Thursday, September 29, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Central America and especially Costa Rica has seen a large surge in Biofuel initiative. There new Biofuel cooperative projects, intercropping (with food and oil bearing plants) development, including a new investment wave called Multi Purpose Real Estate, United Biofuels Of America (UBA)
Investing in bio-fuel is profitable in the short term and long term and helps reduce dependency on unstable foreign sources.
Here in Costa Rica the governmental bodies have full buy-in to renewable energy and sustainable agro developments.
Costa Rica is attempting to produce ethanol and biodiesel on a large enough scale to eventually reduce or even replace petroleum fuel. The state oil company, Recope, is constructing a large processing plant, the government is about to release a plan for the industry’s development, and the Institute for Agrarian Development, is engaged in research projects for certain products to convert to biofuels.
At present, ethanol is produced from sugar cane and to a lesser extent from yuca (cassava), a root crop. There is some production of bio-diesel from African Palm oil. Research is ongoing with respect to very promising oil seed crops for biodiesel, higuerilla and jatropha.
There is ample opportunity for investments in these crops to supply a local and international market. Petroleum prices are expected to remain at high levels. Biofuels reduce vehicle emissions when mixed with or replace gasoline or diesel. However, when biofuels are produced on a large scale there are also large scale environmental and social consequences, especially when the source of ethanol is corn or soybeans for biodiesel or when growing crops that displace food crops or convert forests to crop lands.
These adverse environmental and social consequences are mitigated when biofuel crops are grown on land that had been previously deforested and converted to cattle pasture. In Northern Costa Rica there are vast expanses of unproductive cattle pasture, much of it mechanizable and not requiring irrigation. This is a good opportunity to promote the conversion of cattle lands to socially useful and productive crops. This is already occurring with the proliferation of pineapple, root crop, and palmito plantings. However, it makes good sense to plant many more food crops there, such as rice, beans, and animal feed, while still leaving space for biofuel crop cultivation.
Presently, there is a project that involves an effort to plant thousands of hectares of jatropha in Costa Rican and other countries. The oil from the seed is converted to diesel and no modification of diesel motors is required. Yield is high, production costs for the hardy plant are low, and demand is potentially infinite, including for aviation fuel. The company engaged in the project invites equity participation, as well as offering technical assistance and production contracts to growers.
An excellent investment for animal feed is in pejibaye, a palm nut fruit that is very high in protein and other nutrients. Research on pejibaye has demonstrated that it is superior to corn or other grains for animal feed, especially for poultry. The fruit is also very nutritious for human consumption, including for baby food. Pejibaye palm is very productive, much higher yield than grains, and has a low cost of production. Costa Rica spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually in importing grains for animal feed and development of this high yield crop would be an excellent import-substitution measure and help reduce the nation’s chronic balance of payment deficits. The export market for prepared chicken feed would also be excellent. To accomplish this on a large enough scale to make a difference will require the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Institute for Agrarian Development, and other government planning institutions.
With recent increases in food prices Costa Rican officials and the general public has become concerned about food sovereignty, that is the cost and availability of food imports. While Costa Rica is largely self-sufficient in fruits and vegetable, dairy products, and meat and fish, this is far from the case with the basic staples of the population’s diet, rice and beans. Domestic production accounts for less than half national consumption of these staples. Corn and other grains are almost entirely imported. There is ample land for mechanized cultivation of these crops, especially in the Northern Zone.
Money Does Grow On Trees!!!!
UBA is not listed on any stock exchange, but IEA, which markets and sells renewable energy farms, is seeking to get listed on the BNV share index or in the United States within three years. So a potential green investor can either wait for IEA to become an IPO (initial public offering) or purchase one of the renewable energy farms. One farm is 1.24 acres of planted parcel real estate property that is segregated and costs $35,000. The purchase includes 800 – 1,000 jatropha and palm trees, a Costa Rican corporation (the investor owns that for tax and transfer advantages), irrigation, management, road, water and electricity. UBA will sell the jatropha oil produced on the farm and give all revenues to the investor minus a 10% management fee. The oil will be sold to a guaranteed buyer, Recope, which is the national petroleum company of Costa Rica. They have a mandate to put a 10% blend in their fuel by next year.
