Public housing and potable water policy in Costa Rica


Material Information

Public housing and potable water policy in Costa Rica administrative decision making in a developing society
Physical Description:
viii, 248 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Daniel, Christopher Phillip, 1950-
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Housing policy -- Case studies -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Agua, Abastecimiento de -- Costa Rica
Politics and government -- Costa Rica   ( lcsh )
Public works -- Case studies -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis--University of Florida.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 242-247).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Christopher P. Daniel.
General Note:
General Note:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 000092372
notis - AAK7778
oclc - 05955547
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Full Text








This work could not have been carried out without the

generous help of many people who provided money, advice,

encouragement, and information. A graduate assistantship

funded by the Tinker Foundation enabled the writer to carry

out his initial field studies during 1974 and 1975, and

funds from the Organization of American States' Regular

Training Program facilitated the completion of field work

during 1978.

Dr. Andres SuArez stimulated this scholar's original

interest in Costa Rica and aided his initial efforts to

interpret the Costa Rican political system. In addition to

introducing this writer to the study of comparative public

administration, Dr. Victor Thompson provided valuable advice

during all phases of the study. Dr. S. J. Fitch and other

University of Florida faculty members also assisted the

writer with constructive criticism and encouragement.

Of course, the work could not have been carried out

without the generous cooperation of dozens of Costa Rican

officials who provided information about their respective

institutions. Many housing and water officials and resi-

dents of public housing were remarkably hospitable, candid,

and patient with the researcher. Leorardo Silva King,


Claudio Donato, Armando Alfaro, and Benadita Valverde were

especially helpful.

A special debt is owed to the writer's parents, who

encouraged him throughout the course of his graduate studies,

and whose financial assistance was invaluable during

several phases of this endeavor.



LIST OF TABLES . .... ... vi

ABSTRACT . . . vii


Costa Rica: The Social and Economic Setting 5
Costa Rica: The Political Setting .. 10
Costa Rica: The Administrative Setting 14
Previous Studies of Costa Rican Housing and
Water Policy . ... 18
Notes . .... 19


Political Leaders as Law Makers .. 24
Autonomous Legal Structures .. 28
The Executive Presidents ... 30
The National Planning System .. 37
Earmarked Financing and Partial Financial
Autonomy . . 39
Vague, Unrealistic Goals . .. 43
Notes . . .. 48


Political Influence upon the Establishment of
General Policies . .. 53
Political Influence upon the Selection of
Which Communities Receive Public Works 57
Political Influence upon Policies Allocating
Benefits among Sectors of Society .. 63
Political Influence upon Decisions Affecting
Individual Families ...... 67
Budgeting as a Means of Imposing Political
Control . ... 83
Conclusion . ... 86
Notes . .... 89

GUIDES . . 90

Effective Policies Concerning the Collection
of User Charges . .. 94
Policies for Selecting Which Communities
Receive IMAS Housing . .. 107
Policies for Selecting Which Communities
Receive Rural Aqueducts .. 130
Policies for Selecting Residents of INVU
Housing . . 136
Policies for Selecting Residents of IMAS
Housing . ... 142
Conclusions . . 144
Notes . . ... .148


Attitudes towards Particularistic Behavior 151
Particularism and Policy Implementation 153
IMAS Officials' Collection of User Charges 159
INVU Officials' Decisions Concerning the
Selection of Communities to Receive
Housing Projects . .. 162
Conclusion . .. 177
Notes . . 178


Financial Constraints . .. 182
Occupational Role Definitions .. 186
Examples of Existing Programs .. 191
Strategies for Pursuing Lpecific Goals 197
Conclusions . .. 198
Notes . . 199


Notes . . 207





Table Page



1965-1975. .... . 105

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


Christopher P. Daniel

March 1979
Chairman: Victor A. Thompson
Major Department: Political Science

This study considers impediments to the exercise of

effective, impersonal administration in developing societies.

Aspects of Costa Rican administrative behavior diverging

from Weber's rational-bureaucratic model are described and

explained using the theories of Riggs and other comparative


Three institutions are examined--the National Institute

of Housing and Urbanism (INVU), the National Water and

Sewage Service (SNAA), and the Institute of Mixed Social

Assistance (IMAS). Information was obtained from housing

and water officials using open-ended interviews and

questionnaires, and from residents of public housing through

another individually administered questionnaire. Local

community leaders were asked about the origins of specific

public works projects and their answers contributed to a


general understanding of how projects are allocated among

communities. The interviews and surveys also served as the

basis for describing the selection of public housing

recipients and the treatment of defaulting water and housing


The findings support the contention that political

institutions in developing countries tend to be weaker than

administrative institutions and that administrative policy

making often substitutes for politics. Instead of being

influenced by elected political leaders, Costa Rican

housing and water policies have frequently been determined

by administrative officials acting on the basis of financial

constraints, occupational role definitions instilled during

professional training, and examples set by pre-existing

programs. The inability of Costa Rica's elected political

leaders to provide ongoing direction to administrators

contributes to problems of bureaucratic autocracy, insen-

sitivity to clients, unresolved policy conflict among

administrators, and unresolved conflict in the minds of

individual administrators. As might be expected in a pre-

industrial society such as Costa Rica, the implementation of

public policies is sometimes affected by considerations of





The creation of efficient, effective, and impersonal

administrative institutions is a major challenge which

confronts Costa Rica and other Latin American nations.

Thus, there is considerable need for understanding how

organizations possessing these characteristics can function.

Such understanding is a precondition for answering questions

such as, "When is administrative reform desirable?" and

"What types of administrative reform are likely to be


Max Weber's rational bureaucratic model of administra-

tion is a description of how administrative agencies might

function effectively in modern society. The model, of

course, is an idealized archetype. While not describing

any specific real world organization exactly, the rational-

bureaucratic model can sometimes help us understand aspects

of organizational behavior. In addition to being an

intellectual tool, Weber's model is widely accepted as a

description of how administration ought to be carried out.

Hence, it is appropriate to ask how closely administration

in specific settings conforms or does not conform to the

model. This study systematically examines aspects of Costa

Rican public administration, determining the extent to

which some administrative activities are carried out in a

rational-bureaucratic manner. Specifically, the allocation

of public housing and potable water among communities and

families is described. Selected allocational decisions are

scrutinized in order to determine whether or not individual

decisions are carried out with what Weber called "a spirit

of formalistic impersonality." In other words, are the

decisions made in such a manner that "everyone is subject

to formal equality of treatment?"l

When divergence from the Weberian model is reported,

such findings ought to be explained. Fred Riggs' model of

administration in developing countries may be helpful in

this regard.2 Riggs suggests that administrators in such

countries usually behave very differently from the Weberian

model. For example, he says that decisions tend to be

made on a particularistic basis, in contrast to Weber's

"spirit of formalistic impersonality." Thus, instead of

being based upon norms of equal treatment, decisions in

developing countries reflect considerations of favoritism,

nepotism, and amicism. Furthermore, Riggs' model asserts

that administration is characterized by an absence of

meaningful policies. Instead of making effective,

implementable policies, political leaders and top admin-

istrators merely present their subordinates with general

goals and specific requests.

According to Riggs, administrative structures in

developing countries are intertwined with the economic,

political, and cultural aspects of society.3 Administrators

in developing countries are thus confronted with many

particularistic demands by friends, relatives, and others.

This produces administration based upon favoritism, rather

than upon Weber's "spirit of formalistic impersonality."

In such a setting, administrators may be so busy handling

individual cases that they do not have enough time to

formulate policies.

An impressive application of Riggsian theory is

Greenberg's Bureaucracy and Development: A Mexican Case

Study. Greenberg found that the Mexican Ministry of

Hydraulic Resources exhibited many of the features of the

Riggsian model. According to Greenberg, the Ministry's

officials engage in a great deal of corrupt and particular-

istic behavior, and yet the institution is technically

effective in spite of those practices.4 According to

Greenberg, the agency's clientele typically are required

to make side payments ("bribes") in order to get water

projects for specific communities, or to get any service

at all. Greenberg suggests that such practices are typical

of administrative behavior in developing countries. This

study tests whether or not such "external payoffs" are

extracted by Costa Rican officials.

Most students of comparative politics and administra-

tion stress the lack of developed political institutions in

IY _

pre-industrial premodernn) society. Political underdevelop-

ment means that the government bureaucracy--the administration--

lacks political guidance and control. It means that insti-

tutions for articulating and aggregating demands, interests,

and needs of the people are lacking or inadequate. Admin-

istrative decision making is, therefore, something of a

mystery. Where do the ideas come from--the policies and

values implicit in administrative action? This study

explores this question with regard to some Costa Rican

administrative agencies.

The remainder of chapter I reviews literature

pertaining to Costa Rica as a pre-industrial society.

Social, economic, political, and administrative aspects

of the Costa Rican environment are discussed, and the

descriptive theoretical literature about Costa Rican

housing and water supply is cited.

Chapters II and III are devoted to answering the query,

"What role do elected political leaders play in determining

administrative outputs?" Chapter IV asks whether or not

administrative outputs are determined according to generally

applicable policies. In other words, are certain kinds of

decisions guided by established criteria or procedures?

The finding that Costa Rica housing and water officials

often do follow policies is presented in chapter IV.

In a minority of the cases examined, Costa Rican

administrators failed to make or implement policies. Those

instances are interpreted in chapter V. The extent to

which particularism interferes with policy making and

implementation is discussed, along with an alternative

interpretation of the absence of policy. Chapter VI

discusses some factors which influence officials' policy

choices. The argument is made that choices are chiefly

determined by financial constraints, occupational role

definitions, and the examples set by existing programs.

The conclusion, chapter VI, summarizes the findings

presented throughout the work, and the appendix presents

some methodological considerations.

Costa Rica: The Social and Economic Setting

Costa Rica's social and economic characteristics

generally correspond to the ideal type which social

scientists label "transitional." In other words, the

country cannot be adequately described as being either a

wholly traditional society or a completely modern one;

instead it belongs to an intermediate category possessing

both traditional and modern features. Riggs uses the word
"prismatic" to describe transitional societies, and the

terms developing society and pre-industrial society are

also widely employed to describe countries like Costa

Rica.5 These terms imply that all societies originally

possessed predominantly traditional features, but in most

societies some traditional characteristics have been

supplanted by modern elements. This process of modernization

has often been associated with industrialization, or with

the diffusion of technology from industrial to non-industrial


societies. According to Huntington, traditional and modern

cultures possess the contrasting features as depicted in

Table 1.




1. Predominance of ascrip-
tive, particularistic,
diffuse patterns

2. Stable local groups and
limited spatial mobility

3. Relatively simple and
stable "occupational

4. A deferential stratifi-
cation system of
diffuse impact.


1. Predominance of univer-
salistic, specific, and
achievement norms

2. High degree of social
mobility (in a general--
not necessarily vertical

3. Well developed occupa-
tional system, insulated
from other social

4. Egalitarian class system
based on generalized
patterns of occupational

5. Prevalence of "associa-
tions," i.e., functionally
specific, non-ascriptive

In a transitional society one would expect both

ascriptive and achievement norms to be employed by

organizations, and this occurs in Costa Rica. Below, in

the section on the Costa Rican administrative setting, the

simultaneous use of ascriptive and achievement norms is

described. In subsequent chapters examples of personalism

are presented. Particularistic practices are pervasive in

Costa Rican administration, co-existing with universalistic

practices in a "mixed" society.

Spatial mobility is limited in Costa Rica, perhaps

partly because of the country's small size and domination

by a single large city. Families belonging to Costa Rica's

social and economic elite have often spent many generations

living in or near the city of San Jose. Less privileged

people have sometimes migrated to San Jose, or moved to

agricultural settlements in peripheral areas, but these

shifts have occurred slowly. Rather than migrating long

distances, populations have shifted from one area to

another by making a series of short moves.7

Costa Rica does not have an equalitarian class structure

based solely upon occupational achievement. According to

Denton, the country's educational system does not effectively

promote upward social mobility for the working class.8 Adams

says that most Latin American countries have bifurcated

class structures.9 Costa Rica fits this pattern. For

example, "It is virtually impossible for a member of the

working class to accumulate enough status to become accepted

in the upper class."10

Costa Rican sociologist Sammuel Stone says that his

society has been dominated for nearly four hundred years by

a social elite descended from a dozen Spanish conquista-

dores.11 During the colonial period this group of elite

families monopolized public office in Costa Rica, but they

were unable to establish economic dominance until coffee

exportation began in the early nineteenth century. At that

time economic stratification occurred and the socially

prominent families obtained control over large holdings

worked by impoverished laborers. The coffee-owning,

genealogically-determined upper class's power was unchal-

lenged until the mid-twentieth century, when reform movements

associated with Jose Figueres and Rafael Calderdn Guardia

reduced the elite's influence on public life.12 The social

elite continues to play an important part in Costa Rican

life, but it does not completely monopolize economic and

political activity.

The paragraphs above note that Costa Rica is a

developing society exhibiting various traditional features.

The country differs from many other pre-industrial societies

with respect to its homogenity, however. Most Costa Ricans

are descended from European colonists, and the distinguish-

able ethnic minorities are not very numerous. Less than

one-half of 1 percent of the population is indigenous,

and merely 2 percent of the population is Negro. Most

Negroes and Native Americans live in peripheral regions of

the country and have limited contact with the mainstream of

Costa Rican society.

Immigrants from nineteenth and twentieth century

Europe have had considerable impact upon the country. While

less numerous than the immigrant populations which settled

in the United States and southern South America, the

immigrants to Costa Rica were nonetheless influential.

