As spending climbs and revenue falls, the coronavirus forces a global reckoning
By Alexander Villegas, Anthony Faiola and Lesley Wroughton
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Costa Rica built Latin America’s model society, enacting universal health care and spending its way to one of the Western Hemisphere’s highest literacy rates. Now, it’s reeling from the financially crushing side effects of the coronavirus, as cratering revenue and crisis spending force a reckoning over a massive pile of government debt.
The pandemic is hurtling heavily leveraged nations into an economic danger zone, threatening to bankrupt the worst-affected. Costa Rica, a country known for zip-lining tourists and American retirees, is scrambling to stave off a full-blown debt crisis, imposing emergency cuts and proposing harsher measures that touched off rare violent protests last fall. To keep the lights on, a progressive, eco-friendly nation is weighing desperate solutions — including open-pit gold mining, even oceanic fracking.
Around the globe, the pandemic is racking up a mind-blowing bill: trillions of dollars in lost tax revenue, ramped-up spending and new borrowing set to burden the next generation with record levels of debt.