Based on crude prices of $90 or less a barrel, Yépez says, infrastructure that is developed has an added value of $35,000 because the price of the farm doubles when facilities are added. After ten years the value will be over $120,000, giving the investor a 380% return on investment. The investor will also have $50,000 produced in revenues from the biofuel plantation. It’s a ten-year investment where you can opt out any time.
For more informaion on Multi Purpose Real Estate Investments e mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, September 22, 2011
We will shortly launch our entry level eco modular homes.
These will start at just US$50,000 for 400 sq ft. comprising bedroom, living area and kitchen, shower room / toilet and deck.
Modules of further rooms can be added on starting at just US$20,000
To find out more just contact us at email@example.com
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Costa Rica attracts visitors from faroff corners of the world for a variety of reasons: excellent surfing, beautiful landscapes, peaceful populace, tropical climate. Not least among them is its excellent birdwatching. There are several reasons why Costa Rica is famous for the fascinating creatures that many of us so easily ignore.
The country hosts a variety of diverse ecological zones, including the Pacific and Caribbean lowlands, cloud forests, high montane páramo, dry forests of the northwest, mangrove forests, wetlands, and the middle-elevation forests of the valleys. Each ecosystem harbors a unique collection of avifauna, and there are many species endemic to the region, especially along the border with Panama. All these ecosystems can be reached within just a few hours since the country is smaller than the state of West Virginia.
Costa Rica also offers the chance for birdwatchers, who call themselves birders, to encounter many neotropical families that are rare or absent farther north, like toucans, trogons, manakins, and motmots. Migrants, like warblers, vireos, and tanagers, familiar spring sightings in the states, can be spotted living comfortably in tropical forests so far away from where they spend the breeding season. The mere chance to glimpse a resplendent quetzal, often celebrated as the most beautiful bird in the Western Hemisphere, is reason enough.
So how can one prepare for the joy and challenge of identifying birds? Birding is an easy pastime to take up, and offers the additional benefit of having a quick but endless learning curve. Beginners will soon find themselves identifying common species with ease, but it can take tremendous patience, skill, and energy to catch a glance of some elusive species, like the antthrushes that so silently stalk the forest floor. Here’s a list of tips for how to begin this richly rewarding hobby.
What You Need
Only two items are truly necessary: binoculars and a field guide. Any pair of binoculars can be used, but there is a vast market of specialized birding binoculars. As for field guides, in Costa Rica there are two good ones. The legendary Stiles and Skutch is the original, and is still widely used. Richard Garrigues’s newly released guide, which builds off its predecessor’s success, carries the advantages of being lighter weight and displaying range maps for each species. The maps are very useful, but some claim that Stiles and Skutch has more accurate coloration, and it also features more natural history and species per plate than Garrigues.
When to Go
Birds are most active in the morning and late afternoon, when the sun is least harsh. Rising early and heading out before the dawn chorus begins is usually the best time for seeing lots of birds, and on a productive day there can be frequent sightings until almost noon. Birding in the afternoon is also productive, but has the disadvantage of fading light. Paying attention to the rain is another important factor for considering when to bird, especially in the tropics. Birds get hungry, and when the rain comes down they can’t feed themselves. When showers finish or lighten, birds usually come out in force and are easily spotted.
Alone or With Friends
It’s true that more eyes see more birds, but it’s not always so simple. A single person walking quietly through the forest is the least likely to startle birds and other animals that might otherwise be long gone with a noisy group. Choosing who you bird with is important. Pairing up with other enthusiastic learners or veterans increases your chances of noticing the long-billed starthroat perched high atop a tree crown, or the motionless Baird’s trogon that so eerily blends into the leaves all around it. Being quiet and observant, whether alone or in a group, is the best rule. This also goes for asking questions of more experienced birders. Most will be eager to teach, but frequent conversation can actually be counterproductive. It’s usually best to learn by watching others.
Familiarize Yourself Beforehand
If possible, it’s a good idea to learn what bird species you might encounter in a given locale beforehand. The internet and the wealth of birding sites now available can be a great tool. There’s also a good selection of printed literature on the subject, and Costa Rica is no exception. Studying the key diagnostic features of the birds you may expect to see, especially if the area has particular specialties, will give you an edge once out in the field.
