Chile's military government has claimed victory in its fight against raging inflation and economic recession.?
Chile's military government has claimed victory in its fight against raging inflation and economic recession. But critics say the regime's policies have favoured the rich while doing little to improve the lives of the poor.
SYNOPSIS: On the surface the capital of Santiago is a prosperous city. There is no shortage of goods in the shops and customers seem to have plenty of money to spend. The rate of inflation was still high in 1977 -- it averaged 65 percent over the year -- but it had dropped from the dizzying height of 174 percent in 1976. And there are other reasons for the government of General Pinochet to feel satisfied.
General Pinochet recently won backing from the public in a national plebiscite although it represented an appeal to the ultra-nationalism of the Chileans rather than a move towards democracy. Nor was it an answer to foreign attacks on the suppression of human rights.
In the shanty towns on the outskirts of Santiago poverty still exists on a massive scale. A survey by the University of Chile showed that while the national unemployment rate had dropped slightly to 12.8 percent in the last quarter of 1977 it was still 15.7 percent in Santiago.
In contrast life has become easier for the wealthy, who find imported luxuries cheaper to buy and easier to obtain. Customs duties have been reduced by the government in an attempts to off-set domestic costs. At the same time industrial expansion is being encouraged by a big investment programme on the part of state-owned corporations. Eight of the biggest public companies are planning to increase investment from 238 million dollars to 272 million in 1978.
Industrial expansion could lead to more jobs for the poor -- but low wages are just as much of a problem as unemployment. Hundreds of thousands of people don't earn enough to make a living. And that's one problem for which there's no solution in sight.