Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oscar Arias Sanchez

Oscar Arias Sanchez is the current President of Costa Rica. He first assumed office on May 8, 2006 and is currently serving his second term.

His first term ran from May 8, 1986 and served until May 8, 1990.

The holder of honorary degrees of 50 universities his formal education included time spend studying in the US and UK.

Arias joined the National Liberation Party (PLN), Costa Rica's main social democratic party and in 1986 he ran successfully for president on that party's ticket. The Costa Rican constitution had been amended to include a clause which forbade former presidents seeking reelection. Arias challenged this in the Constitutional Court, which initially rejected his application in September 2000. Arias then used his considerable political connections and, with a majority of members favorable to his cause, succeeded at the second attempt -- April 2003 -- to have the constitution changed. After this change, Arias had paved the way for his second presidency and became the President of Costa Rica in 2006.

President Arias is best known as one of the driving figures bringing peace to the civil war in Nicaragua in the 1980s. For his efforts, Oscar Arias Sanchez received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.

In his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, he said “Peace is not a matter of prizes or of trophies. It is not the product of a victory, nor of a command. It has no borders, no time limits, nothing fixed in the definition of its achievements."

Being showered with fame and praise did not slow down his efforts to promote peace. If anything, it encouraged him to expand his attention from the recovering region of Central America to the entire world. He is actively involved with peace-promoting organizations around the world. He formed the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress. Its goals include the demilitarization of places like Panama and Haiti and the creation of a global de-militarization fund. He strives to get the people of the world to understand security as something not based on the size of your army but on education, jobs, and health.

When asked "If you had one thing that you could say to all the young people of the world, what would it be?"

His inspiring answer is "I think the most important thing for the future generations is to understand that it is necessary to have ideals, to dream, to live a life of principles. It is necessary to understand that the brotherhood is more important than the self. It is necessary to comprehend that the problems of a neighbor in some way affect us, too."

This is the story of Oscar Arias, a man whose actions mirror his words.

7 Life-Changing Financial Decisions U.S. Expats Must Consider to Protect Their Assets and Investments

The many moving parts of an U.S. Expatriate’s financial world must be brought together under one qualified tax and financial advisor. So much more hinges upon the proper application of the additional tax regulations associated with earning income abroad. However, relying on just a tax professional to manage all the moving parts, excludes other critical investment, pension, legal and insurance arenas that need to be taken under consideration. Pulling all these areas together in a do-it-yourself fashion can lead to many costly mistakes. Working together with an experienced financial advocate can help you properly implement the many advantages of living and working overseas.

1. Taxes

It’s important to understand that U.S. Expats are always taxed on world-wide income. Non-U.S. residents may be entitled to certain tax advantages. These advantages fall into three general categories: Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, Foreign Housing Exclusion/Deduction, and Credits for Foreign Income Taxes Paid.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. Most U.S. Expats qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion by meeting the ‘physical presence test’. You are eligible for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion if you are physically present in a foreign country (or countries) for 330 full days during a period of 12 consecutive months. The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion is not automatic -- you must file a U.S. Income Tax Return (IRS Form 2555) in order to receive it. This exclusion can be used by employees and the self-employed as long as they meet the criteria. IRS Report for 2006 shows that approximately 50% of all foreign earned income fell into this category.

Foreign Housing Exclusion/Deduction. Foreign Housing Deduction criteria apply only to the self-employed. For the purposes of this article, we are focused on the Foreign Housing Exclusion provided to employees. Your housing exclusion is the total of your housing expenses for the year, less the base housing amount. The calculation of your base housing amount is dependent upon your Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. The limit is generally 30% of the maximum Foreign Earned Income Exclusion; however, the limit will vary depending upon the location of your foreign tax home. To maximize your Foreign Housing Exclusion, you need to make sure that your Foreign Earned Income Exclusion is correctly calculated.

Credits for Foreign Income Taxes Paid. IRS Form 1116 is used to claim the Foreign Tax Credit. The amount you can claim is the amount of legal and actual tax liability you pay during the year. The mistake that is most often made here is that many foreign fees and excise taxes are not considered foreign income taxes and therefore do not qualify.