Go Where the Birds Are
This seems intuitive enough, but a common mistake among beginning birders is assuming that to see the most birds you have to venture deep in the forest or other remote wilderness locations. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. One of the best ways to bird is to simply setup and maintain a bird feeder in your backyard. Of course, not all birds attend feeders, and some can only be seen within the forest or in other specialized locations. Especially in the forest, it can be exasperating by how few birds appear, until a mixed flock arrives and it becomes nearly impossible to identify them all before they vanish as suddenly as they came. Walking slowly and carefully attuning your senses to your surroundings is more effective than covering lots of ground. Forest edges are oftentimes productive, and taking note of where there is water or fruiting trees where the birds might congregate can make all the difference.
Study the Bird
If you spot an unfamiliar species, don’t reach for the field guide. Study the bird for as long as you can keep it in your viewfinder. What color is its plumage? Look carefully at its face and what distinctive features it might have. What shape is the bill? What color are its feet? Does it display any unusual behavior? Study the length and shape of the tail. Jotting down features in a notebook is also a good idea, since details can quickly fade from memory. After the bird is gone, then reach for the field guide. You’ll be glad you took careful notice of all the bird’s features.
Keep a List
Birders tend to love keeping lists. Life lists. Trip lists. Year lists. Backyard lists. It can become excessive, but keeping lists is one of the best ways to track your progress as a birder. It’s gratifying to see your progress from common species to coveted rarities as your skills advance. Reading through a list compiled after many outings can bring back a sudden flood of wonderful memories with friends, loved ones, and the many interesting birds you’ve come to better know.
Friday, September 16, 2011
As Costa Rica celebrates 190 years of independence on September 15th, it’s worth reflecting that in one of the most historically violent regions in the world, this country has had no army since 1948. If even a few other countries followed their lead, man’s ancient scourge of war would end.
Central America was united in independence in 1821, with Guatemala proclaiming the entire isthmus between North and South America free from Spain. In an echo of that day nearly 200 years ago, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica all celebrate independence on the same day, September 15th.
Few Costa Ricans had sought independence, and most were surprised by it. Prefiguring the peaceful character of the Costa Rican people, Ticos, as they came to call themselves, didn’t even know they had become independent until Spain notified them a month after the fact. That has to be one of the most harmonious liberations in human history.
On one hand, Costa Rica’s beginnings as a nation hearkened back to the city-states of Renaissance Italy, because before independence San Jose, Cartago, and Heredia were independent towns. On the other hand, there was a foreshadowing of the future of Europe, since initially Costa Rica was part of the Central American Federation.
Other than a bizarre attempt by an American named William Walker in 1856 to conquer the country and take slaves to Nicaragua to build a canal connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Costa Rica has known little outside interference.
(An intimation of the nascent spirit and character of Ticos is shown by one of their enduring heroes, a young drummer boy named Juan Santamaria, who died when the civilians of Costa Rica arose and threw the Yankees out of their country. Juan Santamaria has been of the country’s favorite national heroes ever since.)
Of the indigenous people in Costa Rica before the ubiquitous Spaniard Columbus first visited in 1502, little is known. The Mayans, Aztecs, and Olmecs apparently did not extend into present day Costa Rica, and when the Spanish arrived with their delusions of gold, grandeur, and groups of people to enslave, they found little to their liking. And so, fortunately for the people, Spain soon abandoned and forgot the country
As one writer pithily put it, “the prevailing idea in Europe and North America regarding the Central American Republics is that they are sunk in a state of somnolence and inertia, from which nothing can come.”
That’s simply false, at least where Costa Rica is concerned. Costa Rica is “peaceful and democratic, a neutral country between two countries, Panama and Nicaragua, known in the past for their violent revolutions. And yet Costa Rica has no military, no army.”
Besides providing the pivot away from repression and conflict endemic to the region through the efforts of Noble Prize winning Oscar Arias, Costa Rica is quietly demonstrating that there is another path to development and another way to relate to other states than through the mindset of militarism.
