By Hedelberto López Blanch
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Who would have thought, 13 years ago, that with the arrival of indigenous president Evo Morales Ayma to the presidency of Bolivia, that this country, for the first time in its history, would begin a straight line period of political stability, economic impulse and social development that has benefited the vast majority of its inhabitants.
Skeptics and right-wing forces in Latin America still don’t want to understand, but as Evo recently stated, his country’s economic stability is an example for the world to follow.
During 2018, Bolivia consolidated its position as one of the countries in Latin America with the most advances in the economic-social sphere, after reaching a growth of 4.7 percent and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 40 billion dollars.
It is extremely important that when aggressive neoliberal and privatization policies are imposed in Latin America, promoted from the United States with the backing of several international financial organizations, Bolivia’s Minister of Economy and Public Finances, Mario Guillén, says that the nationalization of natural resources has been the fundamental pillar to understand the success of his country’s economic model.
Guillén added that this model allowed the State to appropriate the economic surplus, whose resources are invested in the construction of a productive-based economy and redistributed through population bonuses, public investment, wage increases and cross-subsidies to eradicate poverty and reduce the gaps between rich and poor.
In this way, domestic demand was boosted, which in a context of international economic crisis of high volatility and uncertainty has become the main engine of economic growth.
And notice the relevance of the system adopted, since in 2005, four out of every ten people lived in extreme poverty, without satisfying their basic food needs, but today this index has reduced by half, that is, only two out of every ten people still live in these conditions.
When Evo took began of the first term in 2006, the characteristics in Bolivia were citizen political insecurity, with great poverty, lack of education and attention to the health of the people, while the economy suffered indiscriminate looting.
From that year on, a series of measures were taken to nationalize productive, mining and service companies and wealth, and a stage began to leave behind more than two centuries of exploitation by foreign governments and transnational companies with the consent of the Creole oligarchies.
Previously, its main energy products and public companies created by the 1952 revolution had been privatized or sold at auction prices. This process increased between 1985 and 2005 during the neoliberal governments. During that period, the State ceased to control 70 percent of the productive activity and its main industry, Yacimientos Petrolíficos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), received royalties of only 18 percent from the transnationals.
By May 1, 2006, the hydrocarbon industry was nationalized and a retention policy was established for the sector, divided into 50 percent royalties, seven percent in recoverable profits from operating companies, YPFB, and payment of taxes and patents. In this way it was ensured that the State and the people obtained an income in the first six years of $12,424 million dollars, an average of 2,000 million dollars annually.
In addition, in these 13 years, the recovery of wealth and resources was promoted as an act of social, economic and political justice. This allowed poverty to be reduced and the family economy to be revitalized; a modernization of transportation was carried out with the launch of the longest cable car in the world. It has seven lines, 20 kilometers of travel and 125 million passengers transported since its inauguration, contributing additionally to the development of tourism.
One of the first tasks undertaken by the Plurinational State was to implement a program to eliminate the extreme ignorance of millions of Bolivians, with the help of Cuban and Venezuelan specialists. In 2010, UNESCO declared the country free of illiteracy.
There are many benefits and one of the main ones is that at the regional level Bolivia is no longer one of the poorest countries. The urban open unemployment rate fell substantially, from 8.1 percent in 2005 to 4.5 percent in 2017. GDP grew since 2006 at an average rate of 4.3 per cent, while social programmes were broad and varied.
The progress made by the Plurinational State in just 13 years is instructive. It would be prudent for other poor countries in Latin America to stop looking north and begin to adopt economic and social policies that help their citizens, as Bolivia has done.