See IRS Publication 54 for more details. Please understand that these kinds of computations are beyond the working knowledge of most stateside tax professionals. As you settle into your overseas assignment, make sure you work with a tax professional knowledgeable in expatriate tax.

2. Your Pension

While there may be certain income tax advantages to U.S. Expatriates, one thing that should be very clear is that there is no exclusion for U.S. Social Security taxes. This is the famous mistake made by U.S. Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner. In a nutshell, Mr. Geithner earned consulting income from the World Bank, and while he reported the income and took the Foreign Income Exclusion, he neglected to pay the Social Security taxes on this earned income. An error like this is completely avoidable when working with a qualified tax professional.

In addition to Social Security, U.S. Expats have available to them the same employer pension programs and retirement options that they would have stateside. While these options might be available, they might not have the same tax impact because of the Foreign Income Tax Exclusion. It’s important to have a clear understanding of your tax position before making employee contributions while living abroad.

Of special note, in 2010, Roth IRA contributions will be allowed for all U.S. taxpayers with earned income. In the past, most U.S. Expats have been excluded from this opportunity because their income levels are above the limits for this program. This is a one-year only opportunity to contribute to a Roth IRA. Everyone should be discussing with their financial advisor the best way to participate in this opportunity next year.

3. Offshore Bank Accounts

It’s quite appropriate for U.S. Expats to open up bank accounts overseas. Many may wish to have accounts in U.S. dollars as well as in foreign currencies. Two important considerations need to be made when opening up bank accounts overseas: all earnings from these accounts are reportable and taxable on your U.S. Income Tax Return and a separate filing to the U.S. Treasury must be made by June 30th of each year. (Treasury Form TD.90-22.1)

4. Investments

Since there is no tax advantage for earning interest and dividends overseas, most U.S. Expats keep the bulk of their investments stateside. It is not unusual, however, for U.S. Expats to own rental real estate or have other business interests abroad. While this is a very complex topic, generally rents from real estate operations and earnings from foreign businesses with no operational ties to the U.S. can defer taxes on profits until the money is brought back into the United States. This issue is currently under significant scrutiny by the Obama administration, with the expectation of significant revisions to be made.

5. Insurance Protection

Most Expat employees have life and health insurance through their employers. If you are self-employed, or a contract-employee that does not have these benefits, then you will want to make sure you have proper life, health and disability coverage before you leave the states. The most critical of the three tends to be health insurance coverage. I strongly recommend buying an international health insurance policy that allows you the option to use local (foreign) hospitals or return to the U.S. for treatment. Some policy features will also cover your return home. The cost of these policies can be very reasonable, and sometimes substantially less than health coverage at home.

The amount of coverage needed for Life and Disability policies vary substantially from family to family. I recommend a thorough review of your unique situation with a qualified financial advisor that can calculate for you the best coverage for your family.

6. Estate Planning

Over the years, I’ve worked with dozens of estate planning attorneys throughout the United States. The one thing that has been abundantly clear to me is that American expatriates should have a living trust in place to manage their estate issues. A living trust assists in managing monetary issues as well custodianships for minor children and any other issues and assets that need to be administrated. It is customary for individual wills and medical powers of attorney to be executed when a living trust is established. It’s critical for an American Expat to have all of these legal documents in place before living and working abroad.

7. Returning Home

There is nothing special that Expats need to do when returning home except to make sure that they have spent 330 days of the past consecutive 12 months overseas. Spending time abroad usually requires significant financial organization while you’re away. When you return home, continue to work with a qualified professional you can trust to handle your tax and financial issues over a lifetime. It is likely that you will return to an overseas assignment, so when you do, make sure you have that financial advocate in place.

Build a relationship with a qualified financial advocate that can be with you and your family for the next twenty years, guiding you through the complexities of your overseas or stateside employments. Work with someone you can trust to know you and your family’s unique needs, one that will bring your financial world together in a way that makes managing it simple and sensible, no matter where you may live.

These kinds of conversations are all part of our overall services to our clients at NCH Wealth Advisors. Please contact our office if you have any questions: 714-459-7020. We are happy to help provide the direction you need.Please feel free to pass this along to anyone you think might benefit from this information. We appreciate all referrals.