The idea of abolishing the army of one’s nation, as Costa Rica did in 1948, is as alien as abolishing war. We take war as a given, and even accept a state of war when it isn’t war at all, such with the “Global War on Terror.”
The question of whether humanity can end war has never been more urgent, and the prospect never more feasible. War is after all a state of mind before it’s a conflict between states (or ‘stateless actors’). To end war, we obviously have to look first within, not in the myriad political manifestations of conflict.
Tom Friedman, the author of “The World Is Flat,” says he is an “unabashed patriot.” When influential people proclaim such a thing, they are directly contributing to the continuation of war. Nationalism, and all forms of identification, whether religious, cultural, or economic, are inimical to living peacefully in the global society.
Is that the root cause of war? Yes, because if there were no identification with particular groups, there would be no war.
So why does identification go on? Why don’t people stop identifying with their stupid little groups, no matter how big they are? Most see that they aren’t giving them security anymore.
Is it because people feel they would have nothing and be nothing without their clans and countries?
Apparently. But it’s just the opposite in actuality. Being nothing is everything. Letting go, we don’t lose the last shreds of meaning, community, and tradition; we gain (or regain) our humanity.
Monday, September 12, 2011
This article describes Costa Rica’s banking system and financial sector. It gives an overview of the regulatory framework and regulators of the financial sector. It also discusses the state owned commercial banks as compared to the private banks operating in Costa Rica.
The Central Bank of Costa Rica makes banking policy in Costa Rica. The SUGEF (The General Financial Superintendency) regulates the industry and enforces Central Bank policies. A 2008 World Bank Survey showed that local banks have reserve requirements that are much higher and liquidity policies that are much stricter than most countries. This tends to make Costa Rican banks more conservative with their loan portfolio and internal policies.
Costa Rican banks are party to international agreements that impose requirements that try to prevent money laundering and limit narco-dollars. This requires them to collect information about their customers in a “Know Your Client” form, which is standardized and required for every account holder. Opening an account may also require that you present financial statements or other information showing the source of the funds used to open your account.
Despite this monitoring by SUGEF and the bankers, Costa Rica’s banks must also follow the local laws regarding banking privacy. Government agencies don’t have access to account information, unless by court order as part of an ongoing investigation. Account records may be opened at the request of foreign entities, but only under strictly regulated circumstances.
The Financial Sector in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s financial sector includes the Central Bank, 3 state-owned commercial banks, 2 state banks created by special laws (a worker’s bank and a mortgage bank), 12 private commercial banks, 3 savings and loan associations, 5 private finance companies and 32 savings and loans cooperatives. In addition, there are 5 non-bank financial enterprises, 4 money exchange houses, and a number of investment and retirement funds or trusts run by both state and private commercial banks and the state insurance company.
SUGEF( http://www.sugef.fi.cr/ ) publishes a quarterly list of entities it regulates. Prior to 1995 it functioned within the Central Bank under various forms, but was made independent by the banking law of 1995 (Law # 7558). SUGEF’s job is to supervise the financial system in Costa Rica, ensuring stability, efficiency and strength according to norms presented by the institution and with a view for the collective benefit of those participating in the system.
Regulation of Savings or Checking Accounts
SUGEF The legal reserve requirement on sight deposits is 15 percent. This reserve is held by the Costa Rican Central Bank. There is no deposit insurance on private banks, like for example the FDIC in the US, but the Costa Rican government backs the state owned banks. Banco Anglo Costarricense was closed by the Central Bank in 1995 after incurring US$ 200 million in losses due to bad loans and dubious investments in Venezuelan bonds that subsequently disappeared. Criminal proceedings were successful against members of the bank’s board and management, many of whom are serving prison sentences. Not one depositor lost money in this scandal.
How safe are the private banks in Costa Rica?
Private commercial banks are relatively new to the majority of Costa Ricans, since only the state-owned banks could offer checking and passbook savings accounts to the public until the banking law was changed in 1995.
This law also granted private banks access to the Central Bank discount window and emergency loan facilities. Private banks must fulfill one of two requirements: (1) opening four branches in rural areas and depositing the equivalent of ten percent of demand and short-term time deposits (30 days or less) in a state-owned bank; or (2) depositing the equivalent of 17 percent of demand and short-term time deposits (30 days or less) in a state-owned bank.
