La Paz (AP) – Bolivia’s leftist government says it will reclaim majority control over 10 formerly state-owned companies that were partially privatized in the last decade.
The plan announced Sunday by Planning Minister Carlos Villegas is in line with a pledge by new President Evo Morales and his Movement Toward Socialism party to increase state control over Bolivia’s economy and natural resources.
Villegas indicated that the state will reclaim control even if current owners are not eager to sell.
“We would like to buy (shares), but if they don’t want to sell we’re going to make other decisions so the Bolivian state will be able to exercise its right to be a 51 percent owner,” said Villegas, according to Monday’s edition of the La Prensa newspaper. Several other newspapers also reported similar comments by Villegas. Villegas also said he wants the Bolivian government to have the power to name the companies’ directors.
The 10 companies targeted are involved in transportation, communications and energy, and include national airline Lloyd Aereo Boliviano SA, the country’s largest telecom, Entel, and energy companies Petrolero Chaco S.A. and Petrólero Andina S.A.
Currently the companies are controlled by foreign investors, with the Bolivian people – not the government – holding just under 50 percent of the shares.
The Bolivian portion is held in a trust, managed by foreign financial institutions, that cannot legally be touched by the state.