All Securities through Money Concepts Capital Corp. Member FINRA/SIPC 11440 N Jog Rd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 Tel: (561) 472-2000NCH Wealth Advisors and Money Concepts are not affiliated.


Nick Hodges, President of NCH Wealth Advisors, provides US expatriates with the best tools, strategies and planning techniques to help expats manage their tax and financial goals and dreams on a day-to-day basis regardless of their location. To claim your free gift, ExPat Life Portfolio Kit, visit his site at

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Planning an Investment in Costa Rica?

If you are planning an investment in Costa Rica, the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency has an excellent website, which is a rich source of information on:

  • Costa Rica

  • Investing In Costa Rica

  • Various Business Sectors Operating in Costa Rica

  • A Directory of Service Providers in Costa Rica

In addition they have created the video presentation below:

Carbon Neutrality by 2021 - an Achievable goal?

A small, but growing, number of countries are racing to become "carbon neutral" by reducing or offsetting their emissions of greenhouse gases. These greenhouse gases are major contributors to global warming. Roberto Dobles, the minister of environment and energy for Costa Rica, calls the race to Carbon Neutrality the "carbon-neutral World Cup." Amongst the runners in this important race Costa Rica is the hot favorite.

"Here's the big goal, which I am personally declaring for the first time tonight. By 2021, Costa Rica's 200th birthday, we will be a carbon neutral country," President Oscar Arias said. So Costa Rica is serious this time but how realistic is this lofty goal?

Well, Costa Rica is an international leader on green issues, with protected areas like national parks and biological reserves covering more than a quarter of its territory. Renewable energy powers 95 percent of country’s requirements. This energy air-conditions resort hotels, charges golf carts, powers cable pulleys through the rain forest canopy, and bakes chips at the local Intel assembly plant. Costa Rica’s energy mix is led by 75–80% hydropower , 12% geothermal, 12% wind power and 3%–5% non renewable oil. The workhorse hydro is a mix of storage and run of river, with storage accounting for about 50% of the 2,000 MW installed capacity.

Costa Rica is working hard in developing its geothermal power and of course the country is blessed with many geothermal power advantages. In In Costa Rica’s case, high temperature wells (150 to 400 degrees Celsius) are used, but there are also medium and low temperature wells. Endowed with fantastic natural resources for geothermal power, the governmental Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) has dedicated significant resources to the further development of geothermal power. There are two geothermal plants scheduled to become operational in 2011. Geothermal power has the advantages of cost and of course it is not weather dependant.

Costa Rica also has worked hard to maintain its rightly deserved reputation as an eco-friendly tourist destination and this approach has paid off, with tourism, especially eco-tourism, accounting for almost 10% of 2007 GDP and more than 13% of total employment. Tourism is a greater contributor to the country’s GDP than for virtually any other country in the region.

The buzzword in Costa Rica is sustainable development and this is being undertaken at all levels and the concept has increasingly entered the consciousness of the average Costa Rican citizen. For many Costa Ricans however, it is not just an abstract concept but a matter of survival as input costs increase, natural resources diminish and the soil loses fertility or is washed away.

Costa Rica carbon neutral by 2021, a lofty goal but certainly achievable.

Friday, July 17, 2009

San Jose - Costa Rica's Capital

Costa Rica, translates literally as "Rich Coast" and the heart of this Rich Coast is where? Well, it’s San José.

San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. Located in the Central Valley, San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of this Central American nation.

This is a modern city with bustling commerce, brisk expressions of art and architecture, and as a result of the country's US$1.9 billion tourism industry it is a significant destination and stopover for foreign visitors.

On first sight, San José seems little more than a chaotic jumble of cars, buses, buildings, and people. The central downtown section of San José exists in a near-constant state of gridlock. Antiquated buses spewing diesel fumes , sidewalks are poorly maintained and claustrophobic, and street crime can be a problem in some areas. Many visitors quickly seek the sanctuary of their hotel room and the first chance to escape the city.

