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Ex-World Bank Economist Wins Costa Rica Presidential Election

Ex-World Bank Economist Wins Costa Rica Presidential Election
Rodrigo Chaves, presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Progress Party, speaks to members of the media outside a polling station during runoff presidential elections in San Jose, Costa Rica, on Sunday, April 3, 2022. In a region dominated by fiery radicals such as El Salvador's Nayib Bukele and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, Costa Rica will choose a very different kind of leader in elections this weekend. Photographer: Ozzie Hoppe/Bloomberg

Former World Bank economist Rodrigo Chaves won Costa Rica’s presidential election after his rival Jose Maria Figueres conceded. 

With 96% of the votes tallied on Sunday, Chaves led with 52.9% to 47.1% for Figueres.

US-educated Chaves promised to boost growth with more foreign investment and higher levels of tourism. He pledged to reduce the government’s fiscal deficit and said he favours a close relationship with the International Monetary Fund. The government signed a $1.8 billion extended fund facility with the multilateral lender last year.

“We need to give investors confidence, the confidence that a doctor in economics is steering the ship,” Chaves, 60, said in a debate before the vote.

Costa Rica’s bonds have returned 1.3% this year versus an average loss of 9.3% across emerging markets, according to data compiled by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

Read More: Even Bill Gates Would Struggle in Costa Rica

Chaves, who earned a Ph.D. in economics from Ohio State University, promised to cut red tape to foster an environment where entrepreneurs can thrive and said he can promote a low interest rate environment to spur investment.

He worked 27 years at the World Bank, becoming country director for Indonesia in 2013. During the campaign, he came under fire over sexual harassment allegations made while he worked at the bank. He denied any wrongdoing and attributed the accusations to misunderstandings caused by cultural differences.

Chaves served six months as Costa Rica’s finance minister under President Carlos Alvarado before stepping down in May 2020 over what he said were differences with Alvarado on spending cuts. Chaves will be sworn in as president on May 8. BM


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