According to Riggs, such groups may be discriminated against

in developing societies, forming pariah subcultures in

response to a dominant indigenous culture. In Costa Rica,

however, many immigrants were assimilated into the dominant

social group. This assimilation of foreign entrepreneurs

may have been facilitated by the fact that the Costa Rican

elite has long been commercially active, cultivating and

exporting coffee.

While Costa Rica as a whole is ethnically homogeneous,

a few regions within the country are diverse. The Atlantic

port town of Limon, for example, has distinct Negro,

Caucasion, and Chinese social institutions.13 Riggs' concept

of poly-communal society may be useful for analyzing Limon,

but it is not applicable to Costa Rica as a whole. Noting

that Costa Rica is a fairly well-integrated country, Denton

says that, "Racial, linguistic, and regional factors are

not importantly affecting the integration of Costa Rica,

nor do they adversely affect either vertical or horizontal

social mobility."14

The modernization process typically involves a shift

from an agricultural to an industrial economy. This shift

has been occurring in Costa Rica, but only to a limited

extent. The percentage of the work force employed in

industry increased from 8 percent in 1927 to 12 percent in

1963, while the percentage engaged in agriculture and

fishing declined from 62 percent to 49 percent. In the

late-1970's Costa Rica's economy relied heavily upon agri-

culture, and that reliance upon products of the soil is

likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The

industrial, commercial, and service sectors of the economy

are growing, but the country remains a pre-industrial society.

Pre-industrial societies, such as Costa Rica, tend to produce

less economic wealth than modern societies. Costa Rica's

1973 per capital Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $798, in

contrast to the United States' per capital GDP of $6161.

Costa Rica: The Political Setting

According to Riggs, "if we make a quick survey of the

transitional societies today, we will be impressed by the

weakness of their extra-bureaucratic political institutions

in contrast with the burgeoning growth of their bureau-

cracies."15 Huntington agrees-that many third world countries

lack "political community and effective, authoritative,

legitimate government." While noting that political under-

development is most prevalent in modernizing countries,

Huntington acknowledges that some exceptional countries

have combined underdeveloped economies and nighly developed

political systems.16 Many Costa Ricans take pride in

their country's political system, and consider it to be

superior to the systems of most other Latin American

countries. Costa Ricans are proud that their country has

maintained a stable liberal democratic system for nearly

thirty years and has avoided political dominance by the

armed forces. The country has no army.and is substantially

more literate than most other nations with similar levels

of economic development. Despite these significant accom-

plishments, the Costa Rican political system continues to

exhibit weaknesses deriving from the transitional character

of the society. The personalistic character of the

country's political party coalitions, the absence of viable

interest groups, and the exercise of political influence by

the traditional social elite will be discussed below.

According to Huntington, institutionalized political

parties are necessary to promote stability and link social

forces to the government. Hence they are "the distinctive

institutions of modern politics."17 The extent that

parties are institutionalized is reflected in their genera-

tional age, chronological age, and organizational complexity.

Murphy notes that Costa Rica's level of political develop-

ment exceeds its level of economic development, as evidenced

by the country's party system. However, he says that the

party system has developed relatively recently, is not

yet highly institutionalized, and remains in a state of flux.18

Crosby says that Costs Rica's dominant political

party, the National Liberation Party (PLN), is a permanent,

complex, bureaucratic entity which is capable of surviving

the life span of its founders. However, the National

Unification Party (PUN) was merely an electoral vehicle

plagued by factional conflict, oligarchical dominance, and

particularistic recruitment.19 Crosby's characterization of

PUN as an unstable coalition was corroborated when the

previously powerful party received only 3 percent of the

votes in the 1978 Presidential election. PUN may quickly

disappear from the Costa Rican political scene, displaced

by a personalistic coalition led by Rodrigo Carazo.

Costa Rican social scientist Jose Luis Carballo has

characterized both of the country's major party coalitions

(PLN; anti-PLN) as mere "partronage associations" lacking

ideological bases and incapable of carrying out electoral

platforms. In his words

.since 1940 Costa Rican parties have been
charismatic sects, simple associations of servants
gathered around caudillos and their courts of
followers. They have served to get the caudillo
into the presidency so that he can vain gloriously
divy out the posts and privileges .0

Costa Rica's parties appear to be more developed than

those of many other developing nations, but the organi-

zations continue to contain strong personalistic and clien-

telistic elements. The parties' success in organizing

electoral participation in peaceful and democratic form has

been demonstrated, but it is not clear that they can act

programmatically, employing the national bureaucracy to

carry out effective development schemes. Chapters II and III

of this dissertation discuss the relationship which has

existed between housing and water administrators and the

political leaders elected by the party system.

According to Huntington, the development of associa-

tional groups is a characteristic of modern society. Some

associations serve functionally specific political purposes,

such as aggregating and articulating the needs and desires

of societal groups. In politically developed societies

institutionalized interest groups often carry out this

function. For example, the central role which interest

groups play in the politics of the United States has long

been recognized, leading V. O. Key to describe class and

group interests as the driving forces of American politics.21

In traditional and transitional societies, however, these

associational structures tend to be non-existent or poorly

institutionalized. For example, studies of politics in

Brazil and Mexico have reported that interest groups there

have limited influence.22 Interest groups exist in Costa

Rica, but they are not yet institutionalized.23 Sudrez says

that Costa Rican organizations formally organized as interest

groups often promote only the interests of their individual


The interpretative scheme taking the interest
group as the unit of analysis seems to be as dis-
illusioning for Costa Rica as for the remainder of
Latin America. Only a reduced number of them (Costa
Rican interest groups) are genuine in the sense of
possessing a stable organization, sufficient resources,
and institutionalized means of access. Indivi-
dual entrepreneurs, familiar with the rules of the game,
have the ability to create nominal interest groups (a
name and statutes) in order to compete for the
personal benefits deriving from contacts with the
President and members of the Cabinet.24

The tendency of interest groups to be formally organized

in a modern fashion while covertly promoting particularistic

interests reflects Costa Rica's pre-industrial condition.

As Riggs notes, developing societies are "mixed" societies,

possessing both traditional and modern features. Sometimes

the modern features are espoused publically while traditional

practices are carried out discretely, resulting in

formalism.25 Costa Rican interest groups are poorly


institutionalized because informal personal contacts

continue to determine public allocations. Denton says such

contacts are the most important means of converting demands

into authoritative interests in Costa Rica.26

Costa Rica's political institutions are imperfectly

institutionalized because the country continues to have

premodern social and economic structures. Both the political

parties and the interest groups contain personalistic

elements, and national politics continues to be largely,

although not entirely, the preserve of a social elite.

Stone has demonstrated that most Costa Rican Presidents and

legislators have been men from elite families, descendents

of a few sixteenth century conquistadores.27

Costa Rica: The Administrative Setting

Costa Rican administration exhibits several character-

istics which are typical of bureaucratic behavior in Latin

America. Such features include personalism, amistad

(friendship), attained recruitment, non-ideological

recruitment, and ministerial separatism. Personalism is

evident when superordinate/subordinate relationships within

the bureaucracy reflect patron-client relationships. In

Costa Rica administrators frequently maintain clientelistic

ties to their superiors and former superiors, using the

ties to obtain special benefits from the bureaucratic

system. For example, officials sometimes ask administrative

patrons to intervene on their behalf when they seek to

obtain housing loans from government banks. Thurber says

That this type of personalism is characteristic of Latin

American public administration.

Amistad and ministerial separatism are also typical

of Latin American administration, according to Thurber.28

Amistad, defined as "working through friends rather than

through channels," is readily acknowledged by Costa Rican

officials. When an official deals with another agency, his

first response is often to approach a friend or acquaintence

working there, in order to be presented to the agency

official authorized to deal with the matter in question.

Costa Rican administration cannot be understood unless one

recognizes that the formal institutions are supplemented by

a complex network of friendship connections. These ties of

amistad sometimes help officials to overcome ministerial

separatism, another common feature of Latin American

administration. Ministerial separatism occurs when ministries

act in isolation from one another, appearing to be the private

fiefdom's of administrative elites. In Costa Rica this

tendency is accentuated by the fact that over half of the

public sector consists of autonomous institutions possessing

both formal and real autonomy from the central government.

Given the prevalence of personalism and amistad within

pre-industrial societies, it is not surprising that recruit-

ment and promotion practices often do not follow universal-

istic achievement norms. Summarizing various studies of

administration within individual Latin American countries,

Weaver has noted that "in personnel administration kinship

and partisan considerations take precedence over abstract

rules of merit and seniority."29 While associated with

Costa Rica's National Planning Office during 1974 and 1975

this writer became aware of several instances in which

family connections influenced hiring practices. Both

administrators and the Costa Rican public seem to take

personnel practices based on favoritism for granted. A

similar situation exists in Mexico, where administrators'

career trajectories are largely determined by a network of

patron-client relationships. A study of Mexico's agricul-

tural price support agency found that nearly all high level

personnel decisions involve personal connections.30

Of course, family and friendship connections are not

the only means of administrative recruitment employed in

Costa Rica and other developing countries. Instead of

being made entirely on the basis of favoritism, personnel

decisions are likely to result from both ascription and

achievement considerations. According to Riggs, the word
"attainment" aptly describes this type of criteria.31

Administrative recruitment on an attainment basis occurs in

Costa Rica, as one might expect in a transitional society.

For example, at times special jobs have been created for

non-Spanish speaking foreigners who have married into

socially and politically prominent Costa Rican families.

In those instances the language handicap initially limited

the effectiveness of the new employees within their insti-

tutions, but their selection was justified by officials

because they had influential backing and also possessed

impressive educational credentials. Apparently, both

educational qualifications and influential connections

are necessary conditions for obtaining some high level

technical positions, but one need not demonstrate ability

to perform the specific task to which one is assigned.

According to Weaver's study of Latin American adminis-

tration, "ideology based considerations are of limited

significance Cto personnel selection], even in the politi-

cized societies of Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela."32 This

generalization applies to Costa Rica, a country where the

political parties have been personalistic, as noted earlier

in this chapter. The non-ideological nature of adminis-

trative recruitment is reflected by the fact that a

substantial number of housing, water, and planning officials

do not espouse clearly visible ideological positions

relative to Costa Rican society. This has been evident in

instances in which non-Costa Ricans have obtained adminis-

trative posts. The non-ideological character of personnel

selection is also indicated by the fact that a minority of

administrators publically accept an ideology opposed by the

dominant political parties. Marxism has little popular

support in Costa Rica, but popular anti-Communism has not

prevented individuals with Marxist affiliations from

obtaining administrative positions and working effectively

with their colleagues. Many instances have occurred in

which ideology has been ignored and individuals have been

hired on the basis of educational qualifications or

personalistic considerations.

Previous Studies of Costa Rican
Housing and Water Poicy

There are a number of studies, largely theoretical,

which provide information about Costa Rica's housing and

water agencies.

Saunder and Warford's Village Water Supply: Economics

and Policy in the Developing World provides an up-to-date,

comprehensive survey of the policy making dilemmas which

confront potable water officials in underdeveloped coun-

tries.33 Various references to Costa Rican water programs

are made, but the volume's usefulness stems primarily from

the thoroughness with which it summarizes the results of a

multitude of investigations conducted throughout the world.

Alfred Cuzin's recently completed dissertation

includes a chapter about Costa Rica's National Water and

Sewage Service (SNAA). Cuzin focuses upon the political

opposition which some SNAA activities have provoked,

describing how the agency is perceived by selected political

figures and popular groups.34 An alternative interpretation

is presented in Causas Precursoras del SNAA, a brief summary

of the organization's history written by Claudio Cruz.35

Gary Wynia's Policy and Bureaucracy in Central America:

A Comparative Study includes a section dealing with Costa

Rica's National Institute of Housing and Urbanism (INVU).36

Wynia evaluated INVU compliance with foreign loan agreements

which the organization undertook during the 1960s. Wynia

studied INVU while doing a survey of ten different agencies

located in five Central American countries. The most

complete history of public housing activities conducted in

Costa Rica prior to the creation of INVU in 1954 is Rodrigo

Carazo Odio's El Problema de la Vivienda en Costa Rica.37

Carazo's work is also significant because it provides

insight into its author's goals. The book was written in

1955, while Carazo was serving as INVU's first manager.

Founded in 1971, the Institute of Mixed Social

Assistance (IMAS) has not been studied as much as SNAA and

INVU. Except for primary sources compiled by the insti-

tution itself, the only background material available

consists of two publications by this writer. Those two

works include descriptions of the IMAS' structure, financing,

and public housing program. Both this writer's contribution

to Politicas de Crecimiento Urbano: La Experiencia de Costa

Rica and his "Determinants of Public Service Allocations: A

Costa Rican Case" discuss INVU, SNAA, and IMAS activities.38


1Max Weber, Theor of Social and Economic Organiza-
tion, trans. by Talcott parsons (New York: Free Press, 1947).

2Fred Riggs, Administration in Developing Countries:
The Theory of Prismatic Society (t ston: Houghton Mifflin,
T95i4T:- --- --

3Riggs, p. 99.

4Martin Greenberg, Bureaucracy and Development: A
Mexican Case Study (Lexington, Massachusetts: Heath Lexington
Books, 1970l.



Table adapted from Huntington, Sammuel, "Thc Change
to Change: Modernization, Development, and Politics," in
Comparative Politics, Vol. 3 (April 1971), p. 287.

