Editorial – The Golden Egg: The Good and Bad of Reinvesting Taxes

Esta publicación también está disponible en: Español

They say that the goose that laid the golden eggs was killed by greed or lack of long-term vision. The canton of Nicoya has that goose, and can decide whether it wants to do the same as in the story or preserve this valuable treasure.

The golden eggs come with tourism in the coastal areas of Nosara and Samara. One of the eggs is an increase in property values, with the resulting rise in property taxes collected. But the goose is complaining that she doesn’t get any benefit for the eggs she lays in the municipal coffers. She sees that other communities receive more and asks, “Why is there so little investment in my community and so much in others?” Another question that is brought up delves into an ethical issue – who should benefit from the golden eggs? On one hand there is the argument that the funds should be distributed equitably to benefit the poorest areas, but on the other hand, it is not wise to starve the goose to death.

Distributing revenue in a balanced way, without forgetting and even giving more to communities with the greatest need, is a generous, fair act and in line with the fair treatment policies of Costa Rica, a country oriented towards an egalitarian distribution. An example of that is the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS – Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social), a public health entity that charges its beneficiaries according to how much income they receive. In that way, those who earn less contribute less, and those who earn more contribute more. But upon receiving attention in hospitals and clinics, everyone has the same right to be taken care of. And it is this part in which the municipality is failing. They are not taking care of everyone equally.

Do not misunderstand us; we firmly believe that investing in communities whose income is barely enough to feed future generations, such as the case of Belen de Nosarita, is essential. Education, health care and clean water are not only human rights; investing in them also has positive results for the entire canton. Moreover, by fostering equal opportunity to access better jobs, future generations of Nicoyans will be able to aspire to form part of the middle class, which is currently headed towards extinction. Creating better possibilities to live a good life reduces crime and drug abuse in a subtle yet effective way.

But in addition, the community of Belen de Nosarita has two special features that help it surpass other communities: motivation to grow and a lot of organization (see story here).

In order for the municipal council to approve projects presented by community development associations, they have to be presented in an organized way. The district of Belen has an economy based on agriculture and livestock. The average family income is around 80,000 colones ($160) per month, and residents pay average property taxes of 5,700 colones ($11.40), seven times less than Samara and almost nine times less than Nosara. However, after Nicoya, Belen de Nosarita is the district where the most projects are implemented. Between 2009 and 2012, Belen presented 120 projects. During the same time, Samara presented 50 and Nosara 55. So, it is understandable that they receive more. Also, it sends a clear message to other districts: in order to receive projects in your communities, get well organized and work together.

However, that does not mean that the municipality nor the municipal council should forget or ignore communities that contribute the most. They can help communities with better roads and promised projects that haven’t been delivered, like the home for the elderly in Nosara and the park in Samara. Everyone has the right to receive. For everyone means FOR EVERYONE, without discriminating between rich and poor, Costa Rican or foreigner, from Nosara or Nicoya, businessman or farmer.

Exploiting the goose that lays the golden eggs is only going to exhaust her. Taking more and more taxes from those who give the most is not smart. It only creates frustration and evasion, even leading to the death of the goose.