Three Lessons from Bolivia
Posted on April 11th, 2019

By Sumanasiri Liyanage Courtesy Ceylon Today

Compared to Sri Lanka (25,330 sqkms.), Bolivia (1,098, 581 sqkms) is relatively a large country. However, Sri Lanka with around 22 million is more populous than Bolivia, the population of which is estimated at 11 million. Since 2005, a sea change has been taking place in Bolivia covering every sphere of life of its people and society. Being a pluri-national state, Bolivia is successful in resolving inter-ethnic issues within a unitary state. However, this is a different subject that is to be discussed at length in a separate column.  

Won

Evo Morales won the 2005 presidential election with 53.7% of the votes, an absolute majority, unusual in Bolivian elections laying a strong foundation for a revolution that was initiated by Simon Bolivar in Venezuela.One year after swearing in as the President of Bolivia, On 1 May 2006, Morales caused controversy when he announced his intent to re-nationalise Bolivian hydrocarbon assets. Fulfilling a campaign promise, on 6 August 2006, Morales declared open the Bolivian Constituent Assembly to begin writing a new Constitution aimed at giving more power to the indigenous majority in Bolivia. After the demise of Hugo Chavez, President Morales has become a leading figure in the continuation and consolidation of the Bolivarian Revolution, the very existence of which is being now threatened by the US and its allies.


Resistance

This column is not about the resistance of Latin American countries to US imperialism but about peoples’ attitudes and state policies in Bolivia that throw some light on how less-developed country could open up an alternative development path to overcome the problem of underdevelopment resisting hegemonic power of global finance capital. 

After four decades of development failure, Sri Lanka, I think, should draw some lessons from this Andean country. Among many, I would focus in this column only on three policies Lesson ONE: No to Fast-Food Industry
Bolivian peoples’ displeasure over the fast food industry has forced the US giant fast food chain, McDonald’s, to close its doors. Thus, Bolivia became the first McDonald’s-free Latin American nation. After 14 years in the nation and despite many campaigns and promos McDonald’s was forced to close in 2002, its eight Bolivian restaurants in the major cities of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Similarly, in early 2010 the Coca-Cola faced the same threat, but the Bolivian Government stopped taking further action. The fast food industry has become not only a global industry but also a maker of food habit diverting people from their traditional food and destroying local food and beverages industry. So, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are not just two varieties of drinks and McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC are not just providers of food.

Encroaching

Moving away from fast food chains owned by multinationals (MNCs) has political significance as these MNCs are encroaching the local food and beverage market by using million-dollar promotional campaigns. The most detrimental effects are two-fold. First, it indirectly affects the nutritious level of the people, especially its younger segment. Secondly, as a result of the popularity of ‘fast food’, the local entrepreneurs are also trying to emulate these global food chains producing similar kind of products. One may argue that people have a right to choose whatever they prefer to eat or drink so that the restrictions by the state or by the community over their ‘demand’ may be a gross violation of their democratic rights. Nonetheless, the market behavior is more complex, and the ‘demand’ does not always come from needs but is created and imposed by Media and advertising industry.


So, Bolivian resistance to giant fast food MNCs should be looked at from a broader political economic perspective, rather than from a simple ‘demand and supply’ function.


Lesson TWO: Food Independence through Small Farmer Production
Sri Lanka has been facing a growing deficit in its trade balance and it has put enormous pressure on the Sri Lanka rupee especially in the last ten years. In encountering this issue, the prescriptions offered by the neoliberal economists include further liberalisation of trade and taking steps to increase exports.

Miserably

Both have failed miserably in the last 40 years. Our imports consist of many agricultural goods that can be produced locally. Production of food is not a goal in itself. Increase in food production should be organised to meet the ecological requirements with less emissions and lower green-house effects.


Recently, The Government of Bolivia has announced that it is expected to achieve food independence through green production by empowering small producers. In this respect, it has invested $40 million to support small and medium farmers in food production. Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Agriculture, Marisol Solano, stated that over 20 food security projects are already underway across the country, with financial support so far being given to breeding livestock and fish farming, as well as increasing the production of crops like potatoes, tomatoes, wheat, vegetables, coffee, and cocoa.


