Liberia Muni Spent Only 8% of Tax Revenue from Daniel Oduber Airport Use

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The municipality of Liberia has completed only two of 18 projects budgeted for the construction and development of tourism infrastructure in the canton, whose funds are generated by a tax on the use of Daniel Oduber International Airport.

The municipality has spent only 8 percent of the total it has received from 2014 to August 2016 – some ₡764 million, or $1.4 million. That’s only ₡63 million ($11,400).

The only two finished improvements are at the old government building, at a cost of ₡53.5 million ($97,000), and a repaired Rural Guard chapel at ₡9 million ($16,000).

To give you an idea of how much money is sitting in municipal coffers, it’s enough to pave approximately 7 kilometers of asphalted road in the canton (calculated by the average cost of a meter of asphalt).

What Are Exit Taxes Used For?

Revenue for these projects is generated by a tax on each passenger leaving national territory. Of the $27 that both nationals and foreigners must pay when they leave Daniel Oduber International Airport, the central government earmarks $3.50 for each province.

Of that $3.50, the Liberian municipality receives $1.33, or about 39 percent, as outlined by Law 9156.

That law also states that these resources can only be spent on the construction and development of tourism infrastructure and restoration of cultural patrimony. It cannot be used to pay salaries or other administrative costs.

In the Liberia municipality’s case, funds were earmarked for buildings that have been declared Costa Rican cultural heritage and for cantonal routes to sites of tourist interest, such as beaches and national parks. In other words, plans exist to spend the money, but those plans haven’t been executed.

Why Not?

Mayor Julio Viales, who is responsible for executing the funds, puts forth two arguments: One, the slow process for contracting projects for patrimonial buildings; the other is his opposition to spending the funds on what originally had been budgeted.

For example, from the outset discussions centered on investing in Calle Real or resurfacing several roads to hotels. But in an interview with The Voice of Guanacaste, the mayor said he blocked spending on the projects because he views them as a “diversion.”

“That’s roadway infrastructure, not tourism. We can’t repair roads with money that doesn’t belong to us,” Viales said.

Regarding projects that have been declared cultural heritage, the mayor said they should comply with technical guidelines established by rules governing restoration of the sites.

“For example, the Guardia bridge (built in the 1950s) must have the same type of paint and the original perlin,” the mayor said.

So while time passes, more than ₡700 million ($1.3 million) sits unused in a municipal account.