Chile’s Pinera presents support for middle class during COVID

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera delivers speech during the inauguration of the annual National Meeting of Entrepreneurs (ENADE) in Santiago, Chile

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said on Friday that more than one million people had received the government’s $626 spot payment aimed at staving off the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and it had approved more than 550,000 requests for soft loans of up to $815.

Pinera said in total, three out of four Chileans – 14 million people – were at present beneficiaries of some form of social support.

The lockdown associated with the virus outbreak has hammered Chile’s commerce, service and tourism sectors, driven unemployment to 11% and led the central bank to project an economic contraction of between 5.5 and 7.5% this year.

To date, Pinera said, more than a million middle-income Chileans who lost at least 30% of their income had received payouts of $626 while 2.4 million lower-income households had received a payment of $96.

He said 550,000 applications for the government’s soft loans scheme, paying $815, had been approved, and another $10bn had been approved in loans to small and medium businesses.

Responding to accusations by civil society groups and opposition politicians of excessive red tape in accessing the help, he blamed “massive demand at the start.”

Last month, Chilean lawmakers passed a wildly popular bill allowing citizens to withdraw 10% of their savings from the country’s private pension funds.

To date, payments of $8.23 billion dollars have been made to more than six million people who requested the partial withdrawal of their funds, according to the Superintendency of Pensions.

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