Roberto Simon, senior director for policy at AS/COA, spoke to Business Insider Today about the protests in Chile.
“People are in the streets because they’re frustrated. They have been promised a lot, particularly middle-class Chileans, promised access to healthcare, education,” said Simon. “They feel things have not improved as fast as they wanted. At the same time, you have a political system that has lost its appeal to the majority of Chileans.”
Simon stated that economists usually look at Chile and see a positive story because of the country’s successful reduction of poverty and high income per capita. However, he also said that for young families, healthcare costs and education are growing much faster than wages and pensioners do not receive enough money to pay their bills.
“The system worked really well for a small group of people, but for the majority of Chileans, politicians don’t care, they’re disengaged, they’re not interested in the common people,” said Simon.
When asked about President Sebastián Piñera's economic measures to contain the protests, Simon explained the phases in the government’s reaction to the social unrest. First, they were in denial, with President Sebastián Piñera appearing on television to say, “We are at war with protesters.” Later, the president proposed a major policy shift, abandoning policy proposal such as tax reform, which were already in Congress.”
Simon also emphasized the importance of Chile’s intention to change its Constitution, which has existed since the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Since there is a diverse group of people protesting in the streets, he said, “It’s unclear that you have one policy response that can really satisfy a majority of Chileans.”