But San José is the country's only major metropolitan city, with varied and active restaurant and nightlife scenes, several museums and galleries worth visiting, and a steady stream of theater, concerts, and other cultural events that you won't find elsewhere in the country. Most people do still fly in and out of the country's capital. Sprawling smack in the middle of the fertile Valle Central, San José has a spectacular setting, ringed by the jagged silhouettes of soaring mountains – some of them volcanoes – on all sides. The city lies at a mean elevation of 1,161 m above sea level, and enjoys a stable climate throughout the year, with an average temperature of 23C. The scenery here is quite beautiful.

So what is there to do?

You can see Museo Oro Precolombino (The Gold Museum), under Plaza de la Cultura. The collection here consists of 1600 pieces of Pre-Columbian gold work dating from 500 AD to 1500 AD. Information is given on the processing and making of the pieces as well as their social, cultural and religious meanings.

Other famous museums are Museo del Jade (The jade museum), Museo de los Niños (The children's museum) and Museo Nacional which includes a large butterfly garden and a collection of large stone spheres from the Diquis Valley near the Pacific Ocean.
There are a range of international restaurants from Indian, to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern to local Costa Rican (yes Ticos eat more than rice and beans!)

And when you leave Costa Rica, of course you'll need a souvenier. San José was built on the profits of the coffee-export business. The best Costa Rican coffees have deserved reputations for superb quality. Super markets/grocers and small coffee growers usually have better prices than shops that cater to tourists. There's lots of choice.

Throughout the city, there are also lots of shops with wooden and ceramic souvenirs. The wooden pieces, such as masks, plaques, and other forms of wall art, are all beautifully hand carved and hand painted and the artisan usually signs their work with their name and where it was made. The ceramic pottery and dishware is done in this similar fashion and are available in a variety of designs and colors. These make interesting and unique gifts to bring home to family and friends for a reasonable price.

So when visiting Costa Rica, don't forget to visit and stay in San Jose

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ancient and early history of Costa Rica

The early history of Costa Rica is shrouded in mystery, because there is little evidence to indicate when exactly the region was first inhabited.
According to popular belief, Costa Rica began with its discovery by Spanish explorers. However, archaeologists have found evidence of occupation in Costa Rica dates back to about 12,000BC.

People began first appearing in this area, occupying areas in the tropical forest. The first inhabitants lived by hunting large animals, like the giant sloth, which are now extinct. It took over centuries of selection of plants and animals for the inhabitants to establish their diet. Over this time period they also perfected the use of specific tools. Slowly the inhabitants began to group together and stay in the same place.

An original form of agriculture was established as these early peoples began to gain knowledge of plant species, to explore their potential uses in food consumption, medicines, fibers and construction materials, and to gradually select species for cultivation. This in turn laid the foundations for a more sedentary existence, with more permanent settlements. This period was called pre-Columbian.

The history of Costa Rica took its most dramatic turn in the autumn of 1502 when Christopher Columbus, sailed his final voyage to the Americas. The Spanish immediately set to colonizing the land, but the Costa Ricans fought heroically, and it took over 40 years before they were forced to finally submit to slavery. Most settlers preferred life elsewhere in the new world, shunning Costa Rica for their colonies to the north, where the natives were considerably more subservient.

Other than the establishment of the city of San Jose in 1737, Costa Rica's history remained relatively quiet - the land was irrelevant to the Spanish, who made only cursory attempts to brave the region’s terrain to hunt for crops and minerals, and the Costa Ricans had been decimated by war and disease. They were merely trying to survive. The only crop that seemed worth anything to the Spanish was coffee, a burgeoning trade that meant shipping more and more back home to Europe to meet with rising demand. Costa Rica's population grew slowly on its own with little outside influence. Over time three new cities were founded in the Central Valley: Cubujuquí (Heredia) in 1706, Villanueva de la Boca del Monte (San José) in 1737, and Villa Hermosa (Alajuela) in 1782.

