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President Piñera highlights the importance of national unity in his first State of the Nation address

Before a plenary session of Congress, the President of Chile highlighted plans to protect children, strengthen gender equality, promote comprehensive development, create jobs, combat crime and modernize the State.

President of Chile Sebastián Piñera began his State of the Nation address emphasizing the value of unity, civic friendship, dialogue, respect, collaboration and efforts to develop agreements as the means to achieve progress and development.

In a speech to legislators, ministers and guests, the President said that "Chile wants to be, can be and will be a developed country."

The speech focused on measures that will be taken to diminish crime, drug trafficking and terrorism; introduce major health service reforms to improve access and the quality of healthcare for all Chileans; improve the quality of education for children and young people and the training of workers; and ensure innovative and better treatment for children, women, the elderly, the disabled, the middle class, the country’s various regions and the rural sector.

President Piñera said that during his mandate, he will seek to continue the republican tradition of dialogue and agreements and endeavor to strengthen unity among Chileans, focusing on a series of urgent situations and social demands that require priority attention and warrant the immediate intervention of the government.

Along these lines, the President stressed that, "Today we can confirm with great joy and satisfaction that we have successfully established broad cross-party working groupsto achieve major national agreements."

Piñera highlighted the changes promoted on the issue of childrenthat include a reform of the National Service for Minors-Sename, the establishment of an Undersecretary for Children, and the creation of an Early Warning System for Minorsin order to be able to assist children and adolescents deemed at risk in a timelier and more efficient manner.

In addition, a bill will be submitted in the coming weeks that seeks to guarantee the universal right to pre-school education.

"This is the most ethical and powerful way to care for and educate our children from the earliest age, where we can address social deprivation at its roots, level the playing field and making a real contribution to a more just society," said President Piñera.

With respect to social issues, the President of Chile indicated that a bill will be presented to the legislature to set up the Ministry of Family and Social Development, replacing the Ministry of Social Development. Further measures include the Middle-Class Protection Networkand bills that promote the creation of the Child Protection Serviceand the Youth Reintegration Service. An Early Warning System for Minors also will be initiated, along with a bill to guarantee the universal right to pre-school education.

In terms of Education, efforts will be made to improve quality at all levels. Progress will be made towards universal and free access to early childhood educationand improvements will be made to technical-professional education at the school level, creating High Schools for Technical and Professional Excellence. At the higher education level, Technical Training Centers and Professional Institutes will be improved, and a bill will be placed before Congress to set up a new Unified Credit System to replace the State-Sponsored Credit (CAE)and the University Solidarity Credit Fund.

Regarding healthcare, the President indicated that the number of patients and wait times will be reduced and a Unified Patient Registrywill be created. In addition, the Primary Care Systemwill be reformed, the National Healthcare Fund-Fonasa will be modernizedand the Private Health Insurance Companies-Isapressystem will be reformed.

On the issue of publicsafety, Piñera highlighted an upcoming bill to combat portonazos(attempts to rob a vehicle while it is entering or leaving a gated residence), so that those who purchase stolen vehicles or property receive the same penalty as those who carried out the theft, as well as a modification of the law so as to consider recidivism as an aggravating circumstance with respect to the criminal liability of juveniles.

With respect to pensions, the President indicated that the system will be reformed through the strengthening of theSolidarity Pillar, providing a special subsidy for the most vulnerable members of society in this area, particularly women, older adults and members of the middle class. In addition, incentives will be offered for the voluntary postponement of retirement. And within 60 days, a bill will be placed before Congress that allows for the real and progressive incorporation of independent workers and those employed in micro, small and medium-sized businesses into the social security and pension system.

The President of Chile also underlined a Plan to Modernize the Tax Systemto promote investment, savings, growth, job creation, innovation and entrepreneurship, including the creation of the Office of Competitiveness, Investment and Productivity.He also announced an investment plan in public works totaling US$ 20 billion. All this will take place within a framework of fiscal responsibility.

These initiatives will be accompanied by sustainable growth through the promotion of a more economic, clean, sustainable and competitive energy matrixthat is able to capitalize on Chile’s unique characteristics.

The President also emphasized the importance of making progress on a gender equality agenda. This will also include the provisions mentioned above as well as a requirement that every educational institute implement protocols to prevent and punish discrimination and abuse.

Piñera also referred to the balanced development of all of the country’s regions and municipalitiesand efforts to make progress on the transfer of responsibilities, powers and resources to local governments.

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