The studies initiated by the Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reforms (MONLAR) have shown that traditional varieties are less vulnerable to diseases and shifting to organic farming without reducing the output is possible. Small farms with collective input and market structures would contribute to achieve agricultural trade balance thus reducing the pressure on Sri Lanka rupee.


Lesson THREE: Keep the IMF Out Washington Consensus (WC) was initially articulated for the countries in Central and Latin America. Even prior to its adoption, the same policy package was put into practice in Chile after Pinochet came to power killing a duly elected socialist President, Salvador Allende. The implementation of the WC marked the ‘Lost Decade’ in Latin America with multiple economic ills such as sluggish growth, unemployment, indebtedness and deteriorating living standards. This situation in turn paved the way for radicalisation of politics resulting in the election of left governments in many countries, including Bolivia.

Neoliberal principles

Evo Morales as the President has initiated series of economic and political reforms questioning neoliberal principles and empowering masses of the bottom rung of the Bolivian society. About a year ago he announced that he and his government would not engage hereafter in any business with the International Monetary Fund. Of course, this is a revolutionary decision and also a dangerous decision as it questions the global neo-liberal hegemony. Nonetheless, President Morales has realised that had the IMF been allowed to influence the domestic policy decisions benefitting the bottom rung of the society, far-reaching social and economic reforms would be introduced and implemented. We have witnessed that many left governments in Latin America have failed to fulfil their promises to the lower classes of their respective societies primarily because of the fact that even the limited actions they had taken were thwarted by the IMF and the global finance capital.


These three lessons are of paramount importance to less developed countries that are trapped in neoliberalist trap by the IMF, WB and WTO and their regional partners. As the Finance Minister, Mangala Samaraweera has himself shown Sri Lanka has lost its economic independence and all the major decisions are in fact taken either in New York or in London. However, drawing lessons from Bolivia needs a new form of government with necessary political will.

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2 Responses to “Three Lessons from Bolivia”

  1. Christie Says:

    International Truth and Juatice Project has failed to keep Gota in USA with their case filed in a California Court; whhich is the biggest Indian ghetto in USA. This project is headed by Yasmin Sooka an Indian Colonial Parasite from South Africa and people like Frances Harrison from UK a British sucker of Indian Empire. This is another loss for Indian Union, Indian Empire, Indian intelligence services. Indian Colonial Parasites, Indian Parasites, Indian Lobby in the West and Indian suckers like Francis Harrison. ITJP no, +44 (0) 7946488089. This woman who worked for Amnesty International, BBC etc is an anti Sinhala and pro Indian woman. Works with Indian Colonial Parasite Yasmin Sooka an Indian Colonial Parasites from South Africa and Ceylon etc.
    We the victims of Indian imperialism and colonialism should unite and stan up to India and Indian Parasites out of India. See what India has done to the natves of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
    BBC a British apparatus have to look after thr Parasites who sucked the wealth from the tropical colonies and gave some to the British. It is time to decolonize Indian Colonies specially the African ones like Durban South Africa where Indian Colonial Parasites like Yasmin Sooka are making millions.

    International Truth and Juatice Project has failed to keep Gota in USA with their case filed in a California Court; whhich is the biggest Indian ghetto in USA. This project is headed by Yasmin Sooka an Indian Colonial Parasite from South Africa and people like Frances Harrison from UK a British sucker of Indian Empire. This is another loss for Indian Union, Indian Empire, Indian intelligence services. Indian Colonial Parasites, Indian Parasites, Indian Lobby in the West and Indian suckers like Francis Harrison. ITJP no, +44 (0) 7946488089. This woman who worked for Amnesty International, BBC etc is an anti Sinhala and pro Indian woman. Works with Indian Colonial Parasite Yasmin Sooka an Indian Colonial Parasites from South Africa and Ceylon etc.
    We the victims of Indian imperialism and colonialism should unite and stan up to India and Indian Parasites out of India. See what India has done to the natves of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

  2. Christie Says:

    Copare Bolivia and Ceylon (Sri Lanka)?

    There are no Indian Colonial Parasites in Bolivia.

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