various planning instruments for land development planning, to contribute to the conservation and expansion of natural carbon sinks. In addition, the strategy also promotes the development of an efficient, sustainable transport system based on renewables. Another key point in the strategy is funding the usage and conservation of maritime natural resources and their ecosystem services, with one approach being public-private alliances in coastal regions (blue economy).

… and inclusive

To date, Costa Rica’s economic activities are centred on its greater metropolitan area (GAM) and capital city of San José. Economic activity currently takes place across only 19 percent of its territory; this area is home to 79 percent of the population and is responsible for 69 percent of the country’s exports.

“This hyper-concentration of economic activity in the GAM has resulted in the rest of the country exhibiting structural deficits in terms of unemployment, poverty, technological innovation and education. A new paradigm for planning is therefore necessary, whose strategies and measures are tailored to each individual region,” explains Olegario Sáenz, Director of the Development Analysis Office at the Ministry of Planning and Economic Policy (MIDEPLAN).

This is  the goal pursued by the 2050 strategy: in future, the initiatives of the public and private sector , as well as social organisations and other actors, should be oriented on supporting those regions with high potential for development and  work to close existing structural gaps. By 2050, the aim is to extend economic activity to 50 percent of the country.

An evidence-based approach

The strategy, commissioned from global consulting firm GeoAdaptive by the Ministry of Planning, is informed by an extensive repository of data and information. Over a 16-month period, a team of experts collected georeferenced data on Costa Rica’s current economic activities, analysed production samples and opportunities in the regions, completed econometric modelling work and identified the requirements for the transition to a 3D economy. In the course of this year, the Ministry of Planning will develop a 2050 National Strategic Plan (PEN 2050) based on this strategy.

A plan for action

At the core of the long-term strategy is the identification of eleven development centres in the country, where activities in production are concentrated and which promote economic growth in the various regions of the country. The aim is to generate an economic stimulus by the application of 50 key measures in the areas of infrastructure and connectivity, human capital, social inclusion, 3D economic development and decarbonisation.

One example of a development centre is Golfito-Golfo Dulce on the southern Pacific coast: while the main sources of income for the local population are currently tourism, agriculture and fishing, the aim is to increase support for forestry and the cement/steel industry while observing the targets set by the decarbonisation plan. Over the next 30 years, this support will enable the region to position itself in the high-tech and biotech sectors with strengths in the knowledge and creativity economies.

Support from international cooperation

The development of the territorial strategy has been supported by the IKI project 'Support of Costa Rica’s carbon neutrality strategy as a model for low carbon development (phase II)', implemented by Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). International partners have also committed to further support for the future implementation of the strategy: over the next five years, the European Union, the United Nations, the BMU and the IDB will provide EUR 17.5 million of funding to the projects as implementation takes place.

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