Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chile: Michele Bachelet and Marco Enriquez-Ominami

Michele Bachelet is the President of Chile. Elected in 2006, she is a pediatrician, has three children, and has been separated twice. According to her profile on Wikipedia, she is a self-described agnostic.

Two articles in this week's Economist give Bachelet high marks for her leadership of Chile, particularly in terms of navigating the country through the recession. A specific example is a house-building program in Santiago, which has provided both jobs and low-cost housing. Also, Bachelet's administration saved a bunch of money when the price of copper (a major Chilean export) reached record levels early in her term, and it has used this money to pay for a stimulus package which is 2.8% of GDP.

The Economist reports that Bachelet's coalition (the Concertacion) has "written into law a fiscal rule requiring the government to balance the budget over the economic cycle."

300. What does "over the economic cycle" mean? That phrasing seems to give the government quite a bit of wiggle room.

301. Is there anyone in the US Congress pushing for a balanced budget amendment at the moment? Do any Democratic/progressive economists espouse such an amendment? Bill Clinton was the last of the budget-balancers, I think -- where does he stand in terms of the Obama Administration's approach to stimulating the economy?

302. Very interesting that Bachelet describes herself as an agnostic. I cannot recall another national leader who does not claim adherence to a particular faith -- are there others?

In the past twenty years, Chile's poverty rate has fallen from 45% to 13.7%.

303. Which is the "richest" South American nation? Which is the poorest?
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The Economist says that one of the candidates to succeed Bachelet is a 36 year old named Marco Enriquez-Ominami, who is described as "a dissident Socialist congressman."

According to the magazine, Ominami does not have much of a chance of actually winning, but he has shaken up the system to some extent:
"He, rather than his policies, is the message. His candidacy is a protest against the Concertacion's failure to hold a national primary election and against what he sees as the domination of aging and unaccountable party bosses. He wants a political reform, partly to sweep away the electoral system of two-member constituencies bequeathed by Pinochet. This is widely reckoned to cement the power of the party bosses, block minority parties and prevent political renewal. It has contributed to a worrying alienation from politics among younger Chileans."
Ominami sounds like a thorn in the establishment's side. I wonder if he'll have staying power to influence the Chilean system.

I love the way the Economist and other British publications use the term "reckon."
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I checked my old journals to see if I'd written about Bachelet's election. Here's an entry from March 12, 2006:
"Chile: Michele Bachelet was sworn in as President. She is the first woman to be elected a head of state in South America without replacing her husband. She supports a 50% quota for female hires throughout much of the public sector. She is an emphatic backer of globalization and free market policies. She replaces outgoing President Ricardo Lagos, who has 75% approval ratings."

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