metal ores, state railroad, precious minerals, Budget figures, colonial times
Since early colonial times, mining for precious minerals and metal ores has played an important role in Bolivia’s economy. Although many of the largest mining operations were nationalized during the 1950s, successive Bolivian governments have encouraged private industrial development and actively sought foreign investment capital. Budget figures for 1999 showed revenues of $1.4 billion and expenditures of $1.9 billion. The state airline, Lloyd Aereo Boliviano, was sold to private interests in 1993. In 1995 Bolivia began implementing a unique privatization program in which additional state-owned companies would not be sold outright; instead, half of the company’s shares and management control would be awarded to the highest private bidder. The remaining shares would be divided among Bolivia’s adult population and held in retirement accounts that would form a new private pension system. Despite these efforts to deflect charges that Bolivia was “selling out” its resources to foreigners, the privatization efforts drew sustained criticism and prompted serious labor strife. In June 1995 Bolivia sold a controlling interest in the state electricity company to three U.S. firms. In 1996 the state railroad was privatized and the state petroleum company was put up for sale. Bolivia’s estimated gross domestic product (GDP) in 2000 was $8.3 billion.
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