7Costa Rica, Direcion General de Estadfstico y Censos,
Censo de Poblacion, 1950.

Charles Denton, Patterns of Costa Rican Politics,
(Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1971), pp.T3-7.

Richard Adams, "Introduction to Social Organization
in Latin America," in Richard Adams, ed., Contemporary Cul-
tures and Societies of Latin America (New York: Random
House, _T63 ).

10Denton, p. 11.

1Sammuel Stone, La Dinastia de los Conquistadores:
La Crisis del Poder en-Ta Costa Ria Contemporanea (San
7os ~T EUCK, -19735~

12Stone, pp. 307-38.

13Michael Olien, "Levels of Urban Relationships in a
Complex Society: A Costa Rican Case," in Elizabeth Eddy,
ed., Urban Anthropology Research Perspectives and Strat-
egies Southern Anthropological Society Proceedings, No. 2
(Athens, University of Georgia Press, 1968).

14Denton, p. 12.

15Fred Riggs, "Bureaucracy," in Frank Tachau, ed., The
Developing Nations: What Path to Modernization (New York:
Dodd Mead and Company, T974Z, p. 115.
1Sammuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing
Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press,"196b), pp. 2-3.

1Huntington, Political Order, pp. 89-91.

18Dana Winthrop Murphy, Costa Rica, 1953-1970: The
Evolution of a Working Multi-Party stem in the Post-
Revolutionary Era (Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Washington, 19737.
1Benjamin Lincoln Crosby, A Comparative Analysis of
Political Party Organization in Costa Rica: Partido
Liberaci6nNacional and PartiaT UniTicaci n Nacional (Ph.D.
dissertation, Washington University, 1976).

20Jose Luis Vega, La Crisis de los Partidos Tradicion-
ales (San Jose: Universidad e Coista -ca, Facultad de
Ciencias y Letras, 1973). Quotation translated by this
21V. Key, Politics, Parties, and Pressure Groups
(New York: Crowell, 1947), pp. 1i7-2UZ.

22Phillip Schmitter, Interest Conflict and Political
Change in Brazil (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971);
Richard Fagen and William Tuohy, Politics and Privilege in
a Mexican City (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972T.

23Oscar Arias, Grupos de Presi6n en Costa Rica (San
Jose: Editorial Costa Rica, 1971).

2Andres Suarez, "Politicas Publicas," in Manuel
Carvajal, ed., Politicas de Crecimiento Urbano: La Ex-
periencia de Costa Rica (San Jose: Direcci6n General de
Estadfstica y Censos, 1977), p. 248. Quotation translated
by this writer.

25Riggs, 1964, pp. 15-21.

2Denton, p. 92.


28Clarence Thurber, "Islands of Development: A Polit-
ical and Social Approach to Development Administration in
Latin America" in Clarence Thurber and Lawrence Graham,
eds., Development Administration in Latin America (Durham:
Duke University Press, 1973), pp. 33-34.
29Jerry Weaver, "Role Expectations of Latin American
Bureaucrats," Journal of Comparative Administration, Vol. 4,
No. 2 (August 1972), p. 161.
30Merilee Grindle, "Patrons and Clients in the
Bureaucracy: Career Networks in Mexico," Latin American
Research Review, Vol. 12, No. 1 (1977), pp. 736

31Riggs, pp. 128-29.

32Weaver, p. 161.

3Robert Saunders and Jeremy Warford, Village Water
Suppy: Economics and Policy in the Developing World
Ba timore: Johns Hopkins UniversiEy Press, 1976).

34Alfred Cuzin, Centralization and Scope: Political
Structure and Policy Performance in Costa Rica and El
Salvador (Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1975);
Alfred CuzAn, "Water Resources: National or Local Control:
The Case of Costa Rica," paper delivered to the Rock Moun-
tain Council of Latin America Conference, Tucson, Arizona,
April 7-9, 1977.

35Claudio Cruz, Causas Precusoras del SNAA (San Jose,
Costa Rica: Servicio National de Acueductos y Alcantarilla-
dos, 1973).

36Gary Wynia, Policy and Bureaucracy in Central Amer-
ica: A Comparative Study (Ph.D. dissertation, University
of Wisconsin, 1970), pp. 74-87.

3Rodrigo Carazo, El Problema de la Vivienda en Costa
Rica (Tesis de Licenciatura, Ciencias Econ6micas y Sociales,
Universidad de Costa Rica, 1955).

38Christopher Daniel, "Polftica Piblica: Apendice,"
in Manuel Carvajal, ed., Politicas de Crecimiento Urbano:
La Experiencia de Costa Rica (San Jose, Costa Rica: Direc-
ci6n General de Estadistica y Censos, 1977); Christopher
Daniel, "Determinants of Public Service Allocations: A
Costa Rican Case," Latinamericanist, Vol. 2, No. 2 (1976).



Riggs argues that administration in developing

countries must be studied in an "ecological" context. In

other words, students should pay particular attention to

the influence which political, social, and cultural forces

have upon administration. Administration should be viewed

as an outgrowth of the society and its politics, rather

than an isolated entity. The discussion which follows

deals with the relationship of the Costa Rican political

system to the country's three principal housing and water

institutions. This chapter describes the highly visible

and important role which elected political leaders have

played in the creation of administrative institutions. The

manner in which the political leaders' founding legislation

has affected the institutions' structures, financing, and

goals will also be explored in this section. The following

chapter addresses the question of whether or not political

leaders influence the housing and water agencies on a con-

tinuous basis. The conclusion is reached that the founding

laws are so vaguely written that officials are left with an

extraordinary amount of discretion concerning policy matters.

Furthermore, political leaders have rarely influenced ongoing

111 1 II


agency operations. In short, the political leaders have only

been a major policy making influence during the brief periods

when they have created new institutions.

Political Leaders as Law Makers

The laws which have created Costa Rican public insti-

tutions are important because they, and the public order

behind them, have provided the institutions with the author-

ity they needed to function. The on-going activities of

the water and housing agencies cannot be carried out

without the support and compliance of large numbers of

people. Indeed, the institutions could not exist unless

their employees, clients, tributees, benefactors, and

suppliers believed them to be legitimate entities. In

addition to legitimizing the institutions, the founding

laws have defined the agencies' structures, financing, and


The founding laws of the water and housing institu-

tions have been produced by the formal organs of the

country's political system. Since 1954 that system has

been characterized by regular, highly competitive, and

generally accepted elections. This electoral process has

selected Costa Rica's legislators and Presidents, and they

have followed established constitutional procedures to

create the country's laws.

Three aspects of the law-making process merit attention.

First, in order for the process of creating a founding law

to begin, someone must perceive a need for a new institution

and, therefore, propose that such an entity be created. In
addition to this initiation process, someone must compose

the actual provisions of the law. Obviously, composition

involves more than merely exercising the techniques of

legal drafting. This aspect of the law-making process

presumes to determine the characteristics which the new

institution will have. Of course, the law must also be

approved. In Costa Rica formal approval is achieved by

passage of the proposal by the country's unicameral legis-

lature, followed by acceptance by the President.

Law-making activity can be divided analytically into

initiation, composition, and approval categories, but that

is not usually the way in which journalists, public officials

and ordinary citizens perceive the process. Instead, they

tend to perceive the activity in simpler terms, without

distinguishing between its various phases. For example,

one frequently hears assertions that individual Presidents

have "created" institutions. Such statements seem to imply

that the individual creator was completely responsible for

initiation, composition, and approval of the founding law.

Publications of the Institute of Mixed Public Assistance

(IMAS) describe ex-President Josd Figueres as the institu-

tion's "founder" and "progenitor,"1 but there were also

other "progenitors." A Figueres assistant was put in

charge of composing the founding law, and the bill was

later subject to "an extraordinarily long delay" of ten

months in the Legislative Assembly. While in the Assembly,

the law was modified significantly. Rather than attributing

the entire creation process to Figueres, it would probably

be more appropriate to point out that the ex-President

played the major role in initiating the founding process,

but entrusted much of the task of composing the law to

aides. Figures played a leading role in seeking public

acceptance and legislative approval of the founding law,

but there were obviously other individuals also partici-

pating in the effort.

Why do institutional publications, press commentaries,

and individuals' comments about the legislative process

often oversimplify it? Why is the role which individual

political leaders play in founding institutions sometimes

exaggerated? Perhaps such misperceptions stem in part

from the needs of individuals for psychological reassurance.

Murray Edelman has noted that people often need such

reassurance; therefore, they are strongly inclined to

believe that events are produced by readily identifiable

individuals rather than by complex forces.2 Simplicity may

be comforting. It may satisfy people to believe that extra-

ordinarily powerful and capable individuals are personally

confronting problems such as poverty and housing shortages.

Writers of official institutional histories generally

seek to portray their organizations as favorably as

possible. One way in which this can be accomplished is by

identifying the organization with authoritative individuals

and authoritative institutions. Official histories of

institutions sometimes emphasize the role which elected

officials have played in the founding process, while

ignoring or down-playing other influences. For example, an

official history of the National Water and Sewage Service

(SNAA) emphasizes the importance of a special committee of

legislators and distinguished citizens which recommended

that the water institution be created.3 This version of

events conveniently ignored the dominant role played by

technical experts in initiating the founding process. The

idea of confronting the pressing water shortages in the

San Jose metropolitan area by creating a new national

institution actually originated in a report written by the

personnel of a North American consulting firm.4

Rosenberg's detailed case study of the creation of the

Costa Rican Social Security Institute in 1941 describes some

of the complexity which characterizes the founding process.5

The creation of that institution is generally attributed to

one man--former Costa Rican President Rafael Calderdn

Guardia. Acknowledging that Calder6n Guardia was almost

entirely responsible for initiating the effort to create

the institution, Rosenberg also notes that Dr. Padilla

Castro, a friend of Calderdn Guardia's, was selected to

write the social security law. Padilla Castro was first

sent to Chile for six months to study the social security

system operating there. Little or no public attention has

been devoted to the fact that a Chilean social security

official helped Padilla Castro write the Costa Rican law.

In summary, the most visible part of the process of

Founding a new public institution is the mobilization of

support for the passage of the founding law. Regardless of

how involved, or uninvolved, elected political leaders are

in the initiation and composition of a founding law, the

support of such leaders is necessary in order to secure

approval of the law. Manifested in speeches, press releases,

committee reports, legislative voting, and bill signing,

this type of activity is highly publicized. The support of

the political leaders is necessary, of course, in order to

complete the constitutional procedures which make a founding

law "legal." It appears, however, that far more is involved

in this process than merely obtaining the legislative votes

and executive approval which are formally required. The

promotion which political leaders carry out on behalf of

proposed founding laws also increases public recognition of

the new entities, and promotes public acceptance of them.

Autonomous Legal Structures

Costa Rica's three water and housing agencies differ

considerably in chronological age. The oldest institution,

the National Institute of Housing and Urbanism (INVU), was

founded in 1954; the Institute of Mixed Social Assistance

(IMAS) was created in 1971; and the National Water and

Sewage Service (SNAA) began in 1962. Although they vary in

chronological age, the three institutions all enjoy consid-

erable legal autonomy. Provisions of the institutions'

founding laws which prescribe their structures, financing,

and goals reinforce institutional autonomy.

The laws of all three institutions imply that their
internal structures are to be heirarchical. In other words,

lower officials are to be responsible to the institutions'

executive officials, who in turn are responsible to boards

of directors. These boards of directors are, however, not

legally responsible to the President of the Republic, nor

to any other authority. Thus, internal heirarchy is

combined with the autonomy of the institution as a whole

from the central government. Members of the boards of

directors are named by the council of government (Presiden-

tial cabinet), and serve fixed terms. These boards are

granted the authority to name and remove the institutions'

executive officials and to establish institutional policies.

Costa Rican law makers created autonomous institutions
because they believed that politics in general and the

national Presidency in particular had a corrupting influence

upon administration. Therefore, it was thought, administra-

tion would be more honest and effective if it were removed

from executive control.6 This idea was popular during the

mid-1950s, the period when the INVU and several other

autonomous institutions were created. By the early 1970s

the desirability of autonomy was seriously questioned by

Costa Rican officials because the number of autonomous

institutions had grown and their combined budgets exceeded

the central government's budget.7 Concern was expressed

that there was insufficient coordination among the institu-

tions. In this context an effort was made to re-establish

centralized control over the institutions.

A special position was created in an effort to sub-

ordinate the autonomous institutions to the President of the

Republic. The sections below deal with the special position

the president ejecutivo, and also discuss legislative

efforts to centralize authority by means of a national

planning system.

The Executive Presidents

When the Institute of Mixed Social Assistance (IMAS)

was created in 1971 a special position was created in that

institution--the position of executive president. Prior to

1971 the autonomous institutions had been created without

executive presidents. Instead, a manager was assigned

responsibility for administering them. This manager was

selected by a board of directors and was generally recog-

nized as the top ranking official of his institution. IMAS'

founding law assigned responsibility for administering the

institution to a manager (director ejecutivo), but the law

simultaneously assigned an executive president presidente

ejecutivo) responsibility for "seeing that the board of

directors' decisions are carried out" and for "coordinating

the entity's [IMAS' activity with that of the other state

institutions." According to the law, the executive president

is the highest ranking official of the institution, but the

manager is assigned the responsibility for "organizing,

coordinating, and controlling everything related to the

IMAS. .. ." Thus, the authors of IMAS' founding law created

an autonomous institution which was headed by a manager and

a board of directors, but was theoretically subservient to a

delegate from the central government. In 1974 this confusing

arrangement was imposed upon all of the other autonomous

institutions in the country, including the National Institute

of Housing and Urbanism (INVU) and the National Water and

Sewage Service (SNAA). The Presidential Cabinet names and

removes all of the executive presidents. Theoretically, the

President of the Republic can influence the autonomous

institutions by giving orders to the executive presidents

whom he has appointed.

