Nicaragua’s GDP to Plunge 11% in 2019 without a Political Accord

Private Employers Council (Cosep) president Jose Adan Aguerri at a press conference following the business enclave held on December 12th in Managua. To his right is Michael Healy president of the farm organization UPANIC. Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial


Business executives urge Ortega to negotiate political reforms and advance elections

Cosep, Funides and AmCham demand cessation of the repression and call for citizens’ march


By Ivan Olivares  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Some 400 business leaders met on Wednesday at the headquarters of INCAE in Managua to emphasize that the country continues on a steady course to a debacle, if a political agreement is not reached soon that allows the recovery of governability to then pass on to see how to resolve the economy.

The day began with the disclosure of the letter that the unified private sector sent to Daniel Ortega in which they reiterate the position assumed in their letter of May 29, which called for a return to dialogue, early elections and the renewal of the Supreme Electoral Council.

Although the letter does not directly mention the Episcopal Conference as mediator of that dialogue, Jose Adan Aguerri, President of the Supreme Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), expressed that “we maintain our support for our Episcopal Conference.”

Even though the conclusions reached by the representatives of the private sector are not new, there are two elements: the indication that 2019 will be worse, with falls in the GDP that could reach up to 11% and the decision to go into action, by deciding to request police permission to hold a march on a yet undetermined date.

The entrepreneurs’ meeting came a day after the United States Congress finished approving the Nica Act, which promotes sanctions against officials and members of the regime, and on the same day that the OAS Working Group for Nicaragua read its third report. Also, at the same time in the National Assembly, controlled by Ortega, took away the legal status of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) and the organization “Hagamos Democracia” (Let’s do Democracy).

While the business persons insisted on the need to call for early and supervised elections—resuming the work on that aspect already advanced by the OAS—by appointing a credible Supreme Electoral Council, in the National Assembly, the government’s steamroller confiscated the legal status of several long-standing organizations. 

“I want to start by expressing our solidarity with CISAS, IEEPP, CENIDH and Hagamos Democracia, because we see that just as the spaces for citizens’ demonstrations were closed, they are closing spaces for organization,” says Jose Adan Aguerri, President of COSEP.

[On the following day the legal status was stripped of five other prominent NGOs.]

No date for elections

If at a certain time it was mentioned that the end of March 2019 was the right moment to hold early elections, at present, the executives do not have an established date “because that would mean entering the dialogue with a closed position,” Aguerri said.

Economist Mario Arana believes what is going to mark the times, “besides the political will,” is how far the OAS has advanced in its proposals on that process; how much time is required to assemble the entire system from the technical point of view; to organize international observation, and to ensure that they are truly free, and genuinely organized so that there is no possibility of fraud.

If the worse scenario occurs—the one that leads to a -11% GDP drop in 2019—the country would experience a gap of almost 20 percentage points between the expected and real growth  for 2018 – 2019.

“We have to stop that, and a way to do it is to take advantage of this call that is being made, ride the wave, and enter a negotiation that will take us to a good port,” said Arana, when interviewed on the television program “Esta Noche” (Tonight), broadcasted on Channel 12.

“If this does not change in the coming days, in 2019 we will have a very complicated situation,” Aguerri said at the conference, thinking not only about the natural dynamics that the country has followed: political, economic and social crisis, but also what the application of the sanctions contained in the Nica Act will mean.

That law “has a devastating effect on private investment,” which withdrew from Nicaragua, the same as the tourists, said economist Pedro Belli. “If someone in the United States was thinking that maybe things were getting fixed here, that illusion ends with the approval of the Nica Act.

Belli does not find it strange that US banks have begun to inform their allied banks in Nicaragua that they would cease correspondent service, in the first place because they see that Nicaragua is a very small country with great risk, for which it is not worth the bother.

Cosep plans to call a march

By informing the decision to call for a march to help refresh the memory of those who from the government believe that “everything is normal,” but also to continue advocating for the release of the political prisoners, Aguerri said that Cosep’s legal team was told to begin preparing the document that will be presented to police authorities.

In parallel, they will send an invitation to the board of directors of AmCham and Funides, for them to join the initiative and submit a three party request and announcement. Consequently, at this moment a date for the march is not known, nor its probable route.

Although the business associations are perfectly clear that Ortega has little incentive to return to the dialogue table, the President of Cosep said that the sector has “faith” and “hope” that he will do so.

The economist Mario Arana bets that Ortega “will assume the role of statesman…as he did in the 80s,” adding that “a statesman should be concerned about his legacy.” Arana said that at this moment, the president has a unique opportunity to improve the legacy that he has built up to this moment.

Also, “the Sandinistas must decide among themselves, and the whole country debate if this is not the opportunity to build a long-term future so that we would not fall back into these recurrent cycles of political conflicts that lead to the death of Nicaraguan citizens,” he expressed.

In any case, he believes that the president must renounce the idea of perpetuating himself in power, not only because “that model has already expired,” but because the private sector is united around a firm stance. We cannot build something sustainable, if the institutions and democracy are not strengthened, “and the government has to listen,” Arana said.

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