SANTIAGO May 3 Sebastian Pinera, the
front-runner to win Chile's 2017 presidential election, promised
on Wednesday to push for a $20 billion infrastructure spending
program and emphasize economic growth as he outlined his policy
The conservative candidate, who previously led Chile between
2006 and 2010, looks to be assured of securing the backing of
the right-wing Chile Vamos coalition during its primary in July.
Pinera left office with low popularity ratings but is hoping
to make a comeback on the back of disgruntlement with the
center-left government of President Michelle Bachelet and deep
divisions within her coalition.
"In the past three years we have lost our path and rhythm
and stagnated," Pinera said in a policy document published on
He pledged to focus on job creation, tackle delinquency, and
improve education, health and pensions, all of which surveys
show are key issues for Chileans.
Pinera's program suggests he will make tweaks rather than
radical changes to the policies of top copper exporter Chile,
regarded as a Latin American economic success story despite a
recent slowdown in economic growth.
Most eye-catching is a pledge to invest $20 billion over
eight years in public-private infrastructure projects, including
new highways and airports and the continued extension of
Santiago's metro system.
The tax system, which was overhauled by Bachelet, would be
simplified, without the overall burden changing but with
possible changes to corporate taxes, according to Pinera's
program. A controversial labor reform to strengthen unions that
recently became law would also be revised, it said.
Under Pinera's program, pension contributions would rise to
14 percent from the current 10 percent, to address widespread
discontent that the nation's privatized pension system has left
retirees struggling. Bachelet's government has said it plans to
increase contributions to 15 percent.
Polls suggest Pinera has a healthy lead over his nearest
opponent, leftist Alejandro Guillier, in the first round of the
presidential election scheduled for Nov. 19, but that a second
round run-off would likely be close.
(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Paul Simao)