Yet Bolivia is also a country of plenty. It has 14 ecological floors, four hydrographical basins and probably the densest biodiversity index in the world. And it is a countryknown since mythical times for its mineralogical treasures: silver, tin, gold, lithium, petroleum, natural gas, iron, among others.
Bolivia is also a country in debt. For 2004, the country’s external debt amounted to 88
per cent of gross domest
ic product (GDP). “Privatization of state companies, promoted by the discourse of ‘capitalization’, was the hardest blow to the national economy and theState.”
Inequality distinguishes Bolivian society. According to the World Bank, the GINI indexincreased from 0.52 in 1985) to 0.61 in 2003
. The wealthiest 20 per cent receive almost58 per cent of total labour income while the poorest 20 per cent receive 3.15 per cent of it. Although formal unemployment has remained very high in the last decades, realunemployment is extremely high. About 60 per cent of the economically active population belongs to the precarious informal sector
. And 90 per cent of productivelands are in the hands of fewer than 200 families.
Wealth as sources of poverty
A major iron deposit is located in Bolivia. Its reserves
40 billion tons of iron and 10 billion tons of magnesium
represent 70 per cent of world total, or US$ 100 million inannual income.Bolivia has the second largest deposit of hydrocarbons in the Western Hemisphere.Translated into currency these deposits represent US$100 billion. They were in the handsof transnational corporations under an economic plan that was the ultimate expression of neo-liberalism.However, on May 1, 2006, this resource was nationalized by the Morales government.Although it is too early to see what this nationalization really means for Indigenous
Peoples, according to Evo Morales “(t)he pillage of our natural resources by foreigncompanies is over.”
Is this a turning point?
A predecessor the political change that was to come to Bolivia was a widespreadrebellion in 2000 against the privatization of water. In October 2003, in what is called the
“first gas war,” a grassroots mobilization of the people demanded the nationalization of
their natural resources for the benefit of the impoverished majorities and rejecting what
has been called the “dictatorship of the subsoil”
Social Watch Report 2005: Roars and Whispers. Instituto del Tercer Mundo, 2005, p. 160.
World Bank, Country Assistance Strategy 2004, p. 2.
CEDLA, “Dossier de estadísticas de empelo, condiciones laborales y dimensiones de género”, 2004.
E. Galeano. “El país que quiere existir”, Rebelion.org.