The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, November 07, 2003

Bolivia: bought and paid for by Uncle Sam?

Just reading a piece of the usual bollocks [1] entitled Bolivia concentra, hoy, la disyuntiva [2] del futuro de América Latina (also in English), and was struck by the following passage:
Estados Unidos considera crítica la situación. El gobierno de Bush intentó sostener al expresidente y defender el negocio de 6 mil millones de dólares que el pueblo les disputó...

The pueblo concerned is, in context, that of Bolivia. But the figure, $6bn, seemed a bit on the high side.

What, I wondered, is the amount that Uncle Sam has invested in Bolivia? As usual with matters statistical, Google is worse than useless - offering just the tantalising hope that it might produce the goods which for a while trumps your certain knowledge that it won't!

What do we get? As far as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) (excluding investment in government debt and portfolio investment), we have the table provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which presents USG stats: on a historical cost basis, the stock of US FDI in Bolivia in 2002 came to the princely sum of $169m, down from $504m in 1999.

As far as USG investments in Bolivian government debt, I can't trace proper stats. A Bolivian report (PDF) for the first quarter of 2003 estimates (p7a) 2003 GDP at $7.8bn and external debt at $4.3bn (55% of GDP). Perhaps this $4.3bn includes private as well as government debt [3].

Bolivia has also enjoyed debt reduction under the HIPC scheme - this exceptionally annoying press release from the World Bank proudly trumpets Bolivia's Debt Halved - but gives no actual numbers by which the plebs might judge the justification for the self-congratulation!

  1. The site, America's Program (also in English) has some stuff that might turn out to be worthwhile looking at; in particular, it has a page What Happened in Bolivia? with, I suspect, a globalofóbico bent. Further links on the WWW Virtual Library page for Latin America.

  2. The Collins defines the word as either alternative/choice or dilemma - a distinction not brought out by the RAE Dictionary definition.

  3. The report from Bancoldex - looks like a commercial bank - but on the site of Udape - which looks like a Bolivian government outfit for economic information (links to some interesting-looking studies on the homepage).

The best, most up-to-date, summary of the Bolivian economy that I've found is on the Udape site, and deals with the first half of 2003 (PDF). It has a small section on external debt (starting at p49a).

The balance due at June 30 2003 came to just over $4.5bn. From the graphic on p51a, it's clear that the vast bulk of this debt is multilateral, something like 85%. Even if all the bilateral debt were due to the US, that could amount to no more than around $700m.

So, going back to where we came in, where does the figure of $6bn that the pueblo is fighting 43 for come from ?

(The main site for Bolivian government statistics is here. An initial nose around is somewhat disappointing: there may, however, be pearls that merely require a good oyster-knife...)

I have just cast an eye over the English version of the original piece (Should have done so in the first place? Hey, it's 20:20, bud!). The translator helpfully glosses the text, like a good medieval scribe:
The United Status government considers the situation critical. The Bush administration tried to the end to prop up Sánchez de Lozada and defend the $6 billion gas project that the Bolivian people are fighting.

What is the $6bn number? The total prospective investment in all gas? The disputed export project via Chile? Or does it refer to total prospective sales?

Enough rummaging around in Bolivian stats: cue Arnie's catchphrase...

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