"Most of our imports come from other countries," said Congresswoman Silvia Sanchez in Costa Rica. People have mocked her, saying in effect, "Where do imports come from if not other countries?" However, this ridicule is unfair. Her remark reflected a deep and philosophical analysis of our situation.
If not all imports come from other countries, some come from ourselves. In other words, some imports originate as exports.
What would be an example of a national product imported to our countries? In the case of Venezuela, subsidized oil exports to Cuba are actually imports that the Venezuelan people will eventually pay for. Each export turns into lost money that adds to the fiscal deficit and behaves, in the long run, as one more import. Latin American consultants working for foreign NGOs or advising our governments in their purchases, are also cases of exports (the advisers) that make us buy equipment and services (imports). A typical case is that of the Costa Rica government, which sends our consultants abroad to buy medical equipment. In the long run, we end up paying a lot more than if we had purchased it locally.
These consultants who live within the home country but work outside, receive millions of dollars abroad for development projects that, in theory, we have no way of doing ourselves. From these consultancies, we have then a series of internal merchants that receive millionaire slices from these imports. We might as well have not exported our experts to the developed world. The more we export consultants, the worse off and more indebted we become.
Following the thought of the Congresswoman, it can be presumed that a majority of our exports go to other countries. If this is so, there must be a minority of exports that are imported. Yes! Some of our exports come back to us.
A simple example of exports that are imported to our country were those of several entrepreneurs a few years ago. In light of a law that rewards exporters with a percentage of the money earned abroad, local capitalists sent plaster dolls to the United States, charged the incentives for “exporting them” and years later, we realized that they were actually imports.
The plaster dolls sent to Miami were ground up, mixed with chicken legs and given to alligators, the only Americans willing to have them. The state paid a price for the export and the only ones that benefited were the alligators.
The most obvious of our exports exported to Costa Rica is coffee. We send the product out for Starbucks to sell it back to us, but now it’s four times more expensive (this time with caramel cream). This we learned in World War II when Costa Rica exported rubber to the United States. From this rubber, the Americans made tires that, because of the scarcity of war, the Tico government sold to the locals for ten times their price. Needless to say, a presidential relative had a tire monopoly.
An export is exported to Costa Rica when the Minister of Culture sends a group of the top talents (his friends, obviously) among our literature, music and poetry arts to represent us in France (yes, all in business class seats and with a great per diem). It does not matter if they do not sell any books or songs. The final objective was not to be read or listened to in Paris, but to impress us back home in the local market. Now, these artists can say that they have thousands of fans outside the country and thus raise the price of their books, plays and music here. This is an export that is exported to Costa Rica and ends up ripping us off.
Finally, we have the exports to Costa Rica of our beloved president, whom we know with affection and respect as Luigi. Our popular leader travels abroad to persuade foreign companies to invest in our country. We all know that no transnational is going to come here to invest because of a 45-minute lunch with Luigi. Then the president´s trip, which we all pay for, serves no other purpose than to inflate our commercial debt even more.
Some exports and some imports are the same thing.