Thursday, October 27, 2005

Chile Anyone?

Latin America: Is Chile the new Norway?
Like it’s Nordic counterpart, the Chilean government has worked hard over the past two decades to open its markets, while at the same time not letting go of the strategic tiller. Both countries take an active role in managing the exploitation of their natural resources (oil in the case of Norway; minerals for Chile).

Chile still has a long way to go to make sure its new-found wealth is redistributed fairly. That said, nearly one in five of the population have been lifted out of poverty since 1990. Strategic social spending has also ensured that the rich-poor divide is considerably smaller than that in, say, Brazil or Mexico.

As for politics, Chile’s democratic star may not shine quite as brightly as that of squeaky clean Norway, but it’s come a long way since the dark days of the Pinochet dictatorship.

In a continent where “institutionality” could easily be mistaken for a trip to the funny farm, Chile has enjoyed remarkable political stability in the past decade. Centre-right president Ricardo Lagos is not only set to finish his six-year term (Argentina has had six presidents over the same period), but does so with record-high popularity ratings.

A raft of political and judicial reforms have ensured Chile the kind of reputation that wins praise not only from pro-democracy groups but from investors too.

As for the knotty question of corruption, Chile is one of the few countries in South America to have tackled the issue head on, obtaining a merit-worthy 20th place out of 159 in Transparency International’s corruption perception index (more than 100 places above neighbouring Bolivia).
Chilean Presidential Campaign Update
(Hat tip to The Latin Americanist.)