The 1974 law imposing the executive presidents upon

the autonomous institutions was a half-hearted attempt to

recentralize Costa Rican administration. A complete

recentralization of formal power would have converted the

institutions into ministries. Ministries are directly

responsible to the President of the Republic and they lack

boards of directors. In contrast to ministers, executive

presidents must seek legal approval for many actions from

their institutions' boards. Although the board is presided

over by the executive president, a half dozen other board

members each has an independent vote. The executive

president must also contend with the manager (gerente, or

director ejecutivo), an official possessing broad powers.

The law grants similar, ill-defined authority to both the

executive presidents and the managers. Hence, the actual

division of responsibility must be established informally

by the two administrators in each institution. In order

to function effectively the executive president and the

manager must resolve potential conflicts between them, and

must also defer to the board of directors.

Despite the imposition of executive presidents upon

them, Costa Rica's housing and water agencies retain a

great deal of formal autonomy. Although they are supposed

to act primarily as agents of the President of the Republic,

the executive presidents must also come to terms with

their institutions' managers and boards of directors. The

power of the board of directors is illustrated by an

incident which occurred in the National Water and Sewage

Service (SNAA). The planning department of that institution

produces much of the information which is used to select

which communities receive water projects. Prior to October

1977, the planners sent this information to the manager,

and communicated primarily with his office. This practice

was altered abruptly when the board of directors decided

that they were not in agreement with the incumbent manager.

The manager remained temporarily in his post, but informal

arrangements were made for the planning department henceforth

to send its reports to the executive president's office

rather than tne manager's office.

The office of executive president was imposed upon

the autonomous institutions in an effort to increase the

President of the Republic's influence upon those bodies.

This, however, does not appear to have occurred appreciably

in the case of the housing and water institutions studied.

Communication between the Presidential mansion and those

institutions has been minimal. Presidential efforts to

influence the activities of the institutions have occurred

infrequently. Specific instances in which Presidential

influence has been exercised will be discussed further in

chapter II of this study.

An important water works official has noted that, "We

take orders from the executive president of the institution,

but we have no way of knowing which ideas are his own and

which are being transmitted by him from the President of

the Republic." Obviously, the executive presidents have a

stake in maintaining at least the appearance of being in

close touch with the national chief executive. However,

the executive president of one institution told this writer

that he met with the President infrequently, less than once

a month. During these occasional meetings the executive

president of the institution informed the President about

the institution's accomplishments and sought Presidential

support for the institution's efforts to obtain increased


Managers, executive presidents, and planning department

heads of the three institutions generally perceive the

President of the Republic as a potential benefactor rather

than as a source of orders or directives. When asked about

Presidential influence upon their institutions, those officials

generally refer to two or three instances in which the national

chief executive has intervened personally on their insti-

tutions' behalf with international lending or assistance

organizations. Such Presidential action apparently helped

to initiate communication between housing officials and

representatives of an international organization. On another

occasion, welfare officials had difficulty convincing a

foreign assistance agency to support a program. President

Oduber presented IMAS' position to the foreign government

involved, and this intervention reportedly was successful.

It should be emphasized that such incidents are unusual, and,

furthermore, they involve the President of the Republic in a

benefactor role relative to the housing and water organiza-

tions. The imposition of executive presidents upon those

institutions has not weakened the autonomy they have tradi-

tionally enjoyed.

The office of executive president was also created in

order to facilitate coordination among the various govern-

ment institutions. The ideal of centralized planning is

widely accepted in Costa Rica, despite the fact that it

does not exist in reality. There is so little effective

centralized planning in Costa Rica that to contrast current

practice with a highly centralized ideal type would be

pointless. Despite the absence of effective national

planning, housing and water agencies maintain a great deal

of coordination at a functional level. For example, the

construction of a housing project typically requires the

cooperation of municipal authorities, water officials, and

electrical officials. The country's middle income housing

agency (INVU) and low income housing and welfare entity

(IMAS) have cooperated closely on several joint projects.

After IMAS was created in 1971 its housing construction

department depended initially upon technical assistance

from INVU. INVU has difficulty dealing with indigent clients,

and it usually resolves such problems by referring the poor

families to IMAS. The point to be made here is that a

substantial amount of functional coordination occurs.

Similar coordination existed prior to the creation of the

office of executive president, however. Rather than being

linked merely by means of their executive presidents, Costa

Rican institutions are related to each other through a

complex web of informal understandings, acquaintanceships

and friendships among administrators. The Costa Rican

administrative universe is so small that administrators

inevitably have friends and often relatives occupying

official posts in other institutions.

The office of executive president is still relatively

new (created in 1974) and this writer's experience with it

has been limited to the study of three institutions. Never-

theless, there is reason to believe that the creation of

the post has neither augmented Presidential control over

the autonomous institutions nor increased coordination among

the entities. The creation of the new office has, however,


increased the potential for conflict within the leadership of

the institutions. Recognizing that it would be difficult to

deal with a competing executive, several managers resigned

their posts when the executive presidents law was passed.

The potential for constant authority conflicts between

managers and executive presidents has sometimes been muted

by the administrators' ability to make personal accomoda-

tions. It is noteworthy that Costa Rican officials place

a great deal of importance upon having favorable relation-

ships with their superiors and peers. Most of the officials

have spent long periods with their institutions. Typically,

they have entered the organization during its formative

years and have continued with it for a decade or more.

When experienced officials resign their posts, these

changes are often attributed to personality conflicts; i.e.,

"Mr. C left here because he didn't get along with the new

manager." Costa Rican administrators frequently discuss

personality clashes of their peers and superiors, as is

common in developing countries. According to Riggs,

administrative conflict in industrialized societies tends

to involve substantive interests rather than the personal

struggles typical of transitional administration.8

In Costa Rica personality conflicts are not usually

acknowledged publically, and open arguments tend to be

avoided through the use of courtesy, double talk, and

indecisiveness. As in other pre-industrial countries,

great efforts are made to avoid inter-personal confronta-

tions and maintain a superficial appearance of harmony.

Rather than being peculiar to administration, this pattern

of conflict avoidance is typical of Costa Rican society,

perhaps resulting from the limited spatial mobility of the


The National Planning System

At approximately the same time that the executive

presidents were imposed upon the autonomous institutions,

an effort was made to centralize administration by creating

a Ministry of Planning and Economic Policy (OFIPLAN). All

government entities were simultaneously required to create

their own planning departments. According to the law,

these planning departments in the various autonomous

institutions and ministries would act as sectoral offices

of OFIPLAN. In fact, institutions have often complied with

the law by merely renaming existing departments--for example,

by changing an entity's title from "Department of Programming

and Finance" to "Department of Planning and Finance."

In addition to making some changes in nomenclature,

administrators in the various ministries and autonomous

institutions have been required by OFIPLAN to provide the

latter periodically with statistical information about

their future investment plans. OFIPLAN compiles and

approves the national budget, but as will be shown in

chapter III, this budgetary activity does not involve it

in the internal decision-making processes of the other


The National Planning Law establishes grandiose goals

of centralized planning, but very little comprehensive

planning actually occurs. The situation which existed in

the water institute (SNAA) during September of 1976 seems to

be typical of the actual state of affairs in the autonomous

institutions. According to a confidential study conducted

by SNAA officials, the planning department of SNAA was

a formal unit, directly subordinate to the executive
presidency (of SNAA) acting as a support organ. It
has OCCASIONAL TIES with the National Office of
Planning and Economic Policy, with the Urban Develop-
ment Office of INVU, and with the Ministry of Health.
The (SNAA) planning office does not have a logical
order of plans. Neither long term nor medium
term goals have been set. The only things elaborated
are some specific plans and the institution's short
term budget.9

While contacts between SNAA and the National Planning

Office (OFIPLAN) have been merely "occasional," OFIPLAN

officials have had more frequent contacts with planning

officials of the Institute of Mixed Public Assistance (IMAS),

and the Ministry of Public Works. However, officials in the

latter organizations say that their contacts with OFIPLAN

have consisted primarily of instances in which they have

filled out questionnaires or otherwise provided the planning

office with information. Except for occasionally limiting

the size of the budget totals which each institution

receives, OFIPLAN has not told the institutions to modify

their activities. In summary, OFIPLAN officials monitor the

investment plans of the institutions, and also impose ceilings

upon institutional spending. These activities do not

significantly interfere, however, with the institutions'

autonomy. The autonomy which was originally established in

the housing and water institution's founding laws continues

to exist, despite half-hearted efforts to curtail it by

means of the Executive Presidents Law and the National

Planning Law.

Earmarked Financing and Partial
Financial Autonomy

According to Riggs, administration in developing

countries is characterized by "earmarked" financing.

Rather than being allocated among various institutions

and programs through periodic budgetary processes, public

income from various sources is legally tied to the support

of specific government programs. Earmarked financing is

very evident in the Costa Rican housing and potable water

fields, and is also prevalent in other public services

areas. This practice is part of the Costa Rican syndrome

of weak central political control over administration.

The founding laws of INVU, IMAS, and SNAA all state

that the central government must provide the institutions

with a specified subsidy every year. Originally such

subsidies were established as fixed percentages of the

total government budget. However, more recent laws have

abolished that arrangement and substituted fixed sums of

money as the required annual subsidies. Because these

funds are earmarked, budget makers cannot legally direct

them to any other institutions. Other legal provisions


permit the institutions to use the income which they gather

from user charges.

Earmarked funding is vividly illustrated in the case

of IMAS. In addition to guaranteeing the welfare institute

a fixed annual state subsidy, the institution's founding

law establishes a special payroll tax of one-half of one

percent which the institution is authorized to collect

from all of the country's employers. Since it was founded

in 1971, IMAS has successfully increased its revenues by

obtaining legislative approval of additional sources of

earmarked funds. For example, the welfare institute has

been authorized to maintain certain special business

concessions such as a duty-free store at the international

airport and an airport parking lot. A law passed subsequent

to the 1971 IMAS founding law has enabled the institution

to collect taxes from brothels. During the 1971-1975

period the fixed state subsidy provided 34 percent of IMAS'

income, the payroll tax provided another 36 percent, the

institution's commercial concessions yielded another 8 percent,

and the brothel tax produced 4 percent. The yield from the

brothel tax would have been proportionately much higher were

it not for the fact that it was introduced late in the period.

In summary, over 80 percent of the welfare institute's rev-

enues have come from the four earmarked sources described

above, and much of the remaining 20 percent of the institu-

tion's income has come from national credit sources.10

IMAS officials have sought to expand the institution's

activities as much as possible and as a result the officials

have sometimes needed to obtain support from elected

political leaders. For example, the President of the

Republic and the National Assembly have granted IMAS the

right to additional earmarked revenues besides those

established in the institution's founding law. The passage

of special legislation on IMAS' behalf has made it possible

for the institution to obtain revenues from its airport

concession, from the brothel tax, and from a special immi-

gration tax. In their quest for additional funding, IMAS

officials have occasionally had to accept suggestions from

political leaders interested in promoting projects in

specific communities. This has occurred when the National

Assembly has passed special budgetary acts allocating money

for IMAS to use to carry out programs in specified towns.

A special grants budget has existed in Costa Rica for

many years, consisting of small allocations to municipal-

ities, churches, and government agencies. Generally the

grants go for repairing or expanding buildings or for new

construction. The purpose of each grant is specified in the

budget law, and the agency which receives the money must

spend it for its designated purpose. IMAS has received

many special grants for activities favored by the legislators,

often highly visible projects in the law makers' home towns.

The special grants budget serves as a mechanism for

responding to localistic demands, but only 3 percent of all


public investment funds are allocated in that manner. INVU

and SNAA officials do not regard the grants as an important

source of revenue for their agencies, and IMAS officials

recognize that the special funds are merely a supplement to

the institution's regular program.

IMAS officials' ambitions have brought the organi-

zation under some political control because the administra-

tors have had to go to the elected authorities for expansion

money. INVU and SNAA officials have been less subject to

this kind of political influence because they have relied

heavily upon loan financing not directly controlled by the

politicians. Both SNAA and INVU receive earmarked support

in the form of fixed annual subsidies from the central

government, but those funds account for only a small part

of the institutions' revenue. Ln 1975 INVU's subsidy

constituted merely 5 percent of the institution's total

budget, while SNAA's earmarked subsidy made up only 8 percent

of the water entity's income in 1973.11 Both INVU and SNAA

use loan funds to construct most of their new projects.

During the 1973-1974 period SNAA borrowed 25 million dollars

from international sources, while continuing to receive

earlier loans with a total value of 15 million dollars.12

INVU officials fund housing projects with funds

derived from foreign loans and from the sale of Costa Rican

government bonds. INVU's income from such sources has

varied greatly from year to year, resulting in marked

fluctuations in the institution's housing construction.

For example, in the poorly financed years of 1965, 1966,

and 1969, the institution only built between 600 and 800

houses annually. This contrasts with the production of

over 1500 houses during each of the alternating years of

1964, 1967, and 1970.13

INVU has survived the precipitous changes in its

loan financing because most of its housing has been

constructed by private contractors; hence, there is no

large INVU construction crew which is idled during the

slack periods. In addition, the institution's fixed annual

state subsidy enables it to maintain its administrative

personnel and facilities even when it can do little else.

