LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales confirmed on Saturday the downturn in his country’s economic growth and repeated his hopes of holding talks with Chile in order to resolve the controversies keeping the two countries at odds – two subjects he discussed in his address on the 191st anniversary of Bolivian independence.
During an unprecedented session of Congress in the southern city of Tarija, Morales reviewed the nation’s chief economic figures, which, he acknowledged, have shown a downturn over the last two years that is due above all to the drop in fossil-fuel prices.
He revealed that GDP growth in May stood at 4.3 percent, below the 4.9 percent in the first quarter of the year.
The Bolivian government projected for this year a 5-percent GDP growth that it hopes to achieve despite the drop in raw material prices and the millions lost in the agricultural sector as a result of the drought.
Due to the decline in the price of natural gas, the country’s leading export, the hydrocarbons sector in May was down 3.8 percent, compared with 0.9 percent in the same month in 2015.
Morales also recognized that natural gas production had a daily decrease from 60 to 58 million cubic meters, though he expressed optimism because in the coming days new fields of production will be announced that will make up for the decline in hydrocarbons.
The president expressed concern because the urban unemployment rate has grown from 3.5 percent to 4.4 percent since 2014, though he recalled that in 2006, when he came to power, the jobless rate was 8.1 percent
He also acknowledged a reduction in the nation’s exports and international reserves, which amount to $11 billion compared with the record $15 billion in 2014.
In contrast to the negative figures, the president touted the government investments made during his 10 years in power, which have reached $30.5 billion compared with $5.7 million invested in the previous decade.
He stressed the importance of these investments for diminishing moderate poverty, which between 2014 and 2015 decreased from 17.1 percent to 16.8 percent.
In his speech, which lasted less than an hour, Morales also spoke of the tension with Chile and said that his country “will always hope for dialogue, so that in a friendly way and within a framework of brotherhood,” any “pending issues” with the country to the south can be resolved.