In 1821 the Americas wriggled free of Spain's imperial grip and Mexico declared its independance. The Central American colonies then declared independence from Mexico. These events hardly disturbed Costa Rica, which learned of its liberation a month after the fact. With an empire up for grabs, the region descended into conflict. Now, like an independent state, Costa Rica had to decide which place would be the seat of power. After some fighting and struggle (the Battle of Ochomongo and the War of the Liga), San Jose became the center of power, the axis of financial activity of the country. The annexation of the Nicoya Peninsula in 1824 consolidated the sovereignity of Costa Rica which successfully avoided the military confrontations and civil wars of the Federal Republic of Central America (1823).
After independence, Costa Rica had fewer than 70,000 inhabitants. In the following year, it was absorbed into the short-lived Mexican Empire proclaimed by Agustín de Iturbide. Following the collapse of Iturbide's rule, Costa Rica became a member of the United Provinces of Central America in 1823. At the same time, the provincial capital of Costa Rica became San José. The United Provinces fell apart in 1838, and in 1848, the Republic of Costa Rica was established. The new state was threatened by William Walker, a US military adventurer who invaded Central America in 1855, but his troops were repelled in 1857, and in 1860 Walker was captured and executed. In 1871, General Tomás Guardia, a dictator, introduced the constitution that, though frequently modified, remained Costa Rica's basic law until 1949.

Meanwhile, the success of coffee cultivation, introduced in the early 1800s, had encouraged rapid population growth, progress in education, and the beginnings of modern economic development, through the construction of a coast-to-coast railroad from Limón on the Caribbean through San José to the Pacific. Banana cultivation was started in 1871, and the United Fruit Co. (now United Brands) made Costa Rica a major producer of bananas.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Keepers of the Planet - the Earth's Pharmacy

This excellent documentary details how Costa Rica stands out and has led the world in preserving their jungles and saved them from man's destruction.

Scientists explore and investigate the numerous ecosystems involved, to understand how the Costa Rican jungle as a whole works.

Costa Rica's inspirational foresight is a lesson to us all and the benefits of the jungle are explored by looking at drugs and vaccines developed from tropical plants, which could treat illnesses such as malaria, mental illnesses, and even AIDS.

To see the documentary just click here

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rainforest Alliance Launches Second "Picture Sustainability" Photo Contest

July 7, 2009

Whether the word "sustainability" conjures up images of red-eyed tree frogs, tapirs, and scarlet macaws or farm families enjoying decent houses with running water and their children attending well-maintained schools, you're invited to submit photos depicting the concept of sustainability to the Rainforest Alliance's second "Picture Sustainability" photo contest.

With sponsorship from Fujifilm, the Rainforest Alliance hopes to raise awareness about conservation issues while expanding its collection of photos for use in its publications and on its Web site.

"Powerful images can provoke emotional responses and act as calls-to-action the way few other media forms can," explained Rainforest Alliance president Tensie Whelan. "Winning photos will captivate a wide audience and connect people to the beautiful ecosystems that the Rainforest Alliance helps to conserve."

One grand-prize winner will receive a five-day, four-night rafting and eco-tour for two to Costa Rica, including airfare, sponsored by Colorado-based Aventouras and Costa Rica Nature Adventures' Pacuare Jungle Lodge. The trip combines rafting on the world's most scenic white water, surrounded by unparalleled natural beauty, with gourmet food and the utmost in service at the award-winning lodge. The grand-prize winner also will receive a Fujifilm Finepix digital camera.

Four category winners -- one from each of the contest's photo categories -- will also receive a Fujifilm FinePix digital camera. All winners will receive an honorary one-year membership to the Rainforest Alliance.

Winners will be chosen from the following categories:

  • Wildlife on farms, forests or other natural habitats;

  • Landscapes (forests, waterways, flowers and plants, beaches, wetlands);

  • Sustainable tourism (hiking, bird watching, mountain biking, and other land-based nature activities; surfing, scuba, kayaking, snorkeling and other coastal or marine activities; other ecotourism-related subjects);

  • Conservation (people working to protect natural resources, including water, flora and fauna).

Rainforest Alliance staff members will select up to five finalists in each category, post them on its Web site and invite the public to vote on category winners. Separately, celebrated nature photographer Art Wolfe will select the Grand Prize-winning photo from the group of finalists based on overall composition, creativity, artistic merit and relevance to the Rainforest Alliance mission.
Photographers can enter by visiting Photos must be submitted by November 1, 2009 and winners will be announced on the Rainforest Alliance's Web site on December 15, 2009. All photos are considered donations to the Rainforest Alliance to be used in the organization's publications and Web site.