Vague, Unrealistic Goals

In addition to establishing formal structures and

financial arrangements, the founding laws of the Costa

Rican housing and water organizations also define the

purposes and some of the activities of those bodies. The

distinction which Fred Riggs makes between goals and policies

is pertinent to the analysis of those purpose-related

provisions of the founding laws. According to Riggs, goals

consist of statements of objectives or wishes, whereas

policies are choices which are made among alternative goals.

Goals are vague, while policies are specific. Policies can

serve as effective guides for those who must carry out

public activity.14 In addition to Riggs' distinction

between goals and policies, it may also be useful to

distinguish between categories of goals. This writer has

found that he can distinguish between goals which state

somewhat specific purposes and goals which are extremely

vague. Thus, on a continuum defined by specificity, one

can place the following types of purpose-related statements.




The founding laws of the water and housing institu-

tions do not contain any statements of policy. In other

words, none of the statements of objectives included in

the laws is specific enough to show administrators how the

objective is to be attained. Instead of establishing

policies, the political leaders merely established goals

for the organizations.

Although the founding laws of INVU, IMAS, and SNAA

contain many statements of purpose, very few such statements

merit being considered a "somewhat specific goal." SNAA

was created in 1961 amid a pressing water shortage in the

San Jose area. The law creating SNAA prohibited the

organization from expanding its operations in other parts

of the country until the metropolitan water shortage was

resolved in "rational and acceptable form."15 The law did

not state how the additional water was to be brought to the

city. In other words, it did not establish policies

concerning which of various possible water sources were to

be tapped. Those technical decisions were left to SNAA's

engineers and their foreign consultants. Four years after

the founding law was passed, the Board of Directors of SNAA

described various measures which had effectively increased

the metropolitan water supply and stated that "the service

. has accomplished a substantial improvement in the

supply of water to the metropolitan area, with guaranteed

potability and in sufficient quantity during both seasons

of the year to meet the ordinary needs of the population."

In other words, the worst aspects of the previous water

shortage had been eliminated, for most metropolitan resi-

dents, and so SNAA was legally free to expand its activities

in other parts of the country.16

Several other provisions of SNAA's founding law also

state somewhat specific goals. For instance, one clause

charges the institution with responsibility for elaborating

or approving all of the plans for hydraulic works in Costa

Rica, including the plans for private projects costing more

than about three thousand dollars. Another provision of

the law directs SNAA to establish charges for the use of

its services. The charges are supposed to be calculated on

the basis of the actual cost of the service, with a

percentage added to make possible SNAA's capitalization and

further development. Vehement public resistance to

increases in water rates prevented SNAA from ever imposing

user charges high enough to comply with this aspect of the

founding law, even though the law sets a relatively

specific goal.

Some goals serve as symbols of what political leaders

would like to accomplish, or as propaganda to impress voters,

rather than as definitions of the actual functions of public

institutions. Edelman has pointed out that much law making

is symbolic in character. The words are meant to impress,

rather than the accomplishments. Thus, legal provisions

express aspirations and symbolize goal attainment, even

when they are not actually enforced.17 This tendency is

exemplified by some extremely vague and obviously unattain-

able provisions of the Costa Rican housing and water

institutions' founding laws.

The provisions of IMAS' founding law which purport to

define that institution's purposes seem to be largely

symbolic. The law charges the welfare institute with the

following tasks:

1. Resolve the problem of poverty in Costa Rica.

2. Ameliorate, reduce, or eliminate the causes of
poverty and the effects of poverty.

3. Incorporate the country's marginal groups into
the social and economic life of the country.

4. Rapidly and adequately prepare the poor to improve
their possibilities of carrying out paid employ-

5. Attend to the necessities of those individuals
or groups who need to be provided with the means
of subsistence. 0
The law does not state how IMAS is supposed to achieve

these herculean feats, other than stating that a national

anti-poverty plan is to be created, coordinating activities

carried out by all government entities and private sector

organizations. These extremely vague legal provisions have

not defined the activities which the IMAS has carried out

in practice. Instead, the vague goals have served as

symbols of what national political leaders would like to


INVU's founding law is also quite vague about the

organization's purposes. The housing organization is

charged with resolving all housing problems in both the

city and countryside, while simultaneously imposing urban

planning upon all of the nation's cities. Because it is so

vague, INVU's planning law cannot be used to guide institu-

tional policy making. INVU officials are charged with

meeting a wide range of needs and it is up to them to

decide which activities are given priority.

In summary, most of the purpose-related provisions of

the founding laws of INVU, IMAS, and SNAA are extremely

vague. Such provisions probably ought to be interpreted as

symbolically significant political gestures, rather than as

meaningful guides for directing administrative activity. A

few of the goals in the founding laws are somewhat more

specific than the others, but none of the statements of

purpose in the laws is sufficiently clear to merit being

classified as a policy. Thus, the founding laws leave

administrators with virtually complete policy-making

discretion. .This finding agrees with Riggs' interpretation

of prismatic administration. The political leaders

establish goals, rather than policies--at least at the

law-making stage. Whether or not the political leaders

exercise influence upon the ongoing activities of the

housing and water institutions is another matter. That

question is examined in chapter III.


1Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social, Memoria 1971-1975
(San Jose, Costa Rica).

2Murray Edelman, The Symbolic Uses of Politics
(Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1967).

3Claudio Cruz, Causas Precursoras del SNAA (San Jose,
Costa Rica: Servicio a-cional de Acueductos y Alcantari-
llado, 1973).

4Alfred Cuzin, Centralization and Scope: Political
Structure and Policy Performance in Costa Rica and El
Salvador (Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1965),
p. 119.
5Mark B. Rosenberg, The Politics of Health Care in
Costa Rica: Social Security Policy Making, 19~T -1975 TPh.D.
dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 976).
6Josef Gabor, Desarrollo Hist6rico-Jddico de la
Decentralizaci6n Administrativa en Costa Rica (tesis de
grado, Universidad de CostaRica,197l4.

8Fred Riggs, Administration in Developing Countries:
The ory of Prismatic Sogiety (Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1964), p. 94.

91nstituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantari-
llados, Diagn6stico Institucional (1976), p. 13.

10nstituto Mixto de Ayuda Social.

11nstituto National de Vivienda y Urbanismo, Memoria
1975 (San Josi, Costa Rica); Servicio Nacional de Acueductos
y Alcantarillados, Informe 1973-1974 (San Josd, Costa Rica).
12SNAA, pp. 19-20.

131nstituto Nacional de Vivienda y Urbanismo, Memoria
1974 (San Jose, Costa Rica).

14Riggs, pp. 332-34.
15Asemblea Legislativa, Republica de Costa Rica, Ley
Constitutiva del Servicio Nacional de Acueductos y Alcan-
tarillado (Promul-gada April 14, 19T).
16Asemblea Legislativa, p. 16.
18Asemblea Legislativa, Republica de Costa Rica,
Institute Mixto de A uda Social: Le de Creaci6n y Otras
Disposiciones Conexas (Ley No. 4760).



Riggs suggests that political leaders in developing

countries tend to have very limited influence upon adminis-

tration.1 Thus, administrators in Riggs' archetypical

prismatic society are largely free from political control.

Furthermore, the limited influence political leaders have

upon prismatic administrators is said to be particularistic

in nature, rather than being programmatic or policy-oriented.

This writer's findings concerning political leaders'

influence upon Costa Rican housing and water administration

generally coincide with the archetypical pattern described

by Riggs. Of course, in order to examine this subject it

is necessary to define who are political leaders and who

are administrators. In this study all agency officials,

including the executive presidents of the autonomous

institutions, are considered to be administrators. The

country's elected office holders are classified as political

leaders. In Costa Rica the President of the Republic is

elected, along with members of the National Assembly and

the municipal councils. All of the elected officials are

selected on a partisan basis during a single national

election which is held every four years. The group of


elected political leaders does not comprise the entire

Costa Rican political elite, but it is reasonable to assume

that those individuals are more active and influential than

most other people. The fact that the office holders have

been elected suggests that they are influential within

their respective political parties. When housing and water

officials were asked by this writer to respond to questions

about the initiatives of "political leaders" most of them

spontaneously assumed that the term referred to the President

of the Republic and members of the National Assembly.

Some types of administrative decisions are clearly

case decisions, such as decisions which affect only a

single family. Other types of decisions are obviously

policy decisions, such as decisions to adopt sets of

universally applicable norms or criteria. There are also

various intermediate types of decisions which affect groups

of persons, but which are not applicable to people outside

of the groups. For example, some decisions confer benefits

upon broad sectors of society, such as geographic regions

or income strata. Other decisions provide benefits for

specific communities. The types of decisions which are

examined below can be placed on a policy/case continuum as

shown in Table 2.

Policy decisions establish procedures and criteria

intended to guide officials who make intermediate type

decisions and case decisions. For example, the selection

of which families are given public housing requires



Policy Decisions .Include everyone in the
jurisdiction of the decision-
making agency

Intermediate Decisions
Type A ... .Include some broad sector of
society (i.e., income groups,
residents of geographic

Intermediate Decisions
Type B ... .Include residents of some
specific community (i.e.,
town, city, neighborhood)

Case Decisions ... Include an individual or a

officials to make many case decisions. The adoption of

criteria for guiding the selection of recipients is a

policy making process. Ideally, policy decisions are

universal in scope because they establish procedures or

criteria applicable to all cases officials could possibly

confront. In practice, policies do not necessarily exist

to guide decisions, nor are policies which do exist

necessarily followed. Chapter IV of this work describes

some instances in which Costa Rican water and housing

officials have successfully formulated and implemented

general policies. Chapter V discusses instances in which

either no policy has been formulated or else stated policies

have not been effectively implemented. Chapter III focuses

upon the influence (or lack of influence) elected political

leaders have had upon decisions.

Political Influence upon the Establishment
of General Policies

Costa Rican housing and water officials have some

general policies which they use to make certain kinds of

case decisions. For example, the following kinds of

policies exist:

1. INVU policies for selecting recipients of public housing

2. IMAS policies for selecting recipients of public housing

3. SNAA policies for collecting user charges from

defaulting clients

4. INVU policies for collecting mortgage and rent payments

from defaulting clients

5. IMAS policies for selecting which communities receive

public housing projects

6. SNAA policies for selecting which rural communities

receive aqueducts.

The contents of these policies are described in chapter

IV, along with an assessment of the extent to which they

are implemented. The policies and their implementation

were studied by means of unstructured interviews with

officials, and through the administration of several

different questionnaires to the administrators. A general,

open-ended item in one of the questionnaires asked

respondents to identify any aspects of their institutions'

activities which elected political leaders had sought to

influence. Other questionnaire items asked whether specific

types of political leaders (National Assembly members, the

President, municipal council members) had influenced, or

sought to influence, the formulation of specific policies.

The officials often responded to these questionnaire items

by saying that no political leaders had influenced or sought

to influence the formulation of the policies.

When asked if political leaders had ever sought to

influence the formulation of the INVU policies which concern

the selection of recipients for public housing, a knowledge-

able INVU official initially responded negatively. After

thinking for a moment the official recalled a minor incident

of this kind. Once the municipal council of a suburban

San Jose community tried to persuade INVU to permit the

council members to select who would receive the INVU housing.

These council members maintained that they knew the people

in the community better than INVU officials did, but their

effort to influence INVU's policies was completely unsuc-

cessful. Recipients of INVU housing have always been

selected by that institution's credit department. Neither

National Assembly members nor the President of the Republic

has ever sought to establish or alter INVU's policies for

selecting recipients of housing. Those policies have been

set by INVU's board of directors and have been carried out

by credit department officials.

IMAS employs certain criteria and procedures for deter-

mining which families receive the housing it constructs.

Neither the President of the Republic, nor the members of

the National Assembly, nor the members of the municipal

councils have ever tried to determine what those generally

applicable criteria and procedures should be. Determined

by the social workers who select housing recipients, the

criteria and procedures are largely unwritten. The social

workers also have some questionnaires which serve as guides

for conducting studies of the poverty of individual families.

Most of the policies which have guided SNAA's collec-

tion of user charges from defaulting clients have been estab-

lished by that organization's board of directors. During the

fifteen years since SNAA was founded, political leaders have

never attempted to formulate or reformulate those policies.

Political leaders did influence collections policy once

prior to that time, however. In 1953 the National Assembly

passed the "General Potable Water Law," part of which deals

with defaulting clients, and SNAA follows that legislation.

Specifically, the law states that water service cannot be

withheld from families unless free public fountains are

available as an alternative means of supply. Most of the

details of SNAA's collections policies are not included in

the "General Potable Water Law."

The instructions INVU officials follow when dealing

with defaulting clients are stated in a document which is

revised approximately every three years. The instructions

are modified by special committees of INVU employees.

Typically, the manager, the auditor, the head of the

collections department, and an INVU social worker constitute

the committee. The board of directors is advised of all

changes in the regulations but does not formally approve


them because they are not legally binding. Political leaders

have never sought to alter these instructions, nor did they

formulate the original procedures some twenty years ago.

IMAS selects communities to receive housing projects

on the basis of criteria determined by the institution's

manager and planning department. The President of the

Republic, the National Assembly members, and the municipal

council members have never attempted to establish or alter

these criteria, nor have they ever sought to determine the

guidelines for SNAA's allocation of rural aqueducts.

Costa Rican housing and water officials have almost

always been able to formulate decision-making criteria and

procedures free from intervention by political leaders.

