population, both in urban and rural areas, is highly
proud of its nature. Consequently, it is constantly defending what it considers to own from the possible threats of
large infrastructure projects.
Navigating Through the Complex Permits System
The country’s control system over productive and construction activities responds to a 30-40 year background,
and to a different development model. Additionally,
some new layers of control have complicated the system
by creating multiple functions and as many procedures
as institutions are involved.
This is unsettling, firstly because with the opening of
commercial borders and the increase of foreign investment the Costa Rican economy has transformed and
diversified radically. Moreover, many of the permits are
not complying with the objective of guaranteeing an adequate natural resources management.
Consequently, as part of an adequate planning of infrastructure projects, it is necessary to clearly identify which are
the different administrative procedures which must be dealt
with, the documentation which must be provided in each
one, as well as the requirements of citizen participation.
Main Administrative Procedures for the Obtention of
In infrastructure projects, permits have to be usually
obtained by the concessionaires, or by the successful
bidder of a public construction. In some cases, when the
State goes forward with the design of the project, it obtains some permits such as the environmental license,
and then the concessionaire or successful bidder must
complement to the extent the original design is changed.
Some administrative acts, which are referred to as
“preliminary” as they are not permits themselves, must
also be taken into account. Some examples of these are:
availability of water, electricity, residual water solutions;
authorizations related to superficial or underground hy-drological sources; procedures before the Federated Association of Engineers and Architects; and alignments
concerning rain water, roads, railways, pipelines, air
traffic, among others.
The permit procedures, which take the longest time
and more resources, are usually those which are related
to construction permits and the Environmental Impact
Assessments before the SETENA. In the first case, if the
project is declared of public interest, it goes through a
faster procedure and does not require the control of a
municipality. In the second case, when dealing with a
mega project, the procedure tends to be more complex.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE DEVELOPMENT
OF INFRASTRUCTURE IN COSTA RICA
Despite the criticism of some sectors regarding the
mechanisms of public and private participation in the
development of infrastructure, it is undeniable that the
country’s delay in logistic infrastructure due to the defi-ciencies of its ports and railways, the deterioration of its
roads, the goals to improve the country’s competitiveness and become a low carbon economy, present unique
opportunities for the investment of private entities.
It is estimated that for the country to reach the goals
set out in its National Transportation Plan, would need
an annual investment of $761 million. However, it is only
spending little more than a third of that amount in infrastructure. This means that the country has to ultimately
depend on the instruments of public infrastructure concessions or bids, as its economic conditions will not allow
it to develop these projects with its own resources.
This phenomenon is visible in the numerous public
infrastructure bids and concessions which are constantly
being put out by governmental institutions such as the
National Concessions Council, the Costa Rican Institution for Ports in the Pacific or the National Road Management Council.
Raúl Guevara has broad experience in all the major areas of
Environmental Law, energy, urban zoning and occupational
health regulation. His experience encompasses counselling,
transactions, rulemakings, compliance audits, environmental viability of projects, enforcement and appeal litigation. Mr. Guevara
has been ranked as a leader lawyer in his field by Chambers &
Partners. He holds a law degree from Universidad de Costa Rica
(1997) and a Master’s degree in Environmental Law from Euskal
Herriko Unibertsitatea (2004) complementing his studies at the
University of Colorado and Vermont Law School (2010).