SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) -- Facing the greatest wave of criticism
since taking office in May, Costa Rican President Miguel Angel
Rodriguez has begun the new year defending his 155 percent pay raise.
The raise, which the president ordered for himself, has unleashed a storm
criticism from unions and opponents of Rodriguez's conservative
The dispute also has pulled attention from Rodriguez's efforts to revitalize
ailing Costa Rican economy, which over the past decade has seen weak
growth, double-digit inflation and a poverty rate that encompasses 20
percent of Costa Ricans.
Rodriguez's administration is counting on wide support for privatizing
telephone and insurance monopolies by 2002 and for other economic
reforms the legislature is now considering.
Economic recovery also depends much on unpopular austerity measures
such as public spending cuts and increasing income from taxes.
Government 'doublespeak' criticized
Alicia Fournier, head of the opposition National Liberation Party legislative
bloc, attacked the president's raise as proof of the "doublespeak of the
government that asks with great pomp for austerity and sacrifice by the
Details of the raise have turned into a daily source of criticism of Rodriguez,
who began earning a monthly salary equivalent to nearly $23,000 at the start
of the year. It is Rodriguez's second raise since assuming the presidency.
The first increased his monthly income from $6,000 to $8,600.
In comparison, private sector workers receive an annual salary adjustment
of 6.5 percent, and those in the public work force get 5.9 percent hikes. The
average Costa Rican professional earns the equivalent of about $1,000 a
To worsen matters, Rodriguez's raise was approved "almost under the table"
during the December holidays when there was little public attention on the
government, according to Albino Vargas, secretary-general of the National
Association of Public Employees.
Rodriguez has defended himself, saying that he never hid his intention
the presidential salary -- which he notes had been nearly stagnant since
"Everything that has been said are political positions. With that, I don't
involved," he said.
Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.