In addition to having rescued the country’s dignity and pride as a Bolivian nation, something fundamental, the achievements made over the past twelve years in government are undeniable and can be measured in the light of very encouraging figures.
Anyone familiar with Bolivia at the end of the last century and who sees it today will surely ponder whether it has returned to its previous position or whether the Process for Change of 12 years of President Evo Morales’ government has indeed changed the country.
Remaining head of state for 12 years and seven months, the longest period on record in Bolivia, is a demonstration of political stability never before seen. But it is much more than that.
After winning the 2005 elections with 53.7% of the vote, on January 22, 2006, Evo, as the people call him, was sworn in as Bolivia’s first indigenous president, auguring in a process aimed at petitioning social demands and fighting discrimination.
That overwhelming electoral victory was repeated on three occasions. In 2008, he won the recall referendum with 67% of the vote.
On that occasion, the Movement for Socialism (MAS) under his leadership won victories in six of the nine departments and won a majority in the new Plurinational Legislative Assembly that replaced the old National Congress.
In 2009, he declared the new Political Constitution of the State (CPE), which was passed for the first time in a referendum and establishes the ‘refounding of the country’: Bolivia ceased to be a Republic and became a Plurinational State with autonomous regions.
Again in 2009, Evo won the general election with 64% of the vote and obtained the support of the majority of Bolivians abroad; under his Movement seats were won by 130 deputies and 36 senators, which allowed him to continue moving forward.
In 2014, he triumphed again with 61% of the vote, demonstrating a new show of democracy; and a record of 50% of women represented in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly was achieved.
The facts and the achievements
An unprecedented event occurred in 2013 when Bolivia went to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to force Chile to enter into dialogue regarding negotiating a sovereign exit to the Pacific Ocean as Bolivia had possessed when the nation was first founded and that it had lost at the hands of a Chilean invasion in 1879.
In 2015, the Court in The Hague declared itself competent to hear the case. Last March, both countries closed the arguments phase of the hearing and in support of Bolivia’s claim, on March 14, 2018, a 196.5 kilometre flag was carried by more than 100 thousand Bolivians.
The new image of La Paz is that of a modern city with tall buildings, which has the most extensive cable network in the world with 22.84 kilometres of cable cars at an average height of 3,650 metres above sea level that link it with the city of El Alto.
Perhaps more impressive for a country which before 2006 ranked among the poorest in the region is the fact that over the last four years Bolivia has become the leader in South America for economic growth, using 4.82% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for social and economic policies.
This average GDP growth in Bolivia places it well above the average in the region of 1.87%. And its GDP per capita went from $1.037 in 2005 to $3,393 in 2017.
The explanation is simple. As a result of the nationalization of resources in the oil, gas and mining sectors, public investment grew from $629 million in 2005 to $6.21 billion in May 2018, and it is expected to end the year on $7.411 billion.
In addition, for the third consecutive year, Bolivia has the lowest rate of unemployment in South America. Its rate dropped from 8.1% in 2005 to 4.48% in 2017, and today 6.5 million of its 11 million inhabitants are considered to have average incomes.
The efforts to redistribute income have allowed moderate poverty levels to fall over the last 12 years reaching their lowest levels on record and closing 2017 at 36.4%, compared to the 59.9% in 2005 inherited from previous governments by Morales.
These changes have allowed the number of Bolivians on average incomes to grow from 3.3 million to the current 6.5 million in a pyramid made up of 37% on low, 58% on middle and 5% on high incomes.
The monetary stability of the national currency, the Bolivian boliviano, with an official exchange rate of 6.96 per dollar, has allowed Bolivia to increase its financial standing by 585%, and reserves have increased from $7.6 billion in 2005 to $52.036 billion today.
The achievements of these past 12 years are reflected throughout the country and in initiatives the president is tirelessly implementing seven days a week. Through the “Bolivia is Changing, Evo is Delivering” programme, a total of 8,797 public projects were carried out between 2007 and July 2018.
Of them, 4,300 were in the area of education, 1,813 were carried out in delivering sports facilities, 936 on social infrastructure, 428 on health, 474 on production facilities, 366 on basic sanitation, 259 on irrigation and 221 on road works.
Measuring this in material terms alone would not reflect what has been achieved in human and social terms however.
Thanks to the policies of the Plurinational State, Bolivia has reduced chronic malnutrition in children under five years of age by 50%: a scourge which in 2003 affected 32.3% of infants and had already been reduced to 16% by 2016.
Likewise, infant mortality decreased by 56% between 2003 and 2016 and children working in hazardous jobs fell by 80%. Before 2008, 746,000 children and adolescents worked in dangerous jobs and the figure post-2016 is still 154,000. With the My Health programme, between 2006 and 2018, 2,768 doctors treated more than 16.4 million patients free of charge, of which 50 per cent were house calls across 310 municipalities and 24 indigenous communities.
During the Process for Change, more than 700,000 eye operations were carried out free of charge across Bolivia through Operation Miracle using Cuban and Bolivian doctors and new medical posts were increased to 1,391 per year, instead of 231 per year in the 67 previous years.
Education represents another important example of the progress made over the course of these past 12 years: having inherited an illiteracy rate of 13.3% of Bolivians over the age of 15 in 2001, the figure fell to 2.5% in 2017 with the result that the country is now literate.
The policies encouraging access to quality education at a national level allowed, between 2005 and 2017, 16,000 teenagers to gain their higher secondary diplomas in rural areas and 32,000 did so in urban areas which was a dream come true for many young indigenous students who are now at university.
Much could be said of the efforts made to improve industry in the country – turning Bolivia into the energy centre of South America and creating 243,990 new small and medium sized businesses since 2006, at the rate of 70 a day.
Also of note is the incorporation of modern highways into this Andean and Amazonian country covering 1.99 billion square kilometres – where land connections between many cities and departments used to be practically impossible – and the introduction of new airports and the boom in culture. (PL)
(Translated by Nigel Conibear – DipTrans IoLET MCIL – firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay