03.08.09

Bolivia – An Economic Opinion

Posted in Bolivia at 8:13 pm by Jackson Lee

What does is take to give the people you represent the basic services of a modern world? This is the question the political leaders of Bolivia hopefully ask themselves every morning while they brush their teeth and look out upon their land of enormous natural resources and poverty.

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Commonly referred to as Evo (which does not conjure the same warm connotations as Aunty Helen), Evo Morales was born as a poor coca-leaf farmer before rising to become the first native-blooded president of Bolivia in 2006. Good on em’. Now lets take a look at Evo’s employment review for 2009.

Evo’s people are young – median age (CIA Factbook): –

  • 21.9 – Bolivia
  • 26.1 – Peru
  • 30.0 – Argentina
  • 36.6 – New Zealand
  • 36.7 – USA
  • 43.8 – Germany

And with this youth comes governmental responsibility: what dreams will these impassioned youth be able to fulfill when they come of age? Work, education, art, sport, travel. Think to yourself the options life held after puberty had had its way with you. What world is Bolivia building for its youth?

A major contradictory force of Evo’s government originates from Evo’s farming background and the delicacy’s of millions of middle class American parents. Mom and Pa USA don’t want their teenagers messing themselves up on cocaine and its seriously evil friend crack. This gives uncle Sam a hard enough slap on the hand to warrant country sized boot-print reactions towards coca producing nations. The Coca plant originates from North-Western South America. It has been found in Mummies 3000 years old.

As a youngster, Evo grew up in a world where chewing Coca helped alleviate the physical stress the body feels when at high altitude in addition to dozens of other remedies that a farmer faces everyday – chewing coca-leaf til this day a very common activity in Bolivia (for those interested, its 2 Bolivianos, or US$0.35 cents for a 500g bag which would last a week). To get some perspective on it effect, I was told that it takes 80kg of coca leaf (imagine a green hay stack as tall as you) to make one gram of cocaine.

Think about this. What would you do if someone with a large boot-print told you that one of your traditional crops/medicines was resulting in bad influences on its poorly discipled youngsters and that they really really want you to stop growing it. Like Evo, you would tell them to relax and aim their large boot somewhere else. Result: US foreign investment (and almost everyone else) has been heavily restricted. Little will be built in this country that requires a lot of outside technology and money.

Bolivia is the size of Germany and France combined – it is the 28th largest landmass in the world. In contains gold-rush-days amounts of natural resources. Mining (Gold, silver, tin, zinc) and hydrocarbons are bountiful but like space programs, hosting the Olympics, and paying for divorce lawyers, they are very expensive industries. Party due to the Coca-leaf quandary, Bolivia won’t be receiving the large sums of investment and foreign expertise needed…

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So as the Bolivian population ages they will not, unfortunately, be relying on Bolivia’s epic amounts of natural resources to give them the a modern standard of living their leaders dream off as they dress for the day. So what then?

Half of this country is hot, humid and has soil laced with the sweet goodness that only a mountain chain as enormous as the Andes can provide. Agriculture, forestry and fishing (I know, its hard to believe for a landlocked country) provide 44% employment for its working population. Another unfortunately reality, however, as commodity prices have noised dive with the current financial crises – income is down from these sectors.

Tourism is savagely under utilised. There are enough jaw dropping experiences in both the high and low lands of Bolivia to warrant increasing dental insurance rates for travelers. Backpackers are common enough, but infrastructure to grab the real tourist dollars is lacking. Two hours drive from Santa Cruz is the ancient ruin’s of Samaipata. Curved from one gigantic rock it is a World Unesco sight – if it rains, you can’t visit it.

Chile kicked Bolivia’s (and Peru’s) ass in the nasty war of the pacific (1879 – 1883) and claimed the pacific coast up to Peru leaving Bolivia landlocked. Inept Bolivian politics lost the country future opportunities to develop economic opportunities (i.e. Chile offered to build a railway to the coast) from the resulting historic grievances. Got any solutions on this nail-cruncher Evo?

Evo came to power with clear social policies. The poor were/are too poor and wealthy needed government ‘assistance’ to help them spend their money. Basic socialist economic development ideas such as improving public infrastructure are not being implemented. Bolivia is mostly connected by dirt roads, an antique and sparse railroad network and a handful of airports. Economically speaking, building infrastructure requires little financial borrowing (as the raw materials, labour, electrical power can be easily sourced domestically).

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Institutions are the blood, veins, organs and ethical soul of a modern political system. Inject poison into these institutional body parts and the brain (i.e. the President, his/her peeps and influential intellectuals) must respond positively to fix the system. If the poison lingers for long enough it becomes a cancer. The cancer of South America is legendary – enough said for now – and its about time we found the cure for cancer/corruption.

Like every country, Bolivian people are honest, proud, dedicated, ethical, unethical, lazy, dejected and dangerous. Like only Bolivia, they are humble, fun-loving, mutli-ethnic Andean, youthful and bound to a history worth improving. As Evo finishes dressing for his day, he knows of each and every one of the problems his country faces and the sentiment of his people. His review for 2009 is tainted in difficulties – the most interesting of which is one statistic – 20% of Bolivia’s 65 presidents, since independence, have died (murdered) before the end of their term.

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The Andes in the West, the Amazon covering North through to the East, and the endless Charco/Pampa’s in the South. One word is all it takes:

Beautiful.

You’re ready for your day Evo. Good luck mate.

1 Comment »

  1. Shane said,

    March 26, 2009 at 11:29 am

    loving it mate- entertaining, informative and all round excellent.

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