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The hurdles faced by Bachelet to achieve her promise of reforming Chilean education

Sunday, September 15th 2013 - 19:22 UTC
Full article 18 comments

Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet legacy lives heavily in a country which has had a spectacular economic performance since the return of democracy, but remains lame in several social and political issues.

One of them is the privatized education system, the subject of regular student protests, which former president (2006/2010) and currently running for another four years next November, Michelle Bachelet has pledged to reform.

However to achieve it, Bachelet must overcome another legacy of the Pinochet-era: an electoral system that makes it very difficult for any one party to gain a significant majority in Congress.

Bachelet wants to reform that too, but she would need to persuade the right-wing parties, currently in office with President Sebastian Piñera, to support her or win the sort of majority that is next to impossible under the current system.

The final part of her three-pronged initiative is to raise taxes in order to pay for education reforms. Again, she would need to win over the sceptical conservative Alianza, some of whose members are highly involved in the private education scheme.

“Probably no country has an experience like that, a democracy in which a minority can veto the majority and where the majority in the end cannot do what the people wanted when they voted for them,” Bachelet complained recently.

Her supporters have high expectations she will deliver on her pledges, and might not accept compromises with the right.

“If Bachelet wins, she is going to have it difficult. ... People will go out on the street demanding she carries out the reforms she promised” said political analyst Patricio Salvat.

But the framework that Pinochet and his allies created cannot easily be dismantled, admitted Sergio Bitar, who served as a minister under both (Salvador) Allende (ousted in a bloody military coup by Pinochet in 1973) and Bachelet, in an interview. “The feeling is that you are in a cage”.

Top Comments

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  • Sergio Vega

    First, the amazing economic performance started under the military Gvt. reaching up to 10% over a year and it declined under the left wing Gvts. to lower than 3% a year and recovered with the center right Gvt. of Mr. Piñera with numbers over 5% a year.
    Second, even the permission to private unis started under the military Gvt. but reached it upper level under the Concertacion leftist Gvts. without any support to the students from those unis....It was fixed under Mr. Piñera Gvt. allowing those students to receive special loans for them as well as the state managed unis students.
    So, it´s very poor what we can expect from a eventual Gvt. of Mrs. Chanchelet, specially when her Gvt. was one of the worst from the latest years and one of the reasons why the office changed to the center right coalition with Mr. Piñera as leader.....

    Sep 15th, 2013 - 07:48 pm 0
  • Anglotino

    I'm a true believer in reform and I think that Bachelet should indeed look at reforming government institutional legacies from an unelected government.

    However, she will of course realise that these reforms could just as easily benefit other parties other than her's.

    As for education. There is a lot to be said for a government promote educational access by all tiers of society. Education is an investment in future economic growth and government funding should reflect this. Educating a citizen so they are more productive, have a higher earning capacity and contribute more to economic growth is a wise investment that pays dividends back to the government and society.

    There is a lot to be said for wealth transfer within a society and Australia practises that through out taxation system and our benefits system and also through our educational system.

    Just because Chile has done so well, doesn't mean it can't do better. Developed country status does not come by continuing with the same systems that worked in the past. Perhaps it is time for Chile to reform to the next level.

    Sep 15th, 2013 - 09:59 pm 0
  • Stevie

    Killing the poor is great for your economic stats.
    Stop praising fascism, will you...

    Sep 16th, 2013 - 01:01 am 0
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