Bolivia Basics: The emerging middle classes

Horst Grebe Lopez writes for La Razon:

The emerging middle classes

Policies should incorporate new dimensions to meet changes in stratification

Horst Grebe LopezIn the 11 years that passed between the last two population censuses, Bolivian society has registered profound transformations in their geographical location, their social stratification and their income levels. It is true that some of these changes were initiated already in previous decades, but the most relevant should be attributed to three processes occurring primarily in the last decade. First, it highlights the dynamics of internal migration from the countryside to the cities, which has consolidated the predominantly urban character of the population; however, about one third of Bolivians, still live in rural areas and in poverty.

Second, the exceptional economic conditions from the high prices for major exports, coupled with remittances from migrant workers and revenues provided by the illicit activities of drug trafficking and smuggling, have resulted in a significant elevation of the average per capita income, accompanied by a new distributive pattern for the benefit of the urban middle classes, with characteristics different from those of the past.

Finally, there is no doubt that the management of the access to political power by broad sectors previously excluded, was brought in by this Government and it is now benefiting that population from the empowerment that have managed to obtain.

As a result, it seems to emerge a new social stratification, characterized by the reduction of the social groups traditionally classified as poor, while increasing the volume of the population which is inscribed for their level of income between the urban middle layers, while new rich people are appearing in the more affluent strata. Under such circumstances, it is considered that economic and social policies should incorporate new dimensions to cater for these changes in social stratification.

In this regard, we would have to take into account considerations such as the following. In the first place, the sectors that are no longer statistically poor, have not in any way reached the condition of a satisfactory employment and sustainable income. Change happened consists solely of the transition from poverty to conditions of informality, dominated by legal and illegal commercial activities or those that are closely linked to the different chains of public and private construction.

In order to consolidate the dynamics of poverty reduction, it is still essential to significantly improve the quality of employment, mainly consisting in activities with high potential to raise its productivity through reproductive equity investments. For this purpose, in the economic sphere, there is still the need for appropriate political policies to mobilize the abundant liquidity surpluses that exist in the economy, towards activities that can be able to generate multiplier effects and synergistic linkages between the various industrial branches. In this way, the return to poverty could be avoided when we change the cycle of external bonanza and have exhausted the redistributive effects of the surplus provided by [the sell of] hydrocarbons.

Secondly, in education and health, there would have to have a change in public policy approaches in order to adapt them to the demands of new media levels, implying a higher quality education, as well as a more differentiated health services offer.

Finally, the new dimensions of the population of the major cities of the country, will demand certainly new approaches to address problems of public transportation and public safety, which should be agreed upon through widely participatory processes.

Clear analysis which implies that real public policies’ implementation be drawn, rather than having the time and taxes of ALL our public employees being engaged in electoral/egocentric nonsense!

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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