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End-of-mission statement by the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, to his visit to Bolivia (6-15 May 2019)


La Paz, 15 May 2019


I have been in the country for the past ten days at the invitation of the Government of Bolivia to examine the Government’s efforts to realise human rights through macroeconomic policies.  I have had the opportunity to consult with a wide range of interlocutors and stakeholders, including Government officials, members of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly and the Supreme Court of Justice, as well as international organizations, international financial institutions, multilateral development banks, members of civil society, trade unions, scholars, the diplomatic community and the private sector. I would like to thank the Government of Bolivia for its invitation and cooperation before and during the visit, as well as all the stakeholders who have provided me with valuable input.

My visit has taken place at a critical time of reflection and transformation for the country. After many years of tremendous success in expanding the economy and promoting social inclusion, Bolivia stands at a crossroads. Bolivia needs to re-assess the economic sustainability of the prevailing social inclusion model and reflect, with genuine participation of the population, on the true meaning of “development” and “living well”, the ideological concepts that underpin the so-called “process of change” and the current economic and social model.  

I will submit a comprehensive report on this visit to the UN Human Rights Council in February next year. During this press conference, I would like to share with you some of the preliminary findings and recommendations.   

Macroeconomic policies and human rights

Under the leadership of President Evo Morales, Bolivia’s political, economic and social model has gone through radical changes. The 2009 Constitution cemented the central role of State in economic development and explicitly recognized the rights of indigenous peoples, giving birth to the Plurinational State of Bolivia based on the principles of equality, participation, sovereignty, dignity, complementarity, solidarity, harmony and equity. The State has decisively nationalized key industries and sectors, most notably hydrocarbons. The export boom in the mining and hydrocarbon sectors, along with putting in place a wide range of social protection policies, have helped the Bolivian economy to grow at an unprecedented pace.

Bolivia, which was once a heavily indebted low-income country suffering from a series of hyperinflation and debt crises, is now a middle-income country with the fourth highest economic growth in the entire Latin America and Caribbean region1. The Bolivian economy grew almost fourfold between 2005 and 20172. The Government has also consistently raised the minimum wage above inflation. It grew from 440 Bolivianos per month in 2006 to 2,122 Bolivianos per month in 20193, which represents an increase in real minimum wage by 133 per cent4. The Government also provided in 2018 a second annual bonus for workers, as the condition of economic growth by at least 4.5% was met. All these have increased the purchasing power of the population, stimulated domestic demand and boosted household consumption, which has been another key driver of the economic growth in Bolivia.  

What stands out in Bolivia’s economic model is that the Government has strategically increased revenue through the introduction of a direct tax on hydrocarbons and directed it to public investments. Between 2006 and 2014, the fiscal revenue increased at an annual rate of 17 per cent5 and the Government has steadily increased social spending by about 10 per cent annually between 2006 and 20176. The Government has introduced a number of conditional and universal cash transfer programs, such as Renta Dignidad, Juancito Pinto Bonus, and Juana Azurduy Bonus, which are targeted at groups in vulnerable situations including older persons, children, and pregnant women and mothers. It has also increased public investments in education, health, and infrastructure, such as roads, electricity, water and sanitation services. The Government also encouraged a flow of capitals to the social sector by requiring that private banks spend 60 per cent of their portfolio on loans to the social housing and production sectors at low interest rates – at 5.5 to 6.5 per cent for social housing and at 6 to 11.5 per cent for production respectively.      

There was an important shift in the Government’s revenue matrix in 2014, with a sudden plummet in the oil and gas international prices. As an economy that heavily relies on export of natural resources for its revenue stream, Bolivia faced increasing challenges in sustaining the level of fiscal revenue and, correlatively, the public investment rhythm. However, instead of resorting to austerity as the neoliberal mainstream dogma would dictate, Bolivia has pursued alternative policy choices: it continued to expand public investments by tapping accumulated international reserves and external borrowing. Despite the economic downturn, Bolivia still dedicated 15 per cent of GDP to public investment in 2017, which was the highest in the Latin America and Caribbean region7.