The preceding discussion of six instances of policy making

supports an unsolicited affirmation made by a high ranking

SNAA official. According to the official, "Outsiders

never influence the policies or general decisions which are

made by SNAA." An executive official of IMAS noted that,

"They (political leaders) never try to change our general

criteria or norms, but they sometimes try to promote

specific programs or local projects." Of course, political

leaders' efforts to promote projects in specific communities

could interfere with administrators' efforts to implement

generally applicable criteria. The section below suggests,

however, that this has rarely occurred. Political leaders

have sought to promote projects for specific communities on

various occasions, but their efforts have frequently been

unsuccessful. Only a small proportion of all housing and

water projects have been created as a result of influence

by political leaders.

Political Influence upon the Selection of
Which Communities Receive Public Works~

Political leaders have frequently attempted to

persuade IMAS officials to construct low income housing

projects in specific communities. Such efforts have

usually been unsuccessful, except for some instances in

which the politicians provided special legislative grants

or other material support for proposed projects. Members

of the National Assembly and candidates for elected office

have been quite active in seeking to influence IMAS'

selection of communities. The President of the Republic

has also promoted projects in specific communities but less

frequently than the Assembly members. Many letters are

sent to IMAS by political leaders promoting specific

projects, and National Assembly members frequently visit

the institution's top officials. Top IMAS officials say

they are visited by Assembly members "almost every day" and
"at least twice a week." Presidential personnel encourage

IMAS to construct specific projects more rarely, perhaps

several times a year.

IMAS officials emphasize that their contacts with

political figures constitute "a double game." The politi-

cians seek projects for specific communities and IMAS

officials seek funding to make project implementation

possible. In order to obtain what they seek the political

figures must provide financial support for IMAS. As

described in chapter II, National Assembly members have

sometimes been able to include special legislative grants

in the national budget, thus earmarking funds for use by

IMAS in specific communities.

On at least one occasion special funds, apparently

from the treasury of the National Liberation Party (PLN).

have been used in a partisan fashion by the institution.

In 1974 IMAS began a five house project at Chomes,

Puntarenas, in response to partisan pressures. Noting

insufficient need by prospective housing recipients, and

limited local enthusiasm for the proposed project, IMAS

officials originally decided not to construct public housing

at Chomes. This decision was reversed during the 1974

political campaign as a result of intervention by a local

PLN politician involved in the campaign. The affair was

handled secretly, with the funding for the project provided

by a mysterious source outside of IMAS. The Chomes

incident was unusual because of its clandestine, partisan

character, and because it involved the accompaniment of

political pressure and special funding. Usually, political

leaders have not accompanied their recommendations with

concrete financial support, and as a result the initiatives

have been ineffective.

IMAS officials report that community selection is

primarily determined by factors other than political

influence. As discussed in chapter IV, IMAS officials make

their decisions primarily in response to crisis situations,

and by using criteria related to community need and commu-

nity support. Chapter IV describes the origins of five

IMAS housing projects--Santa Maria de Dota, Villa Esperanza,

Chacarita, Golfito, and Torremolinos. IMAS' commitment

to the construction of the Chacarita project may have been

reinforced by the fact that the President of the Republic

expressed personal interest in the endeavor. In Golfito,

cooperation between the municipality and IMAS facilitated

the completion of project San Andres. Political leaders

played no role, however, in stimulating IMAS' involvement at

Villa Esperanza, Torremolinos, and Santa Maria de Dota. The

histories of the five projects largely support the thesis

that IMAS' project selection is based upon factors other than

political influence.

SNAA officials make hundreds of decisions concerning

where to construct rural aqueducts. Political influence

has very little impact upon the community selection

process, even though political figures frequently let SNAA

know they favor specific communities. National Assembly

members and other community leaders often contact SNAA

officials, and the President of the Republic occasionally

does so. Municipal council members rarely, if ever, seek

to influence the selection process. The executive president

of SNAA receives phone calls, letters, and visits from indi-

viduals and groups promoting the construction of rural

aqueducts in specific towns. He is also approached by school

teachers, representatives of service clubs, community develop-

ment associations, and other community leaders. The SNAA

planning official responsible for the preliminary stage of

community selection for aqueducts receives approximately

twenty-five letters per month promoting the construction of

specific rural projects. About five of the letters are

usually sent by National Assembly members and the remaining

twenty letters by residents of the affected communities.

SNAA officials respond to initiatives from political

leaders and others by checking whether or not a feasibility

analysis has been conducted for the community in question.

Usually such an analysis has already been made, but some-

times a political initiative informs the planning officials

of the existence of a community of which they had been

unaware. The officials have surveyed the entire country

using highly detailed topographic maps, but occasionally

they are informed of a hamlet not shown on the maps. Some-

times the officials respond to political or community

pressures by repeating a feasibility study. In any case,

SNAA's decisions almost always reflect technical considera-

tions. A description of the technical criteria employed to

select rural communities is included in chapter IV.

Approximately 5 percent of SNAA's rural aqueducts

budget is devoted to responding to "emergencies," including

emergencies of a political nature. For example, the Presi-

dent of the Republic has occasionally contacted SNAA

concerning the water problems of particular rural communities.

Generally, these Presidential initiatives have resulted from

incidents occurring during the President's travels. The

executive president of SUAA usually handles these incidents,

sometimes resolving them with funds from the organization's

small "emergency" fund.

Political leaders have rarely contacted INVU officials

concerning that institution's selection of communities to

receive public housing projects. INVU officials recalled

only a single incident during the past twenty years in

which the President of Costa Rica urged the institution to

construct a project in a specific community. In that

instance, Presidential assistants contacted INVU officials

many times during the 1975-1977 period and suggested that

the housing organization increase its construction programs

in the Atlantic port of Limon. The President was interested

in Limon because community leaders there organized strikes

and other protest activities against alleged neglect of the

town by the national government. During this period

Presidential officials promoted public housing in Limon

both to discourage public protest and to resolve problems

caused by the displacement of a residential population by

new port facilities. INVU reluctantly expanded its

construction program in Limon in response to Presidential

promptings even though aware that projects there tended to

have high construction costs and high rates of default

among mortgage recipients.

INVU officials do not usually think of the national

chief executive as a source of suggestions for the location

of projects. Instead, the officials perceive the President

as a potential benefactor who occasionally intervenes with

third parties. For example, the President of the Republic

sometimes contacts the Costa Rican Central Bank and the

international lending agencies on INVU's behalf. National

Assembly members, and other community leaders, usually from

small isolated communities, occasionally approach INVU

officials with requests for projects. INVU officials have

never, to this writer's knowledge, selected recipient

communities in response to initiatives from National

Assembly members. However, on rare occasions INVU has

initiated projects in response to requests from local

communities. Chapter V describes how a community leader

persuaded INVU officials to undertake the Colonia Blanca


In summary, INVU officials have almost never selected

communities in response to initiatives made by political

figures. Neither have the communities been selected on the

basis of clearly formulated policies, however. Chapter V

shows that various INVU projects have been initiated for

different motives. Political initiatives were obviously

not a motive for the initiation of the Hatillo, Villa

Esperanza, Colonia Blanca, and Roble projects. The fifth

INVU project studied, Corrales (Limon), was expanded

partially in order to please the President of the Republic.

INVU's original decision to purchase a large land reserve

at Corrales predated Presidential interest in Limon, but

some of the institution's subsequent decisions to develop

portions of the reserve have been responses to Presidential

initiatives. This case is fully discussed in chapter V.

Political Influence upon Policies Allocating
Benefits among Sectors of Society

Costa Rica, like other countries, contains various

income groups and geographic regions. The distribution of

benefits among those broad sectors of society can be

determined directly by policies which are explicitly

concerned with allocational outcomes; or it can be deter-

mined indirectly by policies which do not deal explicitly

with sectoral allocations. Another possibility is for

allocations to be made on an idiosyncratic basis, unguided

by any policy at all. These three modes of allocation

occur in the Costa Rican housing and water fields. Explicit

policies have allocated the benefits of IMAS' housing

programs to the poorest sector of society, and other

policies have attempted to balance the distribution of IMAS

projects geographically. The income level of recipients

of INVU's housing has been determined indirectly by policies

which ignore allocational outcomes and seek to realize other

goals. The distribution of INVU housing projects among

geographic regions of the country is not determined by any

policy at all, but rather has been the result of many

disparate decisions.

Only a few instances have occurred in which political

figures determined the formulation of policies deliberately

allocating public housing or potable water among sectors of

society. These instances have been very important, however.

By committing additional resources to housing and water

institutions the elected leaders have sometimes increased

the benefits provided to poor people and residents of

peripheral areas. For example, the creation of IMAS by

political leaders in 1971 increased the amount of housing

and other assistance provided to the poorest sector of

Costa Rican society. The political leaders provided the

administrators of the new institution with a clear mandate

to serve the poor and with financial resources appropriate

for that purpose. As explained in chapter II, IMAS was

provided by law with an annual state subsidy and with other

earmarked revenue.

Like the founding of IMAS, the creation of the Family

Assistance Program (Assignaciones Familiares) in 1974

resulted from the activity of various political figures,

including the President, Presidential assistants, and the

members of the National Assembly. The Family Assistance

Program law specified that the program was to receive all

of the revenue generated by a new tax. Funds from the

program enabled IMAS to increase its construction of low

income housing and made it possible for SNAA to expand the

scope of its rural aqueducts program.

The passage of laws creating new administrative

institutions provides political leaders with opportunities

to formulate policies concerning the allocation of benefits

to different sectors of society. When the law founding

SNAA was passed in 1961 a provision was included specifying

that the new institution devote its initial efforts to

resolving the problem of water supply for the San Jose

metropolitan area, then suffering a serious water shortage.

After complying with this requirement, SNAA officials

attempted to obtain control over all aqueducts in Costa

Rica, including municipally administered works. SNAA's

efforts to obtain control over municipal water works

reflected expansionistic goals of the institution's top

officials. Political leaders had no influence upon the

formulation of the expansionist policy. Indeed, SNAA's

expansionist efforts aroused extensive political opposition.

This episode demonstrates independent administrative policy


IMAS officials have formulated several policies which

explicitly determine how the institution's services are

allocated among broad sectors of society. They decided to

provide assistance only to the poorest sector of Costa

Rican society and to initiate procedures appropriate to

that goal. Families receiving IMAS assistance are selected

on the basis of their poverty. IMAS officials also report

that they use the maintenance of equal distribution as a

criterion for selecting communities to receive housing

projects. In other words, they try to locate projects in

all of the regions of the country. These two IMAS policies,

serving the poor and balanced distribution, may have been

adopted by agency officials in order to avoid adverse

reactions from political leaders.

In summary, policies which explicitly determine allo-

cations among broad sectors of society are sometimes adopted

independently by organization officials. On other occasions,

such policies come from the Presidential office. National

Assembly members are not involved in determining this kind

of policy, although they actively promote projects for the

specific communities they represent. Political decisions,

such as the founding of IMAS and the creation of the Family

Assistance Program, significantly influence the distribution

of public benefits among sectors of society.

In other instances allocations among societal groups

are determined indirectly as an unintended outcome of

policies designed to achieve other goals. For example,

INVU requires prospective housing recipients to demonstrate

that they are affluent enough to make mortgage payments.

Intended to protect the financial interests of the institu-

tion, that policy makes a large part of the Costa Rican

population ineligible for INVU housing. Almost all of

INVU's clientele have incomes placing them in the upper

half of the population. The regional distribution of INVU's

housing projects has not been determined according to any

policy, but rather has occurred as the result of many

different decisions. Chapter V describes this process.

Political Influence upon Decisions
Aftecting Individual Families

As we have seen, politicians have not influenced the

formulation of housing and water policy criteria, nor have

they sought very often to obtain public works for specific

communities. Elected political leaders have had a signi-

ficant influence upon allocations between sectors of

society, although only a few decisions of this kind have

been made. Political leaders, especially Assembly members,

have been active, however, in seeking benefits for indi-

vidual families. City council members and the President of

the Republic have also intervened on behalf of families,

but less frequently.

In addition to the political leaders, a wide variety

of other types of persons have sought to influence the

manner in which the housing and water institutions have

dealt with individuals. Government ministers, high level

civil servants, foreign ambassadors, clergymen, and

representatives of community development associations have

recommended favorable treatment for specific families.

Such interventions are occasionally undertaken by means of

telephone calls or personal visits.

Letters of recommendation, however, are the predominant

means by which political leaders and others seek favorable

treatment for individuals. The amount of such mail

increases substantially during the six month campaign periods

prior to national elections. During those periods campaign

workers send many letters of recommendation to the two

housing institutions. The influence, or lack of influence,

of political leaders' recommendations is discussed below.

Considerable attention is paid here to IMAS, an institution

which has been publically accused of partisan favoritism.

INVU has been subject to less criticism of this kind,

although it receives some partisan letters. INVU receives

communications from elected officials requesting favorable

treatment of families seeking housing or unable to make

their mortgage payments. SNAA officials receive requests

from political leaders concerning maintenance problems,

the hiring of low level personnel, and the treatment of

defaulting clients. The discussion below describes such

political overtures and assesses their significance.

As stated before, IMAS was founded in 1971, early in

a Presidential term of National Liberation Party (PLN)

leader, Josd Figueres. Figures took the initiative in

promoting IMAS and later named its board of directors.

