Managing Bolivian Capitalism

Source: Jacobin Magazine

Evo Morales’s administration has scored some successes, but it has failed to deliver on its more radical promises.

Internationally, capitalism is in crisis. But in Bolivia, South America’s poorest country, it’s being managed with some success by the government of Evo Morales and his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party, now three-and-a-half years into its second term in office. There have, without a doubt, been triumphs worthy of celebrating, but those with deeper, more anticapitalist ambitions ought to be wary of the new state administrators and their metrics of development.

On a Friday evening in late June, I sat down with Marianela Prada Tejada in the office of the Ministry of Economics and Public Finance. She’s presently the executive of the cabinet that runs the ministry, and has been working in different posts within it since 2007. She began our conversation by noting the bad reputation left-wing governments developed over the years in terms of economic management in Bolivia.

Pinning this baggage mainly on the unprecedented hyperinflationary crisis that occurred under the watch of the short-lived Democratic Popular Unity (UDP) administration in the early 1980s, Prada Tejada believes that UDP failure opened the door for the long neoliberal night that followed. As a result, a collective notion has lived on in the country’s imaginary, which says that “progressive governments, governments of the Left in Bolivia don’t know how to administer the economy of the country.” Even worse, she laughed bitterly, this time, with Morales, it was an Indian in charge. There was no doubt for the racist opposition that “a left-wing Indian was going to be a disaster for the country.”

With hindsight, even by neoclassical standards, it seems Morales has been a better night watchman over private property and financial affairs than the Right could have hoped for. “Thankfully,” Prada Tejada told me, “with a very responsible administration of the economy, all of this speculation that there would be a crisis, that we wouldn’t be able to run the economy, has disappeared.”

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