There are some positive elements in these policy choices in the context of Bolivia. As highlighted by Principle 11 of the Guiding Principles of Human Rights Impact Assessments of Economic Reforms (“the Guiding Principles”)8, which I have presented to the UN Human Rights Council and which have been voted in favour by the said Council in February this year, “massive accumulation of foreign reserves beyond those recommended in the rules of international financial institutions, leading to large unutilized amounts of reserves accumulated in central banks, should be balanced against the immediate needs of the State, especially from a social investment and human rights perspective.” A countercyclical macroeconomic response that takes into account the need for social spending and public investment is an important measure for the realization of human rights, particularly at times of economic downturns.     

Bolivia’s external borrowing amounted to 23.4 per cent of GDP as of 30 June 20189, which is considered to be non-critical by international and regional observers10. Some observers have, however, rung an alarm bell over the rising level of total public debt, which includes loans from the Central Bank to state-owned enterprises and is projected to reach 54 per cent of GDP in 202311. What I would highlight in this context is that in line with Principle 12 of the Guiding Principles, debt sustainability analysis should incorporate human rights impact assessments, so that necessary social investments and services would not be crowded out.

The dedicated public investments since 2006 have borne fruit and resulted in the significant improvement in a number of social indicators. Between 2006 and 2017, the poverty rate fell from 59.9 per cent to 36.4 per cent, and the extreme poverty rate from 37.7 per cent to 17.1 per cent12. The Gini coefficient of income inequality has also followed a downward trend, from 0.61 in 2002 to 0.45 in 201713. According to the Ministry of Education, the indicators in education have also improved and the school drop-out rate at a primary level has been halved from 4.53 per cent in 2005 to 2.02 per cent in 201514.  Bolivia has also made important strides in improving the health indicators. The infant mortality rate has been significantly reduced from 46.4 to 29.5 per 1,000 live births between 2005 and 201615. The maternal mortality rate has also recorded a decline, from 305 to 206 per 100,000 live births between 2005 and 201516.  Bolivia’s experience provides a unique testament to the ability of developing countries to create necessary fiscal space to realize human rights through targeted macroeconomic policies, as well as empirical evidence that that structural adjustments based on the neoliberal ideology, such as fiscal consolidation, privatization, deregulation of markets and labour flexibilization, are not the only or most optimal policy options for economic growth and sustainable development.    

However, this is not to say that Bolivia’s economic and social model is a magic bullet to all human rights problems. Significant challenges still lie ahead, as Bolivia is still one of the poorest countries in the region and promoting the quality of and equal access to public services remain a challenge17. The crucial question that I would like to address today is the sustainability of the prevailing “economic social communitarian productive model” and the future it holds for the peoples of Bolivia. With recurrent fiscal deficit in the range of 7 per cent of GDP, rapidly diminishing international reserves by more than 50 per cent since 2014, a rising level of public debt, and with oil and gas international prices still at very low levels, a number of stakeholders have expressed concern about the mid- and long-term sustainability of the model and its consequences on the human rights of the population.

My statement today will focus on some of the challenges that Bolivia faces in ensuring that macroeconomic policies effectively contribute to the enjoyment of human rights. My hope is that it will contribute some thoughts to all stakeholders for reflection and provide a basis to continue a constructive conversation with the Government of Bolivia in the implementation of the Guiding Principles on Human Rights Impact Assessments of Economic Reforms.    

Sustainability of the macroeconomic model

There is a fundamental question as to whether the current economic model, which heavily depends on the export of oil and hydrocarbons for revenue and makes large public investments, will be sustainable in the mid- and long-terms. In fact, overcoming the historical dependence on the export of raw materials was one of the important aspirations of the 2009 Constitution. As part of the Patriotic Agenda 2025 and the accompanying National Economic and Social Development Plan 2016-2020, the Government has been taking in recent years a number of steps to promote industrialization and diversification of the economy. While important investments have been made in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, hydroelectric power, renewable energies and lithium production, the economic model is still heavily associated with “extractivism”, as the export of hydrocarbons continues to be the major source of revenue. Economic diversification is long overdue and needs to broadened and speeded up. This is why a long-term industrial policy in Bolivia should incorporate serious efforts to heavily and consistently invest in science and technology18.One challenge is to reconcile ancestral knowledge and technological added value.

