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Chile: 50 Days in, Michelle Bachelet Falls Behind on Campaign Promises

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Apr 29, 2014, 6:13 pm

EspañolToday marks the first 50 days of Michelle Bachelet’s second term as the president of Chile, since taking office on March 11. However, she is struggling to celebrate, running well behind her campaign promises for the first 100 days in office.

Bachelet has implemented 27 percent so far — a total of 15 out of 56 — according to her official website which keeps a running tab on her accomplishments (the website tabulates 56 policies to be implemented, instead of the 50 promised by Bachelet during the electoral campaign). According to Bachelet, these policies “seek to tackle inequality, so that all of us have access to a higher quality of life.”

The policies proposed by Bachelet and her party, the New Majority, for her first 100 days in office, divide into a variety of themes. However, she has only managed to implement 15 policies thus far: one measure in health, two in social protection, one in pensions, one in labor, two in public safety, one in decentralization, one in cities and territory, two in gender equity (including the creation of the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality), three in water resources and artisanal fisheries, and one in growth.

Education, Bachelet’s foremost political flag during her electoral campaign, still awaits enacted legislation.

With respect to timing, Senator Eugenio Tuma of the Party for Democracy (PPD) said that “despite the difficulties that President Bachelet has had with the recent natural disasters, I think we will comply with most of the measures. What has been shown is that the president is willing to fulfill all her commitments and that, within the limits of what is possible, the government will do it.”

In general terms, all the reforms proposed by Bachelet can be grouped into three broad areas: education reform, tax reform, and the new Constitution.

As for education reform, Education Minister Nicolás Eyzaguirre said he hopes the initiative can be formalized before May 21. Bachelet had declared during her election campaign that her goal in higher education was clear:

“Free, universal education, that is, reaching the goal of making it 100% free of charge: 70 % in 4 years, and 100% in 6 years.… the four pillars of this reform are: an end to for-profit education, improving quality, putting an end to segregation, and achieving substantial progress towards universal, free education.”

Among the most important measures that have already been implemented is the first proposal approved by the Presidency on March 12. That is the so-called “March Bonus,” or Permanent Family Contribution — a subsidy of CLP$40,000 (equivalent to US$71) given out in March each year to every family in economically vulnerable conditions. Continuing with the Government’s redistributive policies, the Winter Bonus — $51,975 (equivalent to US$93) given out once a year to pensioners with the pension corresponding to May ‒ is also not now in force, as well as the Basic Solidarity Pension for Old Age — a monthly pension of $82,058 (equivalent to US$146) per month for retirees not entitled to any other pension scheme.

Bachelet’s government has complied with the creation of the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, and made progress on the proposal for a new law (the multiRUT) that seeks to regulate the legal and organizational structure of companies so they don’t facilitate the violation of labor rights by employers.

But the tax reform, the cornerstone of the whole political and economic structure proposed by Bachelet, has generated a great deal of resistance in Chile since its arrival in Congress on March 31.

This measure seeks to increase tax collection to “finance education reform and meet other social needs,” within a framework of “fiscal equity, so that those who have more, contribute more.”

Among the critics to this project is the Foundation for Progress, which produced a video to express their views about what the law will mean for ordinary Chileans.

Still, the president stated her desire to meet the campaign promises during a meeting with 16 ministers on April 9.

“The deadline [50/56 policies in 100 days] has to be met,” she said.

Ideological Disagreement as Background to Reform Discussions

In an interview conducted by the Chilean Duna 89.7 radio station, journalist John Muller, former deputy director of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, said that many important economic and social problems in Chile are due to widespread ideological disagreements. In this context, he said that he found the tax reform to be “very alarming.”

When asked how Spain and the rest of the international community sees Chile, Muller replied that “the world is beginning to hear the noise generated by the tax reform.” In Chile, many citizens are “fully convinced that the state is a better administrator than its citizens.”

He added that “if a single job is lost due to the tax reform, all those who have given their ideological support for this project will have to explain whether the inequality among rich and poor is much worse than the inequality among the employed and the unemployed. Losing your job condemns you to utmost marginality.”

With regard to the relevance of Chile on the international stage, he said that “nobody is going to cut their wrists if Chile slows down its economic growth. All those who know anything about these issues have looked to Chile as a curious libertarian experiment. The left, and politicians who benefit from the left, have tried by all means to discredit this model, because it is a stone in their ideological shoe. The path of redistribution has not prospered as much… [so] they are annoyed because Chile is a case that contradicts their ideological worldview.”

Translated by Alan Furth.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.