Bolivia to Spend $6.8B to Fight Poverty
Bolivian Planning and Development minister Carlos Villegas shows a poverty map of Bolivia at a meeting in La Paz
To achieve a goal you have to have a plan. Bolivia, following the lead of Venezuela, has shown reducing poverty is nothing more than a a political decision. There are plenty of jobs to do in the Andes, and plenty of people who need jobs.
By Fiona Smith
Bolivian President Evo Morales' leftist government says it will fight poverty, hunger and homelessness in South America's poorest nation by investing $6.8 billion through 2010, much of it with ambitious public works projects.
The funding will come chiefly from Bolivia's recently nationalized natural gas wealth, with international lenders and foreign investment also important sources.
The development plan, announced Friday, would significantly boost the state's role in the economy, creating jobs and delivering more basic public services such as subsidized meals for school children and greater access to potable water.
Bolivia will be "dismantling the neoliberal policies that have impregnated Bolivia in recent decades in order to build a social and communal state to live well," Carlos Villegas, the planning and development minister, told a crowd of dignitaries at the presidential palace that included foreign diplomats and representatives of the country's indigenous poor.
Although Villegas didn't mention Venezuela by name, many of the social projects he mentioned are similar to programs created by that country's leftist president, Hugo Chavez.
The administration already has about 60 percent to 70 percent of the funds it plans to invest over the next few years in projects beginning with housing and highway construction and including the creation of a metallurgy industry and the retooling of Bolivia's electrical grid, Villegas told The Associated Press.
With the heavy public investment, the government hopes to create 90,000 jobs per year and cut the current 8.4 percent unemployment rate by more than half by 2011.
Over the same period, it also wants to drop the poverty rate to just under 50 percent from the current 59 percent and close the gap between the rich and the poor.
Currently, the top 10 percent of Bolivians earn 25 times what the bottom 10 percent. The government seeks to reduce that to 21 times by 2011.
In the next five years, the government also wants to nearly double Bolivia's gross domestic product growth rate from 4.1 percent in 2005 to 7.6 percent, reduce deficit spending from 3.1 percent to 2.1 percent, be self-sufficient in agricultural production, bring electricity and gas to hundreds of thousands of families, create a state development bank and build more roads.