A number of stakeholders that I have spoken to have pointed to a few main obstacles to the successful diversification of the economy. Firstly, the country lacks robust private investment. Statistics appear to indicate that total private sector investments have been relatively and consistently low since 200619. This level of private investment owes to a variety of factors, including high tax burdens on companies and the uncertain regulatory framework for private companies20. I commend the fact that the Government is exploring - and implementing already in some cases - agreements with private corporations in order to jointly develop strategic areas of the economy, which would facilitate the economic diversification. This pragmatic turn would also help increase fiscal revenues to keep the levels of social investment. Secondly, another obstacle pointed out by a number of interlocutors is rigid labour regulation. However, while there is always room for efficiency increase in labour regulation, evidence has proven that erosion of collective and individual rights does not lead to further growth and employment21. Instead, generalized fiscal incentives for employment creation and production could be deployed. The third element is the fixed exchange rate system. The fixed exchange rate of US$1 to Bs6.96 has been in place since 2011 for the purposes of controlling inflation and boosting domestic consumption, and the policy has successfully served its purposes. However, the other side of the coin is that the fixed exchange rate risks raising import prices and a balance of payment deficit. While the Central Bank maintains that it offers more benefits than costs, open discussions and debates on whether or not adjustments are necessary at this stage are overdue and warranted. As stated by the aforementioned Guiding Principles (Principle 11), monetary policies should be coordinated and consistent with other policies with the aim of respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights. Inflation and employment targets, among other targets, need to be in line with the State’s human rights obligations in order to avoid any economic impermissible retrogressive measures.

Another factor that creates tensions in terms of the sustainability of the current economic model is the complex and regressive tax structure and system. The main source of tax revenue is indirect taxes, mostly in the form of Value-Added Tax (VAT) of 13 per cent, which comprised 57.2 per cent of total tax revenue between 2006 and 201622. In 2018, VAT alone accounts for approximately 34 per cent of total tax revenue23, compared to negligible 0.8 per cent contributed by complementary VAT24, which is nominally categorized as a form of personal income tax. A number of studies demonstrate that the indirect taxes in Bolivia are highly regressive and offset positive effects of various cash transfer programs25.

Direct taxes are mainly composed of taxes on hydrocarbons (IDH) at 32 per cent and corporate income tax (IUE) at 25 per cent, which account for approximately 13 per cent and 14 per cent of total tax revenue26. There is practically no wealth or personal income tax in Bolivia, apart from limited taxes on real estates and cars at a municipal level. A lack of personal income or wealth taxes is surprising, given the philosophical and economic rationale of the 2009 Constitution, and it limits the progressivity of the tax system in Bolivia.

The tax system in Bolivia is cumbersome and complex, requiring on average 42 payments per year, compared to the regional average of 2727. A number of stakeholders pointed out that the complexity of the tax system hinders the optimal collection of taxes and discourages private investments. Furthermore, according to some stakeholders, there is no well-rooted “tax culture” that encourages all people to pay taxes on the basis of the social compact with the State. The reportedly high incidence of tax evasion and avoidance has been attributed to the lack of institutionalization of taxation.

At present, there seems very little political scope to broaden the tax base or to revamp the tax system. However, it is critical that open discussions take place to consider simplifying the tax system and introducing more progressive forms of taxation, such as personal income tax and wealth tax, so that the scale of collection and the redistributive power of taxation can be maximized. As stated by the Guiding Principles, “[d]irect and progressive taxes should be prioritized. (…) Tax reform measures include, for example, taxing higher-income categories and wealth more strongly; taxing certain financial transactions; shoring up the tax base; and enhancing tax collection, the efficiency of the tax administration and the fight against tax evasion and avoidance” (Principles 11.4 and 11.5).

Distribution of revenue to subnational governments

It is one thing to collect adequate revenue at the central level, but it is another to distribute the revenue to subnational governments, so that they have adequate resources to fulfil their obligations to provide for basic services to the population. In Bolivia, the administrative structure has been significantly decentralized, and departmental and municipal governments bear substantial responsibilities to provide for public infrastructure and services, pursuant to the Law No. 31 on Decentralization and Autonomy. However, the level of responsibilities does not appear to be fully commensurate with the level of available resources. The departmental and municipal authorities have limited ability to raise their own revenue and are almost entirely dependent on transfers from the central Government. Departmental governments’ revenue mostly consists of funds from the Special Tax on Hydrocarbons and its Derivatives (IEHD) and royalties collected by the central Government, whereas municipal governments obtain the bulk of their revenue from national taxes (fiscal co-participation) and Direct Tax on Hydrocarbons (IDH).  While municipal governments are able to collect some municipal taxes, such as taxes on rural property, urban real estate, vehicles, and transactions of these goods, the contribution of municipal taxes to the total revenue is rather insignificant28.

The distribution of revenue is largely determined by criteria of population size and oil and hydrocarbon production. In other words, departments with a larger population size – such as La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba – and departments which produce hydrocarbons and oil – namely Tarija – receive larger shares of the pie.  The distribution formula does not take into account resource requirements of different departments to reduce poverty and inequality and to improve other human development indicators. As reiterated in Principle 4 of the Guiding Principles, the central Government should implement appropriate inter-governmental coordination mechanisms and processes, so that subnational governments are given the necessary resources to fulfil their human rights obligations. I encourage, in the context of the ongoing negotiations of the Fiscal Pact, to take into consideration the scale of the challenges that each department and municipality faces in terms of poverty alleviation when distributing fiscal resources from the central Government.

Informal economy

It is no exaggeration to state that informal markets have historically been part and parcel of the political, economic and social structure in Bolivia. While there is no comprehensive and accurate data on the scale of informality, it reportedly accounted for 70 to 80 per cent of the economy. A recent analysis by the IMF on the informal economy has suggested that informality has been considerably reduced from 65 to 46 per cent between 2005 and 201529, but it confirms that the informal sector is still considerable in the Bolivian economy.  

The informality of markets, encompassing both the economic and labour markets, has fundamental implications on the macroeconomic policies and the protection of human rights. On the economic side, informality clearly implies lost tax revenue for the State. Many stakeholders, particularly those from the private sector, spoke of punitively high taxes on the formal sector and their inability to compete with virtually “tax-free” informal businesses, which creates disincentives for private investments. The informal economy also facilitates tax evasion, tax avoidance and money laundering, as there is no comprehensive oversight of taxable transactions. It also reportedly creates opportunities and avenues for tax evasion and money laundering by the formal sector, which again implies lost tax revenue for the State.

On the labour market side, the large degree of informality means that the majority of workers are often exposed to precarious and temporary jobs without pensions or health insurance. While Bolivia has a number of cash transfer programmes, they only benefit groups in vulnerable situations at certain points in their lifecycle, such as the elderly, children and mothers. The social protection system has a clear gap for working-age adults and lacks a whole life cycle approach to ensure the social protection floor for all. Earlier this year, the Government has launched the Universal Health System (SUS) to provide health insurance to approximately 5 million people who have been previously without any health insurance coverage. However, it remains to be seen if this ambitious program of providing health insurance to all those previously without health insurance at the cost of US$400 million would be effective in achieving its goal and fiscally sustainable in the long run.

Based on my conversations with the interlocutors, it appears that informality is deeply embedded in the existing structure and there are no adequate incentives for key economic actors to change the status quo. Within the universe of informality there are a variety of links, from genuine community and cooperative relations to corporations’ abuses. Beyond the distinction between formal and informal relations, what is critical is to re-examine the implications of the informal economy from the economic perspective and for the protection of the rights of those operating in the economic and labour market.

Gender inequality

Bolivia stands out as the gender equality champion for its strong commitment to this principle. It is one of very few countries in the world which have achieved gender parity in parliament30, although this has not been achieved in the judiciary and the executive.