The Rainforest Alliance thanks Fujifilm and Art Wolfe for their generous support of this contest.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where can I find more information about doing business in Costa Rica.

Deloitte recently published a great guide to Doing Business in Costa Rica, covering issues such as Real Estate, Immigration, Company Formation, Taxation, Foreign Investment, Labour Relations and more. This extensive guide is a useful introduction and you can download it here

John Englehardt, Knowledge Ventures LLC., has written an informative article, Adventures in Offshoring: Costa Rica describing his personal experience of doing business offshore in Costa Rica, you can download the full article here.

Costa Rica - recent history

Throughout the 20th century, Costa Rica has enjoyed peace and a steady growth in prosperity, with the notable exception of a civil war in 1948 which followed a disputed presidential election.

The Costa Rica Civil War was the bloodiest event in 20th century Costa Rica history. It lasted for 44 days (from March 12 to April 24, 1948), during which approximately 2,000 people are believed to have died. The conflict was precipitated by the vote of the Costa Rican Legislature, dominated by pro-government representatives, to annul the results of the presidential election of 1948, alleging that the triumph of opposition candidate Otilio Ulate had been achieved by fraud. This caused a rebel army under commander Jose Figueres to rise up against the government of President Teodoro Picado, which it quickly defeated.

After the war, Figueres ruled for a year and a half as head of a provisional government junta which abolished the military and oversaw the election of the Assembly that produced the new Costa Rica Constitution of 1949. The constitution finally gave women and blacks the vote and, controversially, dismantled the country's armed forces - giving Costa Rica the sobriquet of 'the only country which doesn't have an army. The junta then stepped down and handed power to Ulate. Costa Rica has not experienced any political violence since then. Jose Figueres proved to be one of Costa Rica's most influential leaders of all time, instituting ground breaking social and economic progress.

Costa Rica continued its progressive social policies through the three decades after 1948 and enjoyed a gradual upward economic trend. The basic policy of the government in the decades after the 1970's was to become more independent agriculturally, but this actually caused a heavy dependence on imported goods needed for farming. Other problems were the continuing drop in the prices of coffee, bananas, and sugar. Costa Rica had also taken out loans to improve its infrastructure and when these loans came due, Costa Rica could not pay and soon its economy was in shambles. Magnifying the country's problems was the instability of Nicaragua and Panama, which did nothing else but hurt Costa Rica. The reputation of Central America as a place of violence and poverty stopped much potential investment. Also, Costa Rica's status as one of the wealthiest third world countries brought a flood of immigrants from its two neighboring countries, taking jobs and money out of the country.

In recent times, one of the most prominent political figures has been Oscar Arias Sanchez of the Partido de Liberacion Nacional (PLN) who was elected president in February 1986.In 1987, Oscar Arias Sanchez received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to break the cycle of civil war in the other Central American countries and foment the stability that continues. Currently Costa Rica enjoys a reputation as one of the most peaceful, prosperous, and least corrupt countries in Latin America.

In February 1998 the Social Christian Unity Party's Miguel Angel Rodríguez won the presidency with almost exactly 50% of the vote. A conservative businessman who made the economy his priority, he went on to privatise state companies and encourage foreign investments in an effort to create jobs. By the time the February 2002 elections rolled around, however, Ticos (a term locals use to refer to themselves) were mumbling about a lack of government transparency and shady deals between political mates. These grass-roots misgivings resulted in a 'no win' election, and pollsters returned to the ballot box in April 2002. Rodríguez's successor, Abel Pacheco of the conservative Social Christian Unity Party, was elected to step up to the president's ring. Pacheco began his term promising to eliminate the public debt within four years. He launched a conservationist platform banning new oil drilling and mining and proposed legislation guaranteeing citizens the right to a healthy environment. It didn't take long before the sheen paled. A campaign finance scandal clouded his presidency, leading some opponents to demand his resignation, and it became unclear if he could weather this storm through to the end of his term in 2006.

