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Country Report Bolivia September 2017

Country Report Bolivia September 2017

  • September 2017
  • ID: 2350457
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit

Summary

Table of Contents

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Outlook for 2017-21



  • The ruling Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) will seek ways to allow the president, Evo Morales, to remain in office beyond the end of his current term in 2020. This could involve a constitutional change or a (second) referendum.
  • The MAS, facing a weak opposition, will continue to control all the country's political institutions. The government's failure to satisfy the demands of diverse social groups will sustain the risk of social unrest.
  • The government will pursue a fiscal adjustment to narrow the fiscal deficit in 2017 and in the remainder of the forecast period. Cuts in current and capital expenditure are likely, as is a modest recovery in revenue over time.
  • Brazilian and Argentinian demand for gas will support the economy, but GDP growth will moderate in 2017-21 (to an annual average of 3.6%) compared with the previous five years, given only a slow recovery in commodity prices.
  • After dipping in 2017, inflation will pick up again, to an annual average of 4.3% in the rest of the forecast period, amid moderate domestic demand. A strong boliviano will act as an anchor against inflation.
  • The Banco Central de Bolivia (the central bank) will maintain the US dollar peg at Bs6:91:US$1 in the short term, but a controlled depreciation is likely from 2018. The currency will remain relatively overvalued in 2017-21.
  • The current-account deficit will narrow from 5.7% of GDP in 2016 to 2% of GDP at end-2021 as natural gas prices begin to rise. The foreign reserves cushion will weaken.


Review



  • The opposition has lodged complaints regarding the selection of the pre-candidates to the judicial elections, to be held in December. They claim that the candidates have a pro-government bias.
  • The opposition attempted a vote of no-confidence in the defence minister, Reymi Ferreira in August, over alleged human rights violations by the Bolivian military in Venezuela. The vote was easily defeated by MAS legislators.
  • The government has introduced a new price mechanism for industrial natural gas. The change has resulted in price rises of as much as 48% for some companies, drawing protests from business groups.
  • The trade deficit in January-June reached US$626m, a widening of US$87m year on year. A slight recovery in hydrocarbon exports has been unable to compensate for rising imports.
  • Gas output fell by 20% month on month in June, to 1,5bn cu metres/d. Output had sharply risen in March-May. The variability of Brazilian demand is behind the large swings in output.


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