LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales said Wednesday that a bill his party introduced in congress aims to enable workers to buy failing companies from their owners and does not represent a threat to property rights.
He denounced as “false” the claim by Bolivia’s main business federation, the CEPB, that the Social Enterprises bill would allow the government to seize foundering firms and turn them over to the employees.
The idea behind the proposal, Morales said, is to facilitate bank loans for employees of struggling companies who want to buy the assets from the owners and keep those businesses in operation.
Workers facing the prospect of losing their jobs could create “a community enterprise, a social enterprise, as long as they pay the owners” for the company assets, the president said.
Morales said he was surprised by the CEPB’s reaction to the bill, which already passed the lower house and is now under consideration by the senate.
The governing leftist MAS controls both congressional chambers.
CEPB chief Ronald Nostas has urged the senate to reconsider some provisions of the bill.
Nostas said the draft legislation would open the door to the forced sale of companies that are three months in arrears to suppliers, workers, and the social security system, a standard he described as “irrational.”
Senate leader Jose Alberto Gonzalez told reporters that the debate on the bill will be suspended pending a meeting with CEPB representatives.
The bill “is not a surreptitious attempt to encroach on private property in an arbitrary manner,” he said.