Chile’s Rejected Constitution Leads to Economic Uncertainty Amid Social Unrest

Chile's decision to reject a new constitution signals regulatory stability but fails to quell social discontent and political fragmentation, say rating agencies.

Table members begin the vote count of the constitutional pleiscite,

12/17/2023.- Table members begin the vote count of the constitutional plebiscite, in Santiago (Chile). EFE/Elvis Gonzalez

The Latin American Post Staff

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Leer en español: La Constitución rechazada de Chile genera incertidumbre económica en medio del malestar social

The recent vote in Chile to reject a proposed new constitution has brought a mixed bag of implications, according to leading rating agencies. While the decision may have reduced regulatory uncertainty, it has done little to address the deeper issues of social discontent and political division that continue to beset the South American nation.

In its analysis, Fitch Ratings emphasized that the referendum's outcome effectively concludes the constitutional rewrite process. However, it also brings into sharp relief the ongoing political fragmentation and social polarization within Chile. The agency warns that this unresolved discord could lead to increased fiscal pressures, particularly as political uncertainty is expected to continue impacting investment in critical sectors and overall economic growth. Furthermore, increased social spending is anticipated to meet some of the demands that initially spurred the constitutional reform proposals.

Challenging Economic Landscape for Chile

Chile, renowned as the world's largest copper producer, faces a challenging economic landscape. The central bank's projection of zero growth in 2023 underscores the urgency, although a recovery is expected in 2024. This economic stagnation and the recent constitutional developments paint a complex picture of Chile's future.

Moody's, in a separate report, acknowledged that the constitutional process highlighted Chile's robust governmental institutions. However, it also pointed out that the process could have effectively tackled the country's underlying problems. The agency noted ongoing dissatisfaction among Chileans, stemming from perceived deficiencies in vital public services like education, pensions, transportation, and healthcare, as well as concerns over rising crime rates and sluggish economic growth.

After the referendum, President Gabriel Boric stated that his government would not pursue a third attempt at rewriting the constitution. Instead, his administration plans to focus on pension and tax reform through the legislative process. This move signals a shift in strategy, aiming to address some of the root causes of the social unrest that has gripped the country since the 2019 protests.

Emphasis on Addressing Social Unrest Through Policy Changes

The rating agencies underscore the importance of the Boric government's focus on addressing social unrest through policy changes. The primary emphasis, as highlighted by these agencies, will be on approving tax reform. Such reforms are crucial for creating a more equitable social framework, which could help alleviate societal tensions.

The situation in Chile represents a critical juncture in its democratic evolution. While bringing some regulatory clarity, the rejection of the new constitution has yet to resolve the deep-seated issues that initially led to the call for constitutional reform. The country stands at a crossroads, where the government's response to these challenges will be pivotal in determining Chile's path forward.

Role of Economic Policy and Navigating Political Landscape

The role of economic policy in this context must be considered. With the economy expected to stagnate in the near term, effective policy measures are needed to stimulate growth and address the economic grievances of the populace. These measures and reforms in public service sectors could be instrumental in restoring public confidence and stability.

Moreover, the political landscape in Chile requires careful navigation. The government must work to bridge the emerging divides, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose among the various political factions and the public. This work involves policy reforms and effective communication and engagement with all stakeholders.

Also read: Mercosur Expansion as Bolivia Joins South American Trade Bloc

While rejecting the new constitution in Chile has brought some regulatory clarity, it opens up a new chapter of challenges for the country. The Boric government's ability to address social discontent, economic stagnation, and political fragmentation through thoughtful policy reforms and effective governance will be crucial in shaping Chile's future. As the country navigates these turbulent waters, the eyes of the world, and particularly of international rating agencies, will remain keenly focused on its progress.

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