Bolivia: Government introduces anti-poverty measures

February 22, 2008

On February 1 the Bolivian government introduced its "dignity pension" — a pension payment for those over 60 years-old that is a first of its kind in Bolivia.

The pension will provide US$315 per month to almost 700,000 people. The benefit will be largely financed via 30% of the revenue generated from the introduction of a direct tax on hydrocarbons. This money comes direct from the popular nationalisation of gas by the left-wing government of Evo Morales in May 2006 — a key demand of the mass movements that overthrew the two previous presidents and a major component of the platform Morales was elected on in December 2005.

On February 1 La Razon quoted the minister for rural development arguing that the pension and a new subsidy for schooling "will reduce incidences of poverty in the country from 59.9% to 42.4% until 2015". La Razon also quoted Sacha Llorenti, the vice-minister for co-ordination with the social movements, who insisted that "the payment of the dignity pension is absolutely guaranteed".

Forty-six financial institutions — private banks, mutual societies, cooperatives and NGOs — have agreed to assist with coordinating the payment of the pension.

However, the payment has been opposed by seven out of nine of the department (state) governors. Opposition occurs due to the fact that resources will be diverted from funds that the governors believe should be directed to their administrations.

In response, Llorenti argued that the pension is part of the social revolution being implemented by the Morales government. "We do not understand why they act in a stingy manner towards people … We believe it is an act against solidarity and patriotism to try to impede this payment."

Activists in Cochabamba have been distributing information on the payment, meeting with great enthusiasm. While some governors are not supportive, the great majority of Bolivians appreciate Morales´ anti-poverty measures.