Offshore banking from Costa Rica
Many Costa Rican banks have subsidiary or affiliated banks registered offshore. These offshore entities are not permitted to capture deposits or lend money within Costa Rica, though they cater to Costa Rican clients. Recent reforms stipulate that any SUGEF-regulated holding company or financial group owning 25 percent or more of the equity of an offshore entity must include the offshore assets on its balance sheet. However, SUGEF does not have regulatory authority over the operations or individual accounts of the offshore entities.
State-owned Comercial Banks
There are 3 state owned banks: Banco Nacional de Costa Rica, Banco de Costa Rica, BanCredito (formerly Banco Credito Agricola de Cartago).
These banks offer you the advantages of being safer for your money, since the Costa Rican government backs them. They are very conservative with their practices. Although they are obligated to show profit, they don’t have pressures from shareholders to over perform. They also have better coverage; practically any town in Costa Rica has a Banco Nacional and/or a Banco de Costa Rica. They have a wide range of services, and tend to have lower fees for them. The disadvantages are mostly the long lines that occur in busy locations and on peak days (Monday morning, Friday afternoon, 1, 15, & 30 of each month, etc.) Although they may have an English speaker on the staff in the larger branches, smaller branches are not as likely to.
The Private Banks in Costa Rica
Since 2000, a number of multi-national banking companies have established operations in Costa Rica. Banco Cathay, Citibank, HSBC, and Scotiabank have branches here. They are not connected to their US operations, so the advantages of banking with the same company that you use in another country are not as clear as it might be logical to assume.
Private banks normally will have shorter lines, faster service, more English speaking staff and more agility in bringing new products and services into the market when compared to the state banks.
The greatest disadvantage is the lack of deposit insurance. You will have to look closely at the corporation and its behavior when you use a private bank. That said, the government regulations do offer a measure of protection and your funds are safe under normal circumstances with any of the larger private banks.
List of Banks in Costa Rica (affiliates of Costa Rican Banker’s Association )
Banco Nacional de Costa Rica
Banco Popular y de Desarrollo Comunal
Banco de Costa Rica
Banco HSBC (Costa Rica), S.A
Corporacion BCT, S.A
Grupo Financiero BNS de Costa Rica, S.A
Banco Citibank de Costa Rica, S.A
Grupo Financiero Improsa, S.A
Corporacion Lafise, S.A
Banco General (Costa Rica), S.A
Grupo Promérica G.B.P., S.A
Corporación Tenedora San José, S.A
Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica
Monetary Policy in Costa Rica
The Costa Rican colon is freely convertible into foreign currency and contracts may be negotiated in any currency. For 2 decades, the Central Bank established exchange rates through auctions and a well-publicized policy of daily mini-devaluations. However in October of 2006, the Central Bank instituted a crawling band in order to slow inflation.
Currently the colon is allowed to be priced by the market within this band. In 2010 the colon was strong against the US dollar, and the The Central Bank did intervene to hold the buy rate at close to 500 colones to the dollar. In Costa Rica a 10% or 12% annual inflation rate was normal, and the “floating” colon is supposed to assist with that. Unfortunately the price of oil sky-rocketed after this policy was implemented, then the global financial crisis hit. So it is difficult to say whether the policy has had the intended effect.
Many export companies don’t like this new policy, since their production costs may rise in their home currency with a strong colon. Foreigners retiring here on fixed incomes have also felt the effects of a strong colon.
The Central Bank is authorized in emergency situations, at its discretion, to introduce and regulate the use of short-term measures to alleviate economic imbalances or liquidity crises. Such measures include imposing surcharges on imports, limiting credit growth of financial entities, increasing the minimum legal reserve requirement (up to a ceiling of 25 percent), fixing the maximum intermediation rate (spread between lending and deposit rates), centralizing currency transactions in the Central Bank, and obligating the sale of currency derived from exports to authorized entities.
The Central Bank must, however, comply with limits on these extraordinary measures, which can only be imposed for one year or less, and which cannot be applied in a discriminatory manner among financial institutions or among sectors within the portfolio of each institution. The sum of the surcharge duties and other revenue generated by the extraordinary measures are to be used by the Central Bank to amortize the monetary stabilization account.
To read the full story on the Costa Rica News click here
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Date: Thursday September 15th
Time: 1:00pm Eastern
Title: Now you can grow Your own Green Oilfield
Subject: Renewable Energy Farm Biofuel Investment Opportunity in Cost Rica
Registration Link: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/738546922
Date: Thursday September 22nd
Time: 1:00pm Eastern
Title: Is Costa Rica a Good Investment Opportunity
Subject: Costa Rica and an introduction to NatureWalk, Turrubares and Hacienda Pacifica, Quepos
Registration Link: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/652633490
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Panchita, 101-year-old who lives an active and healthy lifestyle in one of the Blue Zones, the Nicoyan Peninsula of Costa Rica.
Somewhere in the remote Nicoyan peninsula of Costa Rica, a 101-year-old great-great-grandmother is making you look bad. Her name is Panchita, and by the time you finish your morning blog rounds, she has already cleared brush, chopped wood and made tortillas from scratch. And here’s the best part: she’s not alone.
For five years, I took teams of scientists to five pockets around the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives. We called these places the Blue Zones. We found a Bronze-age mountain culture in Sardinia, Italy, that has 20 times as many 100-year-olds as the U.S. does, proportionally. In Okinawa, Japan, we found people with the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. In the Blue Zones (Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, Calif.; and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica), people live 10 years longer, experience a sixth the rate of cardiovascular disease and a fifth the rate of major cancers.
How do they do it? Forget fad diets, crazy workouts and syrupy self-help cliches. The world’s longevity all-stars practice simple, common-sense habits as a natural part of their daily routine. We think of these habits as the Power9:
1) Move naturally — be active without thinking about it. Identify activities you enjoy and make them a part of your day.
* Inconvenience yourself: ditch the remote, the garage door opener, the leaf-blower; buy a bike, broom, rake, and snow shovel.
* Have fun, be active. Ride a bike instead of driving, for example.
* Walk! Nearly all the centenarians we’ve talked to take a walk every day.
2) Cut calories by 20 percent. Practice “Hara hachi bi,” the Okinawan reminder to stop eating once your stomach is 80 percent full.
* Serve yourself, put the food away, then eat.
* Use smaller plates, bowls, and glasses.
* Sit and eat, not in the car or standing in front of the fridge.
3) Plant-based diet. No, you don’t need to become a vegetarian, but do bump up your intake of fruits and veggies.
* Use beans, rice or tofu as the anchor to your meals.
* Eat nuts! Have a 2-ounce handful of nuts daily (it’ll stop you from digging in the chip bag).
4) Drink red wine (in moderation)
* Keep a bottle of red wine near your dinner table.
* Keep the daily intake to two servings or less.
5) Plan de Vida: determine your life purpose. Why do you get up in the morning?
* Write your own personal mission statement.
* Take up a new challenge. Learn a language or an instrument.
6) Down shift — take time to relieve stress. You may have to literally schedule it into your day, but relaxation is key.
* Don’t rush – plan on being 15 minutes early.
* Cut out the noise – limit time spent with the television, computer, or radio on.
7) Belong / participate in a spiritual community.
* Deepen your existing spiritual commitment.
* Seek out a new spiritual or religious tradition.
8) Put loved ones first / make family a priority.
* Establish family rituals (game night, family walks, Sunday dinners).
* Show it off: create a place for family pictures and souvenirs that shows how you’re all connected.
* Get closer: consider downsizing to a smaller home to promote togetherness.
9) Pick the right tribe — the people surrounding you influence your health more than almost any other factor. Be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone values.
* Identify your inner circle. Reconsider ties to people who bring you down.
Sound too simple? Remember, simple doesn’t mean easy; I don’t recommend trying to change all these behaviors at once. Pick two or three of the Power9 to work on at a time. Research has shown that if you can sustain a behavioral change for six weeks, you should be able to sustain it for the rest of your life — which, as the world’s centenarians have shown us, should be a long, long