MADRID – Bolivia’s economy and finance minister said Wednesday that the Andean nation’s most pressing challenge is to consolidate its drive toward industrialization.
Luis Arce said in an interview with Efe that the natural gas and mining industries, which were “abandoned by the state” for decades, are the focus of the government’s industrialization effort.
The minister, who has held his post since leftist President Evo Morales took office in January 2006, said the main obstacles in this process are a lack of human and technological resources and Bolivia therefore is looking to team up with “strategic partners.”
Asked about the legal certainty the government provides foreign investors, Arce said Bolivia’s constitution offers guarantees for foreign as well as domestic private capital. He also noted that recent legislation, including a new law enacted in April, provides investment incentives.
Regarding the role Spanish companies can play in Bolivia’s future development, the minister mentioned the food-processing and tourism industries and pointed to Spanish-based firms’ experience in Cuba’s tourism sector.
Bolivia has posted economic growth rates in recent years that are above the average for Latin America, including a 6.8 percent expansion of GDP in 2013.
Asked about measures to combat inequality and redistribute wealth, Arce mentioned a stipend to families whose children complete the school year, a program that guarantees a minimum retirement payment for all Bolivians, and a stipend disbursed to young mothers to reduce the early-infant mortality rate.
He also referred to “salary increases that exceed the inflation rate.”
The minister said those measures are part of a “redistributive model” that has lifted more than 2 million people into the middle class, although he acknowledged that further policies are needed to “eradicate poverty.”
Bolivia will hold a presidential election on Oct. 12, its second since the 2009 approval of a new constitution aimed at “refounding” the country to the advantage of the Andean nation’s downtrodden Indian majority.
Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state, will be seeking a third term.