|Thursday, 23 July 2009|
Conservative presidential candidate SebastiÃ¡n PiÃ±eraâ€™s economic proposals range from misguided to erroneous, Finance Minister AndrÃ©s Velasco said in an interview published Wednesday in the daily El Mercurio.
Velasco, one of President Michelle Bacheletâ€™s few ministers to have held onto his job since the 2006 inauguration, and regularly the most popular member of the administration aside from Bachelet herself, defended the governmentâ€™s stimulus plans and criticized PiÃ±eraâ€™s plans as either already in place by the government, â€œfactually incorrectâ€ or simply â€œinexplicable paradoxes.â€
â€œThrowing out numbers is easy, but the real challenge is to show the tools and policies to achieve those numbers,â€ Velasco said. â€œThe truth is that out of all of the proposals made by (PiÃ±era), itâ€™s impossible to find new measures that are not already in implementation.â€
Velasco, 47, also said the country would experience more negative economic times this winter, but that â€œthe second half of the year should generate better figures.â€
â€œI have confidence that the fiscal and monetary policies are having an effect,â€ said the finance minister.Â â€œBut I also know that they do not work overnight.â€
Velasco, who was exiled with his family at age 15 at the start of Augusto Pinochetâ€™s regime, was educated in the United States. He holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Yale University and a Ph.D in economics from Columbia University. More recently he held a faculty position at Harvardâ€™s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Near the beginning of his tenure as Chileâ€™s top financial leader he was widely vilified for refusing to spend windfall copper profits generated by the state-owned Codelco. But more recently, now that copper revenues are off sharply, he has been lauded for maintaining the huge government surpluses, which have allowed the government to fund many of Bacheletâ€™s social programs. A public opinion poll in May showed Velasco enjoys a 64 percent approval rate.
The popular minister also strongly defended the administrationâ€™s decision to keep CODELCO, the worldâ€™s largest copper producing company, state-run. He explained that the government is applying the â€œbest corporate governance in the world for a company of that nature,â€ including adhering to the standards recommended by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, of which Chile is not a member.
â€œI see very serious and professional work from this team and a record of nearly two decades by ConcertaciÃ³n-led governments providing serious, responsible and not populist economics,â€ he said. â€œThat is what the public has recognized and valued.â€
SOURCES: EL MERCURIO, BLOOMBERG, NASDAQ
By Daniel Zarchy ( firstname.lastname@example.org)