Oscar Arias Sanchez was relected president for a second time, by a narrow margin, in 2006.

Costa Rica will return to the polls in 2010

Costa Rica still has a large agricultural sector including coffee, banana, pineapple and sugar exports. In the last twenty years, eco-tourism and technology have taken off and become top-earning industries in the country. Costa Ricans enjoy a high standard of living, and land ownership is widespread. The country boasts a high literacy rate, a large middle class and a stable government that has functioned without an army for more than 50 years.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Costa Rica is the Happiest Country on the Planet - it's official!

On Saturday the 4th of July the second global compilation of the Happy Planet Index, will be launched. The report, The Happy Planet Index 2.0: Why good lives don’t have to cost the earth, contains the results of updated data for 143 countries around the world, representing 99 per cent of the world’s population.

It also includes new analysis which examines changes in HPI scores for major nations over time.

The report is an innovative measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives.

And the Happiest Country in the World is..................Costa Rica!

Costa Ricans report the highest life satisfaction in the world, have the second-highest average life expectancy and have a small ecological footprint

Visit the webite to sign up to a new happy planet charter, calculate your own HPI score, and explore the HPI data. Download the full report here.

And of course if you want to learn more about the Happiest Country in the world look through our blog and have a look at our website, to see coverage of this story on CNN click here .

If you want to live the dream in Costa Rica - have a look at Finca Di Pacifico Dos, our premier project.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Marine Life around Costa Rica and the Diversity of Marine Life

Costa Rica’s Isla del Coco (Cocos Island) is well known for its untouched lands, incredible diving , shark-filled waters, and remote location. PADI the diving association ranks Cocos Island as the best diving location in the world. As a tourist destination, it is the most untouched, incredible location in Costa Rica, generally attracting only the most serious researchers and divers. And recently, those researchers have discovered that the beautiful island’s waters are home to micro “insects” and algae that are self-illuminatory, much like the phosphorescent creatures of other locations.

These tiny sea creatures are largely responsible for maintaining the island’s clear waters, and feeding the larger species that are so common here. The majority measure less than one millimeter, and are elusive, therefore relatively unknown to science. Their ability to glow in the dark allows them to light up the island’s waters at night, creating a dazzling, sparkling undersea light show.

The creatures’ luminescent abilities are actually a chemical reaction: when they perceive change in their surrounding environment, they release chemicals into the water, which create a blue, glittery effect. To learn more about these creatures, the Center of Scientific Investigation of the Sea and Fresh Water (Cimar), of the Universidad de Costa Rica, has launched an in depth study. Costa Rica offers not only virgin rainforest, fascinating volcanoes and pristine beaches but also an overwhelming world of undersea wildlife - and it is estmated that 3.5% of the wolr's biodiveristy lives in the waters of Costa Rica. A recent study cataologued 6,777 individual species.

Between 2 to 15 miles offshore the northwest of the country from Nicoya peninsula the archipelago of the Catalina Islands is located and this archipeligo consists of about 20 rocky islands of different sizes. A little bit further north, Bat Island / Isla Murciélagos is located. The exposed location of these islands guarantees an abundant variety of sea wildlife which is hardly to be found somewhere else. For some reason - unexplained up to now - the Catalina and Bat Islands are a melting pot of very different undersea wildlife and fish that usually do not occur together. With good luck, even whale sharks are to be seen at Bat Island.

The diversity of marine life is huge and may rival that of the rain forests in the number of species found there, and, yet, our knowledge of ocean life lags far behind that of terrestrial life. A new age of ocean exploration is upon us, and there is a very practical need to better understand changes occurring in the seas for their implications on human life and our marine resources.

The Census of Marine Life (CoML) addresses these issues as a global network of researchers in about 80 nations engaged in a ten-year initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life in the world oceans - past, present and future. The emphasis of the program is field studies, which are to be conducted in poorly known habitats as well as those assumed to be well known. In both coastal and deep waters, projects will identify new organisms and collect new information on ocean life. Through the field studies and other projects, ranging from analyzing historical documents to modeling future ecosystems, the CoML will enable scientists to compare what once lived in the oceans to what lives there now, and to project what will live there in the future.