Bolivia: Key economic tests loom for Evo Morales

Bolivian president Evo Morales will take the oath on a new term before foreign dignitaries today, making him the country’s longest-serving leader.

Evo Morales: Popular leader. Picture: Getty
Evo Morales: Popular leader. Picture: Getty

However, Mr Morales and his compatriots will face economic challenges that could quickly erode gains made and test the 55-year-old leader’s popularity.

His fortunes will depend on how he copes with an imminent plunge in the price of natural gas, the main source of Bolivia’s export revenue. Owing in part to his exacting of a bigger share of natural gas profits, Bolivia’s gross domestic product tripled, reaching £20.2 billion in 2014. But with oil prices testing new lows, gas revenues are expected to shrivel.

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“Morales has had the greatest political and economic power of any president in [Bolivian] history thanks to what has been the country’s biggest bonanza,” said Marcelo Silva, a political scientist at San Andres University in La Paz, speaking of the commodities windfall and Morales’ ascendance as Bolivia’s first indigenous leader.

Supporters credit Morales with bringing Bolivia into the 21st century through public projects.

In October elections, more than 60 per cent of voters backed him.