Bolivia: Morales eyes $2 billion investment for state industries
Independent Online, April 24, 2011
Bolivia’s president proposed on Saturday tapping the impoverished nation’s currency reserves to invest $2 billion in as yet unspecified state industries.
Saying he would seek approval of the South American country’s voters in a referendum, President Evo Morales said: “of the $10.6
billion in hard currency reserves, which are the savings of the Bolivian people, I would like to use about $2 billion.”
“I have asked myself, why not spend that money on cement factories, and on food-related industries and factories,” Morales explained at an event in Potosi.
Morales, a close leftist ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, noted that when he took office, reserves stood were at $1.7 billion but have since risen to $10.6 billion, largely on the back of his nationalisation of oil and gas related industries.
“We are here saving and saving, and if some day those lazy guys are back in power, they will spend down our reserves again,” Morales charged in referring to conservative rivals.
Bolivia is South America’s poorest nation.
This week, Morales voiced interest in deeper state involvement in lithium-related industries.
On Tuesday, the president said Bolivia will produce lithium carbonate for the first time this year, in a sign his country is making some economic strides thanks to its key reserves of the mineral used in electric car batteries.
Bolivia holds an estimated 70 percent of the world’s reserves of the mineral also used in industrial ceramics and pharmaceuticals. It is most prominently used in electric car batteries.
“This year we are going to have lithium carbonate already, and the most important thing is that that is a first step toward industrialization,” Morales said in Uyuni, next to the salt flats home to the minerals.
Morales is keen on having Bolivia actually produce batteries but there has been no related agreement ironed out at this stage; it would require major capital input, something Morales is courting.
Bolivia estimates that there are 100 million metric tons of the mineral south of the salt flats.
Lithium is widely used in rechargeable batteries for laptops, mobile phones and electric cars. – Sapa-AFP