The Economies of Latin America: New Cliometric Data

By César Yáñez; Albert Carreras | Go to book overview

11
PUBLIC REVENUES IN BOLIVIA, 1900–311

José Alejandro Peres Cajías


Introduction

Latin American economic history is not always able to take regional economic diversity into account. The main reason is the lack of quantitative data which is particularly severe in the case of Bolivia. The present study goes one step towards remedying this with a presentation of two long-term series. Revising primary data brings a) the central state’s fiscal income between 1900 and 1931; b) the mining fiscal burden between 1900 and 1929. However, this study goes beyond a mere descriptive strategy and proposes some interpretative clues to understand income evolution. The point is to study the Bolivian public finances taking into account its own restrictions. Undoubtedly, the central state fiscal income was strongly determined by the trade taxes. But looking at the profitability and – paradoxically – the stability of all the revenue sources, there was not a real option in the short or medium term. This research also shows that the mining fiscal burden grew considerably in the 1920s.

Economic history cannot always encompass the great economic diversity of Latin America. It is not unusual to find works understanding and defining the region basically from the study of the more developed countries in relative terms. This option can constitute a methodological approach. Nevertheless, it is usually no more than a resignation due to the lack of data, especially quantitative data.

Significant efforts taking into account every Latin American state are being made to fill the blanks.2 This paper has the same approach and provides long-term series in the case of Bolivian economy, which is one of the cases with less quantitative evidence. Two fiscal series are brought forward. These series are reconstructed using a wide primary data compilation. In the first place, the real fiscal revenues of the Bolivian central government between 1900 and 1931, reconstructed in accordance with international parameters and also a significant level of disaggregation. The second series is the reconstruction of all real tax contributions made by the mining industry to the central government between 1900 and 1929.

Furthermore, apart from the quantitative evidence, some interpretative clues are given in order to understand the role of public finances during the first third

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