However, Bolivia still lags behind in terms of economic and labour inclusion of women. The labour force participation rate of women in the formal labour market is much lower than for men (55.2 per cent for women, compared to 79.9 per cent for men)31, which reflects many challenges for women to obtain formal employment opportunities, such as a lack of education and skills, care responsibilities, and domestic violence. As a result, women often end up with precarious jobs in the informal and low-productivity sector and the vast majority of them – 97.9 per cent – are not affiliated to or paying into the pension system32.

Bolivia has a policy of gender budgeting and municipal governments are required to allocate a certain percentage of their general budget to gender equality. However, the allocated percentage is often low (approximately 0.7 per cent) and the budget is skewed towards projects related to violence against women, neglecting important investments to be made in order to encourage better distribution of domestic and care-related work and to promote women’s contributions to the economy.

Of various forms of inequality worldwide, women’s unpaid domestic and care-related work is crucial and yet often neglected consideration in the design of policies and economic reforms. Mainstream economic thinking does not take into account the value of unpaid domestic and care work and its contribution to the economy33. In the context of Bolivia, many women are fulfilling unpaid responsibilities at home in addition to their paid work. While official statistics on gender distribution of domestic work were not made available to me, research conducted by regional organizations and academic institutions point out that most of unpaid domestic work in Bolivia fall on women34. The disproportionate burden of unpaid work on women and girls constitutes a significant barrier to their full realization of the right to work.

My main recommendations in this field are to recognize unpaid care and domestic work as valuable work, taking into account the actual economic value and contribution of such work to the economy and including it in national accounts; to invest more public funds in the care economy (that is, in caring for people with disabilities, children and the elderly, as well as healthcare); and ensure that high-quality care services are accessible and affordable to all, taking into account all possible family structures without any kind of discrimination.

Human rights impact of mega-infrastructure projects

During the last 10 years a number of large-scale infrastructure projects have flourished throughout Bolivia. Under the National Economic and Social Development Plan (PDES), the Government has vigorously pursued mega-infrastructure projects, such as construction of highways, cableways, roads, dams and hydroelectric power plants. In particular, as part of the strategy to diversify the economy, the Government has pledged to turn Bolivia into an energy hub of the region and increasingly invested in hydroelectric power plants. Many of these projects have been financially supported by multilateral and bilateral lenders and donors, as well as by the central Government.

Infrastructure projects can have a positive impact on the economy and generate real benefits to the entire population. However, a critical pre-condition to ensure that such projects do not result in violations of human rights is that full human rights impact assessments are properly undertaken, with meaningful consultations with affected communities and individuals. This helps prevent and/or minimize their negative human rights effects, which, in turn, reinforce the environmental and social sustainability of the projects.

It has been brought to my attention that some mega-infrastructure projects have met opposition by affected indigenous groups, which demonstrates that there is room for improvement in carrying out prior consultations with the communities and conducting a proper environmental, social and human rights impact assessment.  

The Constitution explicitly acknowledges the rights of indigenous peoples to “prior obligatory consultation by the State with respect to the exploitation of non-renewable natural resources”35, as well as of people affected by the exploitation of natural resources in a determined territory to free, prior and informed consultations36. However, the legal framework prescribing processes of prior consultations with affected communities is ad hoc and its application is limited to gas and oil sectors. Furthermore, the legal framework that applies to those sectors does not appear to adequately meet the international human rights standards, as spelt out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The law does not explicitly require that free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples be obtained as a pre-condition in certain cases – such as in the case of relocation of indigenous peoples from their lands or territories37 or storage or disposal of hazardous materials on their lands or territories38 - or that the obtaining of free, prior and informed consent be the objective of the consultations in any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources39. The distinction between the exploitation of “non-renewable” and “renewable” resources is also artificial and nebulous, and should not be used as a criterion of whether or not consultations with affected communities are required. In great many cases, the exploitation of “renewable” resource – such as hydroelectric power - entails a significant impact on the human rights and the environment.

