Economic studies
Bolivia

Bolivia

Population 11.6 million
GDP per capita 3,168 US$
C
Country risk assessment
B
Business Climate
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2019 2020 2021 (e) 2022 (f)
GDP growth (%) 2.2 -8.8 5.5 4.0
Inflation (yearly average, %) 1.8 1.0 1.0 3.0
Budget balance (% GDP) -7.2 -12.2 -9.7 -8.0
Current account balance (% GDP) -3.4 -0.5 0.5 -1.5
Public debt (% GDP) 48.2 67.0 73.0 76.0

(e): Estimate (f): Forecast

STRENGTHS

  • Substantial mineral (gas, oil, zinc, silver, gold, lithium, tin, manganese) and agricultural (soya, quinoa) resources
  • 15th largest exporter of natural gas in the world
  • Member of the Andean Community and Associate member of Mercosur
  • Tourism potential
  • Currency pegged to the U.S. dollar

WEAKNESSES

  • Economy not very diversified, dependent on hydrocarbons and ores
  • Low private sector development and high dependence on the public sector
  • Landlocked country
  • Substantial informal sector (3/4 of all business and 60% of households)
  • Poor business environment
  • Insecurity, drug trafficking, corruption
  • Risks of social unrest, highly polarized country
  • Limited access to external financing
  • Human rights abuses
  • Potential risk of a balance payment and/or debt crisis if currency peg abandoned and delays in adjustment

Risk assessment

A moderating economic recovery

In 2022, the economy will continue to pick up, but at a slower pace, driven by moderate private and public consumption, as well as limited external demand. Private consumption will rise modestly as the pandemic-related restrictions were lifted and that the vaccination rollout should progress (35% of total population fully vaccinated by end-November 2021). Public expenditure might moderately increase as authorities have considered investments in productive areas such as infrastructure, health and education. Concomitantly, public investment growth will be constrained by the fiscal consolidation and level of public debt. Natural gas exports will rise modestly, benefiting from the supportive international prices  . However, exported volumes of natural gas to Argentina and Brazil could decline as Brazilian drought conditions ease and Argentina starts to prioritize the expansion of capacity and connectivity of its own pipeline network. Moreover, the gradual reserves depletion and limited investments might weigh on supply. National resources, mainly natural gas and minerals will remain nationalized and the state-owned enterprises will  continue to play a substantial role in the economy. Exports of minerals and soybeans might modestly rise due to an increase in global demand, but might suffer from supply chain disruptions.

 

Slow fiscal consolidation

The fiscal balance will remain in high deficit although a slight reduction might be expected in 2022, as the government tends to consider fiscal consolidation. Public revenues should slightly increase on the continuing economic recovery and receipts from the direct tax on hydrocarbons (15% of total revenues). Moreover, the wealth tax adopted in December 2020 already brought significant revenue. In addition, we expect a moderated reduction in the hydrocarbon subsidy (1.5% of GDP). Finally, hydrocarbon imports (petrol, diesel) should gradually be replaced as the authorities, the state oil company YPFB, and the Santa Cruz sugar cane mills, reached an agreement on ethanol purchase (160 million litres of ethanol in 2022, 45% more than in 2011), but this will be subject to compliance with the agreement. The financing of the deficit, though still largely reliant on domestic sources - notably the central bank, is expected to rely increasingly on multilateral donors such as FONPLATA (USD 100 million), IBRD and IADB (Pilot Programs for Climate Resilience), and the World Bank via Global Environment Facility plans (USD 1.5 million). The debt will rise further, albeit with a low external share (31% of GDP in 2021) and largely on concessional terms.

 

The current account balance should return to a small deficit in 2022. The modest (but exceptional) 2021 trade surplus might decrease due to lower regional demand for gas. In addition, civil unrest and new mobility restrictions might hamper mineral production and exports. The smuggling of gold remains an issue for Bolivian exports and a gold trading company might be created in order to settle the issue. The restrictions and controls linked to the pandemic, mostly overseas, continue to have a negative impact on tourism flows (7% of GDP before COVID-19) . Expatriates’ remittances (3% of GDP) showed a moderate increase in the first semester of 2021 due to progressing vaccination campaigns in some hosting economies (Spain, Chile, U.S.) that contributed to their economic recovery. Foreign Direct Investment will continue to contribute modestly to deficit financing due to the poor business environment. International reserves will continue to decline in 2022 (5.6 months of imports by the end of October 2021). A potential abandonment of the currency peg would be accompanied by a progressive devaluation, but delayed adjustment might lead to a balance of payments crisis.

 

MAS remains the primary force in national politics

The left-wing Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) candidate, Luis Arce, won the presidential election with 55.1% of the vote and took office in November 2020. The MAS has the majority in both upper house  and lower house Thereafter, at the local elections, which took place in March 2021, the MAS saw its electoral performance fall in the main urban areas. Despite his solid election victory, Mr. Arce’s popularity had declined steadily in the media polls (as of November 2021), with some protesting against his person, political corruption, and the detention (October 2021) of Ex-Interim President, Jeanine Áñez.  Moreover, with the economy largely navigating in informality (including in gold extraction and trading), the law 1386, known as “ley madre”, which aimed at fighting  money laundering and corruption, raised the ire of many categories before being repealed by Mr. Arce after large civil demonstrations. The Arce administration will maintain alliances with traditional MAS supporters and a less confrontational approach with the EU and the U.S.

 

Last updated: February 2022

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