Following Figueres' presidency another PLN leader, Daniel

Oduber became President. During Oduber's term opposition

leaders charged that IMAS allocated food and housing to the

poor on the basis of partisan favoritism.2

No one denies that political figures frequently seek

to influence IMAS' allocations of welfare benefits. In a

public statement IMAS officials described their working

environment as "a sea of pressures."3 Costa Rican electoral

campaigns involve intense activity by party workers seeking

the votes of the poor through the politics of largess.

Campaign workers visit poor communities and distribute

food, blankets, and other useful items, along with campaign

posters and party flags. Sometimes people are given food

by campaign workers only if they promise to vote for the

party in question, or if they display the party's flag on

top of their houses. During the 1970 electoral campaign

several delegations from political parties visited disaster

areas in Guanacaste province and gave flood victims blankets

and mattresses. The wife of a Presidential candidate

managed to distribute relief supplies to the stricken

communities before the Red Cross and IMAS arrived on the

scene. The politics of largess plays a big role in electoral

campaigns, and so the poor, campaign workers, and others

associate the provision of welfare with partisanship and

vote buying.

Along with the politics of largess, the politics of

recommendations is a ubiquitous part of the Costa Rican

scene. In Costa Rica, as in pre-industrial societies

generally, administration tends to be highly personal.

According to an official IMAS statement, "Let us not forget

that this is the country of recommendations, whether we

like it that way or not, and here every living being believes

that the best manner to obtain what he needs or desires is

through the intercession in his favor of someone whom he

believes has influence, prestige, or power. .. ."4 National

Assembly members, candidates for office, and partisan

campaign offices send many recommendations to IMAS. It

also receives many letters of recommendation from ordinary

citizens, from the employers of indigent persons, and from

influential people without partisan ties. The politically

related letters have usually come from individuals asso-

ciated with the PLN, the party in power from 1970 to 1978.

The sub-director of IMAS estimates that approximately

two-thirds of the letters from partisan figures have come

from PLN supporters, while the other one-third have been

sent by opposition politicians.

It is generally agreed that political figures seek to

influence IMAS allocations. Conflicting interpretations

exist, however, concerning the manner in which organization

officials have dealt with those political pressures. Oppo-

sition politicians have charged that IMAS gives out welfare

payments according to partisan criteria. Specifically,

opposition leaders charged that IMAS distributed benefits

in accordance with recommendations received from PLN campaign

offices,. from the 1978 PLN Presidential candidate, and from

the PLN affiliated President of the 1974-1978 National

Assembly.5 The opposition leaders have not presented

systematic evidence to support these claims, but news

reports describe individual incidents of alleged favoritism.

One news story quotes a man as saying:

They gave me a house and threatened to throw me out
unless I took down the flag of the Unity Party
(the principal opposition party of 1978) which I had
put up on my roof. As I see things, IMAS is bad.
Those threats came from two young men who arrived to
tell me that I was behind in my rent payments and that
the only way to avoid being thrown out in the street
would be to take down Carazo's flag. I live in Villa
Esperanza de Pavas, but in spite of everything, I am
not disposed to take down the flag which I put up with
much affection.6

IMAS' executive officials have publicly and privately

denied that the institution engages in partisan favoritism.

According to the official IMAS view, "the National Institute

of Mixed Social Assistance (IMAS) indiscriminately serves

the poorest sectors of Costa Rican society. It has never

asked anyone's political coloration, nor has it ever

conditioned any assistance upon this type of considera-

tions."7 Top IMAS officials say that the institution gives

equal treatment to all letters of recommendation received,

regardless of their source. The officials note that IMAS

willingly accepts all of the special legislative grants

allocated to it. As explained in chapter II, the Assembly

members include those items in the national budget in

order to channel funds into the specific communities they

represent. According to IMAS' executive officials,

acceptance of the grants is justified because it augments

the organization's insufficient financing.

Another view of IMAS' activity exists in addition to

the perspective of the opposition leaders and the assertions

of the IMAS executives. According to a mid-level IMAS

administrator, the institution has engaged in some partisan

favoritism, but very infrequently. The administrator in

question characterized IMAS decision making as a struggle

between a small number of political operatives working

within the organization and a larger and more influential

group of professional social workers who seek to serve the

poor politically. According to this source, IMAS allocations

are made almost entirely according to non-partisan criteria

during the first half of each Presidential term, but the

influence of political operatives increases during the year

preceding each Presidential election.

Before the 1974 election a PLN political operative

worked within IMAS, politicizing the organization's housing

program as much as possible. Believing that he had the

support of IMAS' executives, this individual engaged in

various irregularities. According to another IMAS official,

the political operative distributed construction materials

and promised families houses without going through the

proper procedures. Other irregularities reportedly involved

the inability to account for funds spent. As a result of

the irregularities, internal clashes occurred within IMAS,

and the political operative was dismissed following the

1974 election.

While employed by IMAS the operative apparently handled

large quantities of money secretly transferred into IMAS

from an outside source, apparently the PLN campaign treasury.

Those funds were used to buy roofing materials which were

distributed to poor people in order to maximize support for

the PLN. The political operative had a quota of houses to

give away before the election, and his efforts to meet the

quota produced an unplanned enlargement of at least one

IMAS project. The barrio Corazon de Jesus project in San

Jose is cramped and lacks adequate space between its

dwellings because of a pre-election increase in the number

of families included in the project. The political operative

also clashed with professionally oriented IMAS officials

concerning the construction of the small housing project in

Chomes, Puntarenas, mentioned above.

A top IMAS official is said by subordinates to act as

a partisan politician, handling exceptional grants to needy

persons recommended by political leaders. Subordinates

report that this official receives many partisan letters

of recommendation which he forwards to subordinates in

charge of the geographical areas where the applicants for

assistance live. Several of those subordinates report that

they have received a large number of partisan recommendations

in this manner, all of which have come from individuals

associated with the PLN. IMAS executive officials have

told this writer and the Costa Rican public that the

institution receives and responds to partisan letters from

all of the political parties. It appears, however, that

either the opposition parties have not sent IMAS letters of

recommendation, or else a high ranking IMAS official has

received such letters from opposition sources but failed to

forward them to his subordinates.

The examples above clearly demonstrate that IMAS

officials have engaged in some partisan favoritism. The

extent of such favoritism has been limited, however. Only

two IMAS officials, one of whom was dismissed, have been

described by candid insiders as being partisan politicians

rather than apolitical professionals. As the examples

above attest, the partisan favoritism which has occurred

has usually taken place during the periods immediately

prior to national elections. Politicians of the National

Liberation Party (PLN) have sought to utilize IMAS as an

electoral machine for distributing partisan largess, but

institution officials have generally been successful in

resisting such pressures. The selection of communities to

receive IMAS housing projects has usually been carried out

according to non-partisan criteria, as described in the

preceding section of this chapter. IMAS' treatment of

individuals has usually, if not always, been non-partisan.

Institution officials acknowledge that they receive many

partisan letters of recommendation, but they privately say

that those letters rarely, if ever, influence their selection

of families. The selection of families is described more

fully in chapter IV.

The most convincing evidence supporting the thesis

that the PLN's efforts to politicize IMAS have been largely

unsuccessful comes from interviews which this writer con-

ducted with residents of IMAS housing projects. A sample

survey was taken of about fifty families, representing all

families living in IMAS housing in the San Jose metropolitan

area in mid-1975. (For further information concerning the

methodology employed during the sample survey, see the

appendix.) Each resident interviewed was asked to state

which political party he or she supported. Many residents

said they supported no party at all and a great deal of

cynicism was expressed towards political parties in general.

Each respondent was asked several questions concerning

the manner in which he or she had obtained their dwelling

from IMAS. No one stated that they had obtained their

dwelling as a result of their partisan affiliation. All

interviewees were asked whether or not IMAS was affiliated

with a political party, and if so, which party. Most of

the residents stated that IMAS was not affiliated with any

party, although a few people disagreed. This latter group

was divided, however, between those who believed that IMAS

was associated with the governing PLN, and those who believed

it was affiliated with the opposition National Unification


The respondents said that representatives of political

parties had visited their neighborhoods during the 1974

Presidential campaign. These party representatives usually

engaged in the politics of largess, giving out rice, food

baskets, and blankets. Sometimes these gifts were only

distributed if the resident agreed to permit campaign

workers to install a party flag on the house. Residents

resented the manipulative efforts of campaign workers to

buy votes and sometimes responded by voting against the

groups which had given them aid.

Three incidents described below suggest the chaotic

character of the politics of largess and the PLN's lack of

success in converting IMAS into an effective electoral

machine. The first incident involved a community leader

who resided in an IMAS project and had been elected head


of the local association of residents. IMAS encourages the

formation of local associations of housing project resi-

dents. The association leader acted as IMAS' liaison with the

community and at times decided which families could move

into housing units. This man's authority apparently stemmed

from his relationship with IMAS, as well as from his position

as head of the residents' association. The leader's

neighbors did not know which party the man supported, but

they generally assumed that he supported one of the parties

opposed to the PLN. This belief stemmed from an incident

which occurred in the project during the 1974 campaign. At

that time a PLN candidate for the National Assembly entered

the project with campaign workers and persuaded some families

to erect PLN flags on their roofs. The community leader

ordered the flags removed, saying he forebade all political

displays in the project. He was not acting on behalf of

IMAS when he ordered the PLN flags removed, but neither was

he censured by IMAS for taking that action.

The second incident involved a woman who acted as a

block chairman for the National Unification Party (PUN)

during the 1974 election. She said that her activity on

behalf of the opposition produced clashes between her and

some of her neighbors and also resulted in an effort by

several IMAS employees to intimidate her. She said several

young men traveling in an official IMAS car visited her

house during the campaign and told her that if she did not

cease holding meetings for the opposition IMAS would take her

house away from her. The woman was very upset by this until

the LMAS social worker assigned to the project reassured her

that the threat would not be carried out. The block chair-

man kept up her activity in spite of the intimidation and

was never subject to any retaliation by IMAS.

The final incident involved a woman who obtained her

house partially through the intervention of President Josa

Figures. After IMAS conducted a social worker study of

the woman's circumstances she was told she would have to

wait a long time before receiving an IMAS house. After

several months the woman became impatient and contacted

the President of the Republic to tell him about her plight.

The woman waited outside of the Presidential house until

Figures left the building on the way to his automobile.

As the President was getting into his car the woman rushed

forward and attempted to tell him her story. Figures

placated her by giving her a card establishing an appoint-

ment with his wife's political secretary. The political

secretary then arranged for IMAS to expedite the woman's

housing application. The woman had no personal acquain-

tanceship with Figueres prior to the incident, nor was she

asked to reveal her party affiliation by either Figueres,

the political secretary, or IMAS. She told this writer

that she supported Costa Rica's small Communist party.

The survey results and the anecdotal incidents presented

above indicate that PLN efforts to utilize IMAS as an

electoral machine have been unsuccessful. If IMAS were

effectively implementing the PLN's politics of largess,

then the institution's clientele would be aware of that

fact and would identify the organization with the ruling

party. IMAS officials would act consistently in favor of

PLN supporters and would consistently discriminate against

known opposition supporters. Instead, IMAS' treatment of

individuals has been largely non-partisan, despite the

occurrence of some incidents of partisan favoritism.

INVU receives less partisan pressure than IMAS does.

The former institution is much older and has developed a

more independent image. During its twenty-four years of

existence (as of 1978) INVU has experienced five changes

in partisan control of the national Presidency. INVU's

clientele is largely derived from middle income groups

which are less subject to the partisan politics of electoral

largess than is IMAS' lower income clientele. However, at

least one partisan incident involving INVU occurred during

the 1978 campaign. Some residents of an INVU housing

project publicly charged that a small group of persons had

threatened to have them evicted from their homes unless

they removed opposition party flags from their houses. The

group of PLN supporters which allegedly made the threats

was said to have been headed by a National Assembly member.

The Assembly member denied the charges, claiming that he had

never interfered with anyone's freedom of expression. It

is noteworthy that INVU itself was not accused of wrong-

doing. Instead, the squabble occurred between partisan

groups. The people who charged that they were being

intimidated by PLN supporters acknowledged that INVU had

originally granted them their homes on a completely non-

partisan basis.8

The INVU officials in charge of selecting which families

are allocated housing acknowledge that they receive some

letters of recommendation from partisan campaign workers,

city council members, National Assembly members, and the

President of the Republic. The number of these letters

received by INVU seems to be much smaller than the number

received by IMAS. The limited influence political leaders

have upon INVU's treatment of individuals is exercised

either by means of special legislative grants or through

personal contacts with members of the institution's board

of directors.

Occasionally, special legislative grants are passed by

the National Assembly and are earmarked to be spent by INVU

for assisting specific families, or groups of families.

For example, one special grant was earmarked for providing

materials for building internal partitions within eighty

houses. The families living in those houses had been

originally granted the dwellings with the understanding

they would be responsible for completing the internal walls.

The families did not complete the task, and a legislator

sought to help them do so by means of the special legislative

grant.9 Other legislative grants have been earmarked for

paying off individual mortgages. Two or three such grants

are approved by the legislature every year, covering no

more than four families per grant. The number of families

assisted in this way constitutes only a miniscule proportion

of INVU's total clientele. Because the Assembly members

favor so few families in this manner, it appears the

exceptions are motivated by considerations other than the

creation of more support for a party or politician. Assembly

members may be making the special grants in order to oblige

friends, acquaintenances, or family members, thus engaging

in the kind of personalistic behavior so common in Costa

Rica and other developing countries. Another possibility

is that constituents in dire circumstances approach the

legislators and the latter become involved because they

believe that helping individuals solve problems is part of

their role as elected community leaders.

