A political debate has stirred Guanacaste pride in recent months. Recovering districts on the peninsula has become an issue of identity, both for Guanacastecans and for residents of Cóbano, Lepanto and Paquera.
Humans have been territorial creatures ever since nomads stopped roaming, so the idea that becoming bigger would trigger emotions for the people of Guanacaste is understandable. But beyond a collective idea of identity, what would we actually gain by expanding the province’s borders?
Our feature story this month sets out to answer that question. What are the political and economic implications of expansion beyond the imaginary ones?
On a political level, it makes sense because legislative seats are assigned based on population, and the biggest gain would be an additional legislative seat for Guanacaste.
In economic terms, however, provinces aren’t very important (which isn’t to say not important at all). Tax revenue is distributed to municipalities, which answer to cantons, and budgets are allotted in the same manner.
Focusing on the legislative seat, it’s uncommon for lawmakers to create commissions based on their representative zones, which happened in the current legislature. In general, political affiliation carries much more weight than regionalism.
In the Guanacaste Legislative Affairs Commission, lawmakers Juan Marín (PLN), Suray Carrillo (FA), Johnny Leiva (PUSC), Marta Arauz (PLN) and Víctor Morales (who is not from the province and is a PAC lawmaker) discuss important issues including the creation of a Guanacaste Public Services Agency, municipal participation in renewable energy production, tax-generating legislation, tourism, water problems and other key issues for the province.
This is all well and good, but what legislation have they actually passed in the last two years? There’s a word in legislative parlance – chayotes – that refers to bills that dole out meritorious distinctions or donate land between government agencies. The last approved piece of legislation we’ve heard about was the declaration of a national day of marimba. That’s nice, but if we’re counting coins, our pockets are still empty.
If a multi-party system and the lack of new legislative rules have hindered lawmakers who actually want to work, the benefits of adding or subtracting a legislative seat become suspect if we see no additional legislation passed. Stirring up provincial pride is good as long as it’s for something that’s worth the effort.