Bolivia Shows a Better Way is Possible

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meets Evo Morales

“The social progress made in areas such as health, education & reducing poverty is an inspiration to us all.”

Jeremy Corbyn

By Christine Blower, former NUT General Secretary

Bolivia goes to the polls on Sunday to elect its President. Evo Morales won the presidential elections of 2005, 2009 and 2014 and is seeking re-election, after Bolivia’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE) ruled in January 2019 that he could run again.

Since becoming President, Evo Morales has acted to recover Bolivia’s wealth, including its oil and gas industries, from foreign corporations, gaining over $30 billion in 10 years to invest in development, compared to the $2.5bn in the previous decade of neoliberal policies.

This approach has transformed the lives of millions for the better, showing that another world is possible.

As Jeremy Corbyn has put it, “the social progress made in areas such as health and education, and reducing poverty is an inspiration to us all”

To give some key examples, when Morales took office in 2006, 60% of the total population were living below the poverty line, but that figure has been slashed in half by his government – with extreme poverty cut from nearly 40% to 17%.

In terms of public services, between 2006 and 2018, Bolivia provided 16.4 million free health appointments reaching the poorest and most isolated communities in the Amazonian/Andean regions. The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has praised Bolivia’s newly implemented universal health care system, saying “Bolivia has become an important model for the world.”

Additionally, two million children now benefit from school attendance, reducing child labour and helping millions of adults too.

In terms of equality, Bolivia now has the second-highest rate of female political participation in Latin America, with 51.8% of lawmakers being women, up from 30% in 2014.

Furthermore, a new constitution in 2009 redefined Bolivia as plurinational in all aspects of social life, granting new rights to the country’s 36 indigenous groups. Alongside this, land reform has benefited approximately 800,000 low-income peasants and indigenous people, with 72% of Bolivia’s arable land now titled, mostly to individuals. Smallholders now control 55% of all land.

A large public housing programme providing decent affordable homes for low-income Bolivians, has helped tackle poverty, improve public health and education. This is a life-transforming policy, as is the achievement that electricity is now widely supplied to rural homes, increasing from 50% in 2007 to 75% in 2015 and this number is still increasing.

Other investment in infrastructure has been to tackle climate change, meaning that renewable power generation has almost tripled since 2006 to 2100MW, with other projects aiming to generate around 9000MW by 2025 with thermoelectric and hydroelectric plants.

Partly due to this investment, leading the way in Latin America, the economy grew by 4.4 percent in 2018, according to the UN. It is on course to be the region’s fastest growing economy for yet another year showing that investment, not cuts, is the way forward.

Whatever the result on Sunday, and a possible second round of the election to come, with Trump administration’s interventionist agenda in Latin America, there is growing concern that Bolivia is now in its sights too. We should stand firmly with social progress in Bolivia, for policies that put people and planet before private profit and in support of Bolivia’s right to determine its own future.

  • Sign a statement in solidarity with Bolivia here.
  • Follow Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America on Twitter here and Facebook here.

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