In addition to securing the passage of special legis-

lative grants, political leaders have sometimes influenced

INVU's treatment of individuals by means of personal

contacts with the institution's board of directors. This

has occurred when families have fulfilled the requirements

for obtaining an INVU dwelling and have been put on a waiting

list. Ordinarily, the INVU credit department employs an

objective point system to determine the order of the waiting

families. INVU's manager and board of directors, however,

can order the credit department to make exceptions to the

normal procedures, enabling specific families to obtain

housing even though others are ahead of them on the list.

The board members usually order the exceptions in response

to recommendations received from their friends, or from high

status individuals to whom they defer. In order for a

political leader to obtain an exception for a family, he

must speak with the INVU board member personally. Mere

letters of recommendation are not sufficient.

This writer was shown a letter received by INVU from

the PLN's 1978 Presidential candidate. The letter was

handled quickly. Within three days of its arrival it was

forwarded by top officials to the credit department and

acted upon there. The department head decided that he

could not make the special exception, and so the letter

was filed and no reply was sent to the Presidential candi-

date. The department head told this writer that if the

candidate were sufficiently interested in the matter he

could probably obtain his recommendation by speaking

directly with a board member or with the manager, requesting

that they issue a special order to make the exception. In

practice, political leaders rarely follow up their letters

of recommendation. Furthermore, over 90 percent of the

families which receive housing from INVU obtain their

dwellings through the normal operating procedures, without

exceptional orders by board members. Political leaders are

responsible for some of the special exceptions granted, but

more of the exceptions are motivated by considerations of

friendship. A fuller description of the manner in which

INVU selects housing recipients is presented in chapters IV

and V.

Like INVU, SNAA receives relatively little partisan

pressure on behalf of individuals. Most of the political

overtures received are directed towards the executive

president's office. The executive president reports that

political leaders frequently contact him requesting that

the institution remedy problems in water systems. By

making small repairs SNAA officials are sometimes able to

restore service to families without water, thus satisfying

the politicians who intervened on the families' behalf.

SNAA officials receive some recommendations from

political leaders sponsoring applicants for low level jobs

within the institution. Very few such recommendations are

sent to SNAA, and those are mostly on behalf of prospective

chauffeurs or office boys. Political leaders also send a

few letters to the institution requesting special treatment

for specific families unable to pay their water bills. The

head of SNAA's collection operations says he takes those

letters into account but does not deviate from his depart-

ment's formal rules. The rules establish time limits within

which payment must be made to SNAA. The only exceptions to

the normal collections procedures are by order of the board

of directors of SNAA. The board makes about one such

exception per year.

In summary, housing and water officials are often

contacted by partisan political figures who seek to

influence the treatment given to individual families. EIAS

receives many such overtures, and INVU and SNAA also receive

some. The number of political initiatives concerned with

the treatment of individuals greatly exceeds the number

dealing with allocations to communities or to broad sectors

of society. Political efforts to influence the treatment

of individuals occur frequently but are usually ineffectual.

In other words, housing and water officials are rarely

influenced by the frequent overtures which political

leaders make.

Budgeting as a Means of Imposing
Political Control

In modern governments budget institutions serve as a

very important means by which elected political leaders

impose their will upon administrative agencies. Budget

institutions have not been so effective in the Third World.

Costa Rica is no exception. Three budgetary institutions

exist, but they rarely serve as mechanisms for influencing

the policies adopted by public agencies. The national

comptroller's office is primarily concerned with auditing

matters. Housing and water officials report that the

comptroller's office examines the budget documents they

submit to it, and occasionally the examiners ask questions

about ambiguous matters, or irregularities. The comptroller's

responsibility is to assure that the laws are not violated,

and that proper accounting procedures are followed. The

comptroller is rarely, if ever, involved in determining

substantive questions or policy matters.

The National Planning Office (OFIPLAN) performs several

useful functions. In addition to compiling the national

budget, OFIPLAN limits the size of the total budget, and

imposes ceilings upon the budgets of all government insti-

tutions. OFIPLAN also monitors the investment plans of

government agencies. Several times a year housing and water

officials are given questionnaires to provide OFIPLAN with

information concerning the purposes, timing, and funding

of future public works investments. OFIPLAN officials

sometimes ask housing and water administrators to estimate

the size of their upcoming annual budget requests. Aside

from establishing budgetary ceilings for each institution's

total spending, OFIPLAN does not attempt to influence the

internal decision making of the housing and water agencies--

for example, concerning the manner in which they employ

their budget allocations.

The National Assembly ritually approves the budgets of

the government ministries. Planning officials of the

Ministry of Public Works and transport report that the

Assembly always approves their budget without making any

important changes. Little contact occurs between the

Assembly members and the budget officials of the ministries.

Assembly members never use the regular budgetary process to

tell public works officials to alter their priorities or

change their operating procedures.

Costa Rican legislators are interested primarily in

funding small projects located in the communities they

represent. They provide funding for such projects in a

special budget including only 3 percent of the nation's

public expenditures. The Assembly does not consider the

regular budgets of the autonomous institutions, such as

INVU, IMAS, and SNAA, but the legislators sometimes direct

special grants ("partidas especificas") to those entities.

Each specific grant is earmarked for use on a specific

project, in a given community. The special grants budget

was discussed in chapter II.

Budget officials of INVU, SNAA, and the Ministry of

Public Works and Transport report that they have only a

limited number of contacts with representatives of the

Comptroller, the National Planning Office (OFIPLAN), and

the budgetary committee of the Assembly. More frequent

contact is maintained between the planning department of

IMAS and the national budget institutions. IMAS planners

estimate they have about fifty contacts per year with

OFIPLAN officials, and about forty with the Comptroller's

Office. This unusually high incidence of communication

apparently has occurred because IMAS officials have actively

sought to increase the institution's budget allocations.

Seeking to obtain increases, IMAS officials have contacted

budget officials throughout the year, sending them reports

about the welfare agency's accomplishments. Occasionally,

IMAS has located projects in specific communities, or in

specific geographic regions, in order to please Assembly

members or the President of the Republic. One IMAS official

reports that approximately 5 percent of the institution's

income is spent on projects promoted by political leaders.


In such instances, the projects' promoters also provide IMAS

with special funding. The remaining 95 percent of IMAS'

budget is handled through the regular budgetary process,

and the institution's officials are free to determine where

those funds are spent.


Inferring from Riggs' theory of the prismatic society,

one might expect a country such as Costa Rica to be charac-

terized by infrequent, ineffectual, and insignificant

political influence upon administration. Most of this

chapter's findings support this contention. Political

leaders have almost never attempted to determine the general

policies of housing and water agencies. On rare occasions

political figures have made decisions intended to affect

allocations among broad sectors of society. Elected

political leaders have sought frequently, but usually

without success, to induce IMAS and SNAA officials to

construct projects in specific communities. The politi-

cians have almost never tried to influence INVU's community

selection, however. Most of the political leaders' efforts

to influence housing and water officials' treatment of

individual families have been ineffectual. Regardless of

the scope of the decisions being made, administrators have

typically been able to exercise their own judgment while

ignoring political overtures.

This chapter's findings demonstrate that Costa Rican

political leaders have contacted housing and water officials

most frequently concerning the treatment of individual

families. In other words, the political leaders' efforts

to influence administration have been primarily concerned

with case decisions, rather than with policy decisions,

illustrating a major Riggsian hypothesis. The chapter also

illustrates the weakness of political controls and the

importance of personalism, features of administration in

pre-industrial society which may result from the lack of

strong political institutions.

The most significant influence of Costa Rican political

leaders upon housing and water administration has concerned

the distribution of benefits to various sectors of society.

Several decisions made by political leaders have augmented

benefits for the poor and the residents of peripheral

regions. Specifically, the creation of IMAS and the Family

Assistance Program have had this effect. Only a few decisions

of this kind have been made, but they have been significant

decisions. In contrast, the politicians' frequent efforts

to obtain favors for individual families have usually been

ineffective. The political leaders have influenced housing

and water administration, but they have done so sporadically.

Rosenberg has noted that Costa Rican Presidents have only

been sporadically interested in social security policy.10

This pattern may be characteristic of Costa Rican adminis-

tration in general. It is a reflection of the lack of

institutionalization of control--of the underdevelopment

of political institutions.


The developing countries' absence of political controls

over administrative policy making can result in officials

being out of touch with the clienteles they serve. In

other words, the interests of the public are not articulated

for them. Costa Rican housing and water administrators

sometimes exhibit a great deal of ignorance about the

behavioral predispositions of their clients. For example,

INVU officials believe it is extremely important for people

living in flimsy shacks to move into sounder dwellings, but

the latter are often reluctant to do so; and some programs

have been based upon the erroneous assumption that low

income families would make modest mortgage payments regularly.

In practice, INVU officials have repeatedly discovered that

low income people are unwilling, or unable, to make steady

payments to the institution, and so low income housing

developments have to be heavily subsidized.

Lacking adequate informational inputs from political

institutions, SNAA officials have also been subject to

behavioral and political naivety. SNAA administrators have

sometimes believed that their own convictions about the

value of good water service would be shared by the public.

The officials knew the cost of treating intestinal tract

diseases exceeded the cost of obtaining safe drinking water,

and so they thought the public would be willing to pay for

the service. SNAA has encountered deep, widespread opposi-

tion to increased user charges, however. A linkage may

exist between health and water works investment, but it is

not apparent to the average Costa Rican. Furthermore, many

Costa Ricans are accustomed to receiving water from the

government free or for a nominal charge. During 1966

political leaders restrained SNAA's rate increase policies

after the institution's officials blundered badly and

produced extensive public alienation and unrest.


1Fred Riggs, Administration in Developing Countries:
The Theory of Prismatics Society Toston: Houghton Mittlin,

2Republica, December 30 and 31, 1977; January 1, 2, 8,
and 9, 1978.
3Repdblica, January 7, 1978, p. 7.

4Repdblica, January 7, 1978, p. 7.
5Repdblica, January 6, 1978.
6Repdblica, January 5, 1978, p. 3.

7Repdblica, January 4, 1978, p. 3.

8Naci6n, December 11, 1977, p. 6A.

9Naci6n, December 11, 1977, p. 6A.

10Mark Rosenberg, The Politics of Health Care in Costa
Rica: Social Security PoTcy Making, T941-1975-(Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Pittsburg, 1976).



The previous chapter demonstrated that Costa Rica's

elected political leaders have only occasionally and

sporadically influenced the programmatic activities of

the housing and water institutions. In other words, the

political leaders have rarely provided administrators with

policies or guidelines. This does not necessarily mean,

however, that no policies have been made or carried out.

The administrators themselves may have been capable of

formulating and executing policies, without receiving any

policy-making assistance from political leaders. One

characteristic of policy is authoritativeness. Elected

political leaders possess sufficient authority to make

policies, but that does not mean that they have a monopoly

on the possession of such authority. The founding laws of

INVU, IMAS, and SNAA all stated that the boards of directors

and executive officials of those institutions would make

policy. The case studies presented below demonstrate that

the water and housing officials have, indeed, made their

own policies concerning several important types of decisions.

Furthermore, those policies have been implemented to a

considerable extent. In a minority of cases studied,

either no policy was established, or established policy was


not effectively implemented. Chapter V will analyze those

few instances of failure to make and implement policy. While

acknowledging such cases, this chapter will show that the

dominant pattern of decision making has been effective admin-

istrative policy making and implementation.

Costa Rican officials express puzzlement when asked

whether specific types of decisions ought to be made in

accordance with criteria or norms, or in accordance with

the judgment of the individual functionary. While being

administered a questionnaire by this writer, various

housing, water, and highway officials were asked to make

this choice. A minority of the officials stated that

decisions ought to be made entirely by applying norms and

criteria. A more common response, however, was that

decisions ought to be made in accordance with both estab-

lished criteria and the personal judgment of the functionary.

For example, one official stated that criteria were important,

but the individual administrator's experience was also a

valuable asset. Another official explained that

in reality the general policy is fixed, and this
established limits, within which the functionary uses
his own judgment. In special circumstances I
have to consult with the head of the division, the
management, or the board of directors. .1

Most of the officials believed that "personal judgment"

consisted of technical knowledge and professional norms. It

is believed, for example, that the assessment of a poor

family's need for housing cannot be carried out entirely by

applying fixed formulas or criteria. Instead, the social


workers must make some personal judgments about the matter.

Social workers are trained to recognize which individuals

are most needy and are most likely to support community

development efforts. A consensus exists among the highway

engineers interviewed that certain technical and economic

considerations should dictate the location of new roads.

In summary, most of the officials interviewed stated

that decisions ought to be made both according to fixed

criteria and according to the individual functionary's

professional judgment. None of the officials said that

decisions ought to be made entirely on the basis of personal

judgment, without any consideration of criteria or norms.

No one stated that decisions ought to be made on the basis

of favoritism, nepotism, or other factors extraneous to the

ostensible missions of the officials' institutions. Personal

judgment should be exercised, according to the officials,

because the achievement of organizational goals sometimes

requires flexible decision making, rather than the application

of rigid rules. Costa Rican officials accept the Weberian

idea that bureaucracies should be instruments for achieving

goals. Policy is believed to be a desirable basis for

decision making, even though the written rules must sometimes

be supplemented with the administrators' personal judgments.

Decision-making practice may differ substantially from

the ideals which administrators profess. The extent to

which policies are actually formulated and implemented should

be verified by studying specific decisions. This writer used

several methods to determine whether or not policies have