(Bloomberg) — Chilean President Gabriel Boric said he will work to boost economic growth and better distribute wealth, while healing tensions from years of social unrest, in his first speech after being sworn in as head of state.
The new administration will help small businesses and prioritize reducing working hours per week, Boric, 36, told onlookers outside the presidential palace in downtown Santiago on Friday. The economy has to grow even as the pandemic persists, and the benefits have to reach all segments of society, he said.
“The country needs to stand up, grow and fairly distribute the fruits of that growth,” Boric said. “When there is no distribution of wealth, when wealth is concentrated only in a few, peace is very difficult. We need to redistribute the wealth that Chileans produce.”
Boric’s speech marks the start of Chile’s most leftist government in half a century, which is headed by the youngest president in its history. He is also the most feminist, with women in charge of 14 of the 24 ministries. The former leader of the student movement fulfilled a decisive victory in December in the second round of the elections with commitments to promote a more equal, tolerant and greener future for one of the richest nations in Latin America. Investors hope that won’t come at a cost to fiscal stability.
More broadly, his victory has revealed the political left across Latin America, tapping into demands for a stronger government presence in the region arguably hardest hit by the pandemic. This year, Colombia and Brazil will hold presidential elections, in which leftist candidates are currently contending.
It is possible that the new Administration of Chile is facing a rapid revision of the real situation, and in this way the country has a clear vision of an unprecedented combination of economic, social and political turmoil. Failures include climate change, energy and migration, Boric said.
The Government will have to face demands from most public services, after a wave of protests that began in 2019, at the same time that it will seek to curb the stimuli introduced during the pandemic and try to tame runaway inflation. He will also have to deal with a rise in illegal immigration, a violent land dispute with the Mapuche indigenous group and persistent suspicions about urban crime.
Meanwhile, Boric’s plans to raise tax revenue to address these problems, funding programs ranging from health care to education, are expected to be complicated by a sharp slowdown in economic growth.
In addition to this, the Constitutional Convention is rewriting the Charter of the nation, which should be submitted to a referendum at the end of this year. Some of the articles that have come out of the committees have been critical as radical, which is of concern both among investors and the broader population.
As the drafters of the constitution moved forward on the charter, government officials will “decidedly” support the convention, Boric said. The document has to represent the entire country, including women and indigenous communities, he noted.
“We need a Constitution that unites us and that we feel as our own,” he said. “A Constitution that, unlike the one that was imposed by fire, blood and fraud by the dictatorship, is born in democracy.”
Boric of Chile becomes president with a promise to redistribute wealth
More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com
©2022 Bloomberg LP