For projects financed by international financial institutions and multilateral development banks, the Government is required to comply with their environmental and social safeguards. However, their environmental and social safeguards do not integrate a comprehensive human rights impact assessment, but deal with specific social-related issues in a piecemeal manner. There have been also reported cases in which loans were approved before necessary environmental and social impact assessments are carried out40.

The bilateral lenders such as the Chinese development banks are increasingly important players in infrastructure projects. China has in recent years significantly improved the regulatory framework aimed at preventing and mitigating negative environmental and social impact of its international lending. However, a comprehensive framework for ensuring respect for and protection of human rights in international lending and outbound investment is still lacking41.

The implementation of mega-infrastructure projects needs to be based on adequate mechanisms for carrying out human rights impact assessments and obtaining free, prior and informed consent of affected communities. I recommend the Government to establish comprehensive and robust legislation on human rights impact assessments for infrastructure projects based on international human rights norms and standards to ensure transparency, participation of and consultation with potentially affected people in any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources – whether they concern non-renewable or renewable resources.

Transparency and access to information

The principle of participation is a fundamental pillar of the Plurinational State of Bolivia and the 2009 Constitution firmly guarantees the right of people to participate in the design of public policies and the administration of public fiscal resources42. The right to participation is inextricably linked to the right to have access to information, as informed and meaningful participation would not be possible without having appropriate information. Article 21 of the Constitution thus also guarantees the right to access to information.   

However, there are indications that the principle of participation has been limited in some cases, as necessary information to participate in public policymaking is not readily available. Such cases range from macroeconomic policymaking to the planning of infrastructure projects. A number of factors contribute to the lack of adequate information, including the antiquated information management system, a low level of digitalization in the public administration, a lack of capacity in collecting accurate, comprehensive and disaggregated data, and limited public disclosure of information.

There is currently no legislation specifically regulating the scope and operational aspects of   the right of access to information. As underlined in Principle 20 of the Guiding Principles, the Government should ensure that both quantitative and qualitative data concerning planned economic policies be available, accessible and delivered in a timely and transparent manner.  A more effective social control would surely redound to more efficient public spending in all areas, including state-owned corporations and infrastructure projects.

Related to the issue of transparency and access to information is illicit financial flows and their impact on human rights43. There is no official statistics or data to estimate the origin (political corruption, tax evasion, smuggling, drug trafficking, etc.) and scale of illicit financial flows in the country. There is a clear lacuna in the official estimates and analysis of data in this field, which I urge the Government to address. Yet, the think tank Global Financial Integrity estimated that the average annual volume of illicit financial flows in Bolivia during the period between 2004 and 2013 was US$627 million, although this is most likely an underestimate, as estimates were not available for some of the years during this period44. This appears to point to the existence of a large volume of illicit financial flows and its serious consequences on the rule of law and human rights.

The Government has been making dedicated efforts to increase institutional transparency and eliminate corruption. President Morales has long committed to zero tolerance towards corruption and established the Vice Ministry on Institutional Transparency and Fight against Corruption. The Vice Ministry has implemented various measures focusing on prevention, including establishing a computerized system to receive reports from the public and developing anti-corruption guidelines for municipal authorities. However, one critical component missing in the Vice Ministry’s prevention framework is the protection of witnesses and whistle-blowers, in line with article 32 of the UN Convention against Corruption.  It would be important to establish a legal framework in order to protect those who wish to provide information to the Vice-Ministry.

In the banking sector, there is no obligation to report suspected cases of tax evasion and smuggling. Further efforts should be made in establishing a legal framework to require banks and all financial intermediaries to systematically report suspicious transactions related to corruption, smuggling, money-laundering or tax evasion to the authorities. 

Ways forward

In concluding my statement, I would like to offer some reflections about Bolivia’s development model and its future for the people. The country I had seen 10 years ago is very different from what I have seen during this visit. One of the major changes is the explosion in the level of consumption, particularly evident in bigger cities. As explained earlier, the consumption boom, along with hydrocarbon exports, has been one locomotive of economic growth.

While economic growth has brought many benefits to the population, I do see the need for deep reflection on rising tensions among different values and goals– mass consumption and the concept of living well; property and collective rights, solidarity and individualism propelled by the market economy; and extractivism and the protection of Pachamama in line with the vision established by the Government in the Patriotic Agenda 2025.

