Economic Problems of Latin America

By Seymour E. Harris | Go to book overview

Chapter X Bolivia

by WILLIAM A. NEISWANGER

and JAMES R. NELSON

Bolivia is a large and potentially rich land whose mineral deposits have been worked since preconquest days. Its other resources, largely undeveloped, are capable of providing the basis for a substantial increase in the standard of living through greater food production and an expansion in imports of industrial products. In area, Bolivia is more than twice as large as Spain, but its population is only 3,500,000. Although it is known to the outside world as a leading source of minerals, two-thirds of the population are attached to agriculture and handicrafts. Industry employs only 12,000 salary and wage earners, and mining occupies not more than 60,000 workers at peak production. In spite of this extensive occupation with agricultural pursuits, farming is mainly of the subsistence type, and food produced within the country is insufficient to feed the population. Where surpluses do exist, inadequate transportation facilities narrowly restrict the market.

From a financial standpoint, on the ther hand, the mining industry quite completely dominates the Bolivian economy (see Chart 7 on her exports). It provides 95 per cent of Bolivia's export values, and taxes on minerals yield the government about 50 per cent of its revenues. Essential imports, including food, therefore enter Bolivia in exchange for minerals, and the stability of Bolivia's money and of the government itself is tied to tin, tungsten, antimony, and other less important mineral exports.

It is apparent that the original and continuing emphasis on the mining industry as a source of quick and large returns for both indi

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