On Nov. 17, Chile’s lower house of Congress approved the first budget of President Gabriel Boric’s government. The opposition got its way: a reduction of some expenditures and elimination of specific programs of some ministries. As the bill moves on to the Senate, it trails behind a laundry list of criticisms.
After an hours-long debate started on Nov. 16, Chile’s lower house of Congress approved the 2023 Budget Bill on Nov. 17, passing the measure on to the Senate, which is expected to finalize the legislative process on Nov. 29.
The Bill, listing 32-line items, endorses the reduction of some expenditures, and the elimination of specific programs of some ministries. The budget areas widely debated were Education, Labor, Health, Agriculture, Housing, the Ministry of Public Works, and Social Development.
The opposition seems to have won: the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) and the Cultural Heritage Program, under which organizations such as Villa Grimaldi, Londres 38, Fundación Frei, and Fundación Salvador Allende work, were all left without funds. In addition, the bill foists a new requirement onto the INDH: it will have to submit quarterly reports regarding its use of resources.
The president of the Finance Commission, Represenative and Socialist Jaime Naranjo, lamented the attitude of the right-wing towards security and human rights: “One thing we regret is that the right-wing sectors that used to have a spirit of collaboration, dialogue, and respect for agreements, unfortunately, they are letting themselves be dragged along by sectors of the extreme right which, rather than having a spirit of collaboration, are characterized by a spirit of confrontation, and this was clearly reflected in the whole discussion of the National Budget.”
As for the Ministry of Labor’s budget, it was proposed to raise the Universal Guaranteed Pension (PGU) to CLP$250,000, ruling out the path of the government’s pension and tax reform advanced by Boric’s administration. Another element of the discussion was around the office of Camila Vallejo’s Secretary General of Government, which was left without resources for the staff or communications consultancies.
Aso for Health, there was a request to increase the primary care budget per capita to US$10,135 per year, but it was declared void due to a technical problem. The president of the Health Commission, Radical Party member Tomás Lagomarsino, said that they still supported the request to level resources and incorporate December’s 12 percent inflation, putting the decision in the hands of the Senate.
What is expected to happen in the Senate?
Chile’s 2023 monetary plan is now in a position to begin its next constitutional step in the Senate, which resumes its work on Nov. 22. The Senate will discuss the Ministry of Interior’s budget, the pending health primary care increase, and a possible motion of censure against the new president of the Lower House, Liberal Party member Vlado Mirosevic, who has been accused by some members of Chile Vamos of “rushing” the vote of an opposition measure that sought to increase the PGU to CLP$250,000 starting in January 2023. They allege that, through this action, he prevented two representatives from voting because they were in the bathroom at the time of the vote, and that their votes were consequential to the outcome of the measure.
Representative Miguel Mellado said that the idea of censorship “was discussed” but that they will wait “a few more weeks” to evaluate the performance of the Liberal Party representative, who is accused of having been elected without an absolute majority and having uneven management.
Carmen Critelli is an intern at Chile Today. She has recently completed her bachelor’s degree in European Studies from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. During her studies and journalistic experience, she specialised in migration/immigration issues, poverty and sustainability.