This is not a purely intellectual or philosophical exercise. Let me just provide one example of the concrete implications of these tensions. Advertising directed at children have the potential to shape their long-term consumer and financial behaviour. Child-directed advertisements may cause unhealthy consumer behaviour to become ingrained at an early age, conditioning children to respond later in their life to commercial stimuli by purchasing unnecessary products without regard to long-term financial and social consequences. It is also important to reflect on the psychological dimensions of debt and overconsumption linked to the desire to keep up with living standards other persons enjoy. As a UNICEF study recently pointed out45, children do not become happier by just acquiring more and more goods, of course once children’s minimum material needs are met.

Under international human rights law, the Government has an obligation to progressively realize economic, social and cultural rights of people within its territory, including the rights of everyone to an adequate standard of living and “the continuous improvement of living conditions”. These rights cannot be reduced to exponential economic growth and mass consumption of goods and services, and an economic and social model prominently based on such objectives would not contribute to sustainable development in the long term. A higher level of consumption of goods and services is a manifestation of economic growth and can contribute to the better enjoyment of human rights. However, unless development processes are fully based on a human rights framework, economic development will not actually enhance the rights of the people. As explained by the Guiding Principles in their preamble, “obligations under human rights law should guide all efforts to design and implement economic policies. The economy should serve the people, not vice versa.” The first concrete step that the Government could take in line with this principle is to ensure that human rights indicators that are being jointly developed by the Ministry of Justice and the National Institute of Statistics include indicators on human rights impact assessments of economic reforms.  

Ensuring human rights sustainability of the development model in Bolivia would demand all public institutions to legally recognize and uphold human rights in the implementation of economic policies, and the judiciary to be more willing to engage in cases in which the enforceability of economic and social rights is at stake.


1. See: ECLAC, Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean, 2018, at 98.

2. CEPALStat, available at: www.cepal.org

3. Ministry of Economy and Public Finance

4. See CEPALStat, available at www.cepal.org.

5. Nelson Chacon and Horacio Valencia, “Combating poverty with efficiency: the new role of social transfers in Bolivia in a less favourable context”, in Growth, Inequality and the Challenge for Sustainability in a Post-boom Scenario in the Andean Region, Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (2018), at 107.

6. IMF, Staff report for the 2018 Article IV Consultation (October 2018), at 14.

7. ECLAC, Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean, 2018, at 111.

8. A/HRC/40/57

9. Central Bank of Bolivia, Informe de la deuda externa pública (30 June 2018).

10. See, for e.g.: ECLAC, Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean 2018, Plurinational State of Bolivia.

11. See: IMF, Staff report for the 2018 Article IV Consultation (October 2018), Annex I.

12. ECLAC, Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean, 2018, Plurinational State of Bolivia.

13. ECLAC, Social Panorama of Latin America (2018), at 18.

14 Figures provided by the Ministry of Education.

15. http://hdr.undp.org/en/indicators/57206

16. http://hdr.undp.org/en/indicators/89006

17. See generally: UNDP, El Nuevo rostro de Bolivia: Transformación Social y Metropolizacion, 2015; Javier Beverinotti, Development Challenges in Bolivia, IDB (June 2018). 

18. UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report 2016.

19. See: IMF, Staff report for the 2018 Article IV Consultation (October 2018), at 17.

20. IMF, Staff report for the 2018 Article IV Consultation (October 2018), at 17.

21. See Report of the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights on structural adjustment and labour rights (A/HRC/34/57)

22. Verónica Paz Arauco, Brechas de género y política tributaria en Bolivia: apuntes para un debate, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (2018), at 17.

23. National Tax Service.

24, Emmanuelle Modica et al, Domestic Revenue Mobilisation: A new database on tax levels and structures in 80 countries, OECD Taxation Working Papers No. 36 (2018), available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/a87feae8-en

25. See for e.g.: Sergio G. Villarroel Bohrt, “Tributacion y equidad en Bolivia: estadisticas