Tonight we find out
bolivia | by Miguel Centellas | 01 Feb, 2004 at 05:07 PM | comments (26) | trackback (0)

The city's abuzz, anticipating Mesa's big speech tonight at 9pm. He's going to unveil his administration's economic austerity plan. The government has to somehow bridge the gap between income & expenses (it spends about twice as much as it brings in). How'll Mesa do it? What's the big plan?

My tío Eduardo, who works at the Central Bank, is worried Mesa won't do anything drastic. Sounds odd, but drastic's the only thing that'll work these days. Half-measures actually make things worse, not better. But Mesa's not Estenssoro — no one expects a 1985 moment, when the MNR founder announced "our Bolivia is dying, to save her, we'll have to amputate." Only months later, the world's worst case of hyperinflation (reaching 25,000%) was stopped dead cold. Many doubt Mesa has the pantalones to do anything drastic.

The COB's already eager to start another round of bloqueos, w/o waiting for Mesa's announcement. One of the proposed measures is a reduction in the subsidy to the price of gasoline (which would raise the domestic consumer price). The taxi drivers'll probably strike on Monday if there's a gasolinazo. Another option's to try to collect taxes from the black market merchants that make up a third of the national economy. But the gremialistas dominate the political life in El Alto, so that probably won't happen either.

One suggestion was that Mesa announce the austerity measures, adding that if people don't like it, he'll resign. That could do the trick. The last thing most people want is a slide into anarchy, which could bring civil war & military intervention. Will Mesa do that? After he announced over a month ago that he could care less whether he was president or not?

What the country needs now is leadership. Mesa's a good orator w/ a silver tongue. And he's carefully groomed his public image & popularity. Which helped during his career in TV journalism. But. Is he a leader? Can he make the tough — and often upopular but necessary — decisions?

" comments

Unpopular but necessary?
That's like saying "I know you don't agree with me, but ->I

Mesa better be "popular" or else the same that happened w/ Goni will happen to him.

Posted by luis | February 1, 2004 10:03 PM

No. Sometimes leadership calls on things that are unpopular. Raising taxes isn't popular. Neither is cutting government spending. But sometimes you have to do it. The point is that we elect leaders to make those very tough choices. If we don't like it, we vote them out next time. That's how representative democracy works. It's not just giving the people everything they want -- because they really don't always know what's best for them, for a variety of reasons.

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