Nov. 5 News Brief Central America/Caribbean

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Foreign investments on the rise despite crisis: A growing number of U.S. companies are opting to invest in El Salvador and other Central American countries according to Jeff Bishop, VP of Operations at Stream Global Services Inc., a major U.S. telemarketing firm with offices in San Salvador. Bishop considered that the geographic location, educated workforce and good overall knowledge of English made the region more attractive than emerging Asian countries from an employer’s point of view. These reasons motivated his company to expand its Salvadoran operations.

[La Prensa Gráfica, Sieca]

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica – Prices fall to record lows: The rate of inflation in Costa Rica is at a 31-year low. The year-on-year Consumer Price Index (IPC) rose by 4 percent from October 2008 to October 2009, well below the 16.3 percent registered the previous year. According to the Institute of Statistics and Censuses, the world economic crisis is to blame for this decrease. Costa Rica, which usually registers double-digit annual inflation rates, will close the year with a five percent increase in the cost of living.

[La Nación, Sieca]

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – Congress approves multimillion dollar loan: After presenting the request for a third time, President Álvaro Colom's government obtained Congressional approval for a US$350 loan from the International Reconstruction and Development Bank. Colom requested the funds to compensate for budget deficits in several government ministries. The Education Department, for example, has a shortfall of US$120 million owing to an increase in the number of teaching staff, while the Health Department needs US$50 million to pay for hospital supplies.

[La Prensa Libre, El Periódico]

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Date set for Parlacen exit: Panama announced that it expected to withdraw definitively from the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) on Nov. 20. The measure was a campaign promise by President Ricardo Martinelli, who was sworn in four months ago and has criticized Parlacen's "inefficiency." Panama's Vice President and Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Varela announced, "If any country opposes our withdrawal, Panama's Legislative Assembly will unilaterally adopt the sovereign decision to revoke the agreement binding us with Parlacen."

[EFE, La Estrella]

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