President Boric gives his first State of the Nation address, with a strong social focus
The presidential address, given before a full Congress, revolved around five key points: social rights, stronger democracy, justice and security, inclusive growth, and the environment.
President Gabriel Boric gave his first State of the Nation address today before National Congress, in which he focused on citizen issues and emphasized support for Chilean families. Speaking in front of Chile’s most senior authorities, the President reviewed the main measures and bills that the government will promote, all of which have a clear social focus and an emphasis on support for Chilean families.
During his speech, which lasted for two hours 15 minutes, the President drew attention to issues such as tax reform, trains for Chile, the National Care System and forgiveness of outstanding State-guaranteed student loans (CAE). His address revolved around five key points: social rights, stronger democracy, justice and security, inclusive growth, and the environment.
The President announced that a pension reform bill will be presented in August, and that a National Care System will be established.
“We cannot allow the care of children, senior citizens and people with disabilities to fall exclusively on the shoulders of millions of women. That is why, in line with our government program, we will promote the creation of a National Care System,” he stated.
The President also announced that “in August this year, we will send a bill to reform the pension system, the result of a broad social dialogue process involving the participation of workers, employers and experts. To clear up any doubt, we are going to respect every peso of the pension savings accumulated in individual accounts and the possibility of every Chilean saving for their old age. I also promise that, with this reform, each inhabitant of our country aged 65 years or older, will be entitled to a state-guaranteed basic pension of 250,000 Chilean pesos (US$307.50).”
The Government will also support the bill to create the Indigenous Peoples Ministry and present a bill to establish the National Comprehensive Sex Education Policy.
In addition, the President emphasized that his government will present a Student Debt Forgiveness Plan bill, which will be implemented in a gradual and fair manner, and a transitory system for financing higher education to put an end to the State-guaranteed student loans provided through the CAE, the Solidarity Fund and the Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO). The government will also promote a bill to reduce the working week to 40 hours, as well as a bill to create the Universal Health Fund.
“We know that the time for a comprehensive reform of the healthcare system is here. To this end, we will present a bill to set up a Universal Health Fund, with the aim of generating greater equity in access to services, improving care, increasing solidarity in the system’s financing, and reducing household spending,” the President explained.
In addition, 65,000 decent homes will be built: “We are facing a housing crisis. To address it, we will begin building 65,000 decent homes to reach our target of 260,000 provided by the end of our period in office. In order to do this, we will expand the Land Bank, redesignating publicly owned land for housing purposes. We will also increase the supply of rental accommodation at a fair price.”
President Boric stressed that his government will implement the National Immigration Policy. The policy includes improving the registration of immigrants arriving in Chile, as well as strengthening the work of the National Immigration Service to speed up the response times for residency visa applications.
A bill will be presented to protect whistleblowers of acts against administrative probity, extending it to include the armed forces. The government will also introduce a bill to protect freedom of the press and those who carry out fundamental tasks related to the right to information.
“We are working to protect journalists and communications workers through a legal mechanism that will come into force in the second half of the year in order to protect the freedom of the press and of those who carry out fundamental tasks regarding the right to information, such as Francisca Sandoval, whose family we embrace,” President Boric explained.
Added to this is a bill to protect human rights defenders, a bill on parental responsibility and effective payment of alimony, which has already been presented, and the updating of the protocols on gender violence within all branches of the armed forces.
Justice and security
The President announced that his government has made amendments to the pending bill to create the Public Security, Civil Protection and Citizen Coexistence Ministry, as well as presenting reforms to the Carabineros de Chile (Uniformed Police Service) and implementing the “Programa Menos Armas, Más Seguridad” (Fewer Weapons, Greater Security Program).
This is in addition to the National Policy Against Organized Crime: “Organized crime, drug trafficking, migrant smuggling, human trafficking, wood theft, and money laundering are clearly present in our country. This year, we will approve a National Policy Against Organized Crime, and we will allocate three billion Chilean pesos (US$3.7 million) from the 2022 budget for its prevention, control and prosecution. We have prioritized a legislative package that will increase the effectiveness of the criminal prosecution of organized crime, which includes improving investigation techniques, early dispossession, strengthening the capacities of the Financial Analysis Unit, and updating the classification of illicit association.”
The government will execute an action plan for the control and oversight of illicit and street trade in 12 regions of the country, with a focus on oversight, criminal prosecution and labor regularization. It will also reformulate the Support Program for the Victims of Rural Violence.
The President explained that his government will create a National Policy for Remote Areas, and an additional US$1.5 billion will be provided to the Fuel Price Stabilization Mechanism (MEPCO), taking the total budget to US$3 billion. The development of the green hydrogen industry will be promoted, and the second concession of the cable car to connect Alto Hospicio and Iquique will begin.
He explained that 65 Rural Potable Water (APR) facilities will be built, and 75 will be improved, benefiting 155,000 people. In the mining sector, the State-owned copper company Codelco will be strengthened and the government’s commitment to create a national lithium company has been reaffirmed.
In the area of transportation, the President stressed that 41 road infrastructure improvement projects will be carried out to support transport throughout the country. In addition, the extension of Lines 2 and 3 of the Santiago Metro will be inaugurated in 2023.
“I want to focus on the National Railway Development Plan, a long-held dream of millions of people from all sectors of the population: to have an extensive network of trains for Chile. This plan includes deploying urban and suburban passenger services, and gradually making progress on the construction of medium- and long-distance interregional passenger services. It also considers new infrastructure for cargo services and raises the quality standard of current operations. Our goal is to triple the number of passengers, going from 50 million people transported by train in 2019 to 150 million by 2026,” the President explained. The plan includes construction work for the Valparaíso-Santiago train, the extension of the railway network from Chillán to Concepción, and continuation of the Quinta Normal-Batuco, Melipilla-Santiago, Temuco-Padre Las Casas works, as well as 12 new trains that will connect with Estación Central.
Lastly, the President highlighted the approval of the Escazú Agreement, and announced that a Turquoise Foreign Policy will be established, which proposes joint work along America’s Pacific Coast to create protected marine corridors. Watershed Councils will also be created in each of Chile’s regions, and the Climate Change Framework Law will be implemented.
“We will make decisive progress towards a fair and responsible water transition. To this end, as part of the framework to implement changes to the water code, we will create Watershed Councils in each of the country’s regions, prioritizing human consumption of water and the rational use of this resource for productive activities. Our adherence to the Escazú Agreement demonstrates our commitment to resuming the leadership role in Latin America that Chile has had in environmental matters,” the President emphasized.