ECONOMY NATIONAL POLITICS

Piñera Rolling in Wealth Despite Pandemic Crash

Piñera Rolling in Wealth Despite Pandemic Crash

SANTIAGO – Forbes published its 2021 rich list. President Sebastián Piñera ranks fourth in Chile; his wealth increased by 11.5 percent from US$2.6 billion to US$2.9 billion. The news comes as debate on a super-rich tax is heating up, which the government is trying to stop.

Eight Chileans made it onto Forbes’s 2021 rich list, published on Apr. 6. Their combined wealth adds up to US$40.3 billion, a 73 percent increase compared to 2020. President Sebastián Piñera dropped in the global ranking from position 804 last year to 1,064, even though his wealth increased from US$2.6 billion to US$2.9 billion while the pandemic destroyed the livelihoods of millions.

Forbes wrote Piñera’s fortune comes from investments, but more significantly from credit card company Bancard, which the 71-year-old head of state funded in 1976. Bancard is headquartered in Santiago, but also has offices in tax havens like the British Virgin Islands and Luxembourg. In 2010, Piñera sold his 26 percent stake in airline LAN for US$1.5 billion. He also sold his TV channel Chilevisión to media conglomerate Time Warner for an estimated US$150 million.

Piñera’s wealth is facing scrutiny from the comptroller, after an investigation revealed that two of the three companies managing his assets were involved in the financial operations of casino chain Enjoy, which was the sole benefactor of a presidential decree.

Tax on the Super-Rich

A bill proposed by the opposition in October 2020 triggered a heated debate in Congress last week. The bill involves a 2.5 percent tax on fortunes that exceed US$22 million, and collection would increase resources to face the coronavirus crisis. But the ruling coalition and the government threatened to refer the bill to the constitutional tribunal.

The undersecretary of the presidency, Máximo Pávez, said during the debate that “the government will go to the constitutional tribunal, because while the constitution is still in force, the government will ensure its prerogative is respected.”

Pamela Jiles of the Humanist party countered that Pávez’s participation in the debate was “illegal” and called him a “second class employee.” She demanded attendance of the department’s head, Juan José Ossa.

Lawmaker Marisela Santibáñez, a former TV panelist, summed up the opposition’s sentiment in a tweet: “While in Chile 2.3 million people are poorer because of the crisis, the super-rich like Piñera increase their fortune … the president is taking care of his pockets.”

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