March 15, 2010

IT'D TAKE MORE THAN AN EARTHQUAKE TO DESTROY WHAT PINOCHET BUILT:

Chile's Solid Ground: The South American nation's recipe for withstanding natural disaster (Silvia Santacruz, 03.15.10, , Forbes)

[T]he devastating earthquake may strengthen Chile rather than demoralize it. "Tragedy and adversity, instead of getting us down, will fortify us," Piñera recently said. That attitude is echoed among Chileans, who in general reject pity and demand results. "The public does not ask for charity or gifts from the state, but expects the government to fulfill its fundamental roles: to ensure public order, provide connectivity in the country and make public institutions work," wrote Chilean economist Luis Larrain. The columnist criticized the government of outgoing president Michelle Bachelet as too slow in declaring a state of emergency in the nation's tsunami-hit cities.

Piñera, however, is poised for action. "Let's dry the tears and put hands to work," he pronounced, and his cabinet has already come up with some solutions. The new housing minister, for example, has vowed to build 300,000 pre-fabricated homes using developed world technology in the tsunami-hit coastal city of Concepción before the rainy season arrives. Concepción suffered 300 out of the 700 confirmed deaths, mostly because of botched tsunami-alert communication.

The earthquake and tsunami only modestly affected Chile's main industries. Fishing fleets, timber facilities and wineries' irrigation saw damage, but copper mines and ports were unaffected. Chile, the world's primary copper producer with 35% of global output, experienced no major damage to its open-pit mines or its two main ports of Antofagasta and Mejillones. A smaller-scale port, San Antonio, closed only temporarily. This explains why the mining minister is advocating a dependable strategy of relying on mining riches, boosting exploration investment using tax incentives and echoing Piñera's call to privatize a 20% stake in CODELCO, the state-owned copper company. Indeed, Chile was the only country in the region ranked in the top 10 of the Canada-based Fraser Institute's Policy Potential Index, a composite that measures the regulatory framework for mining exploration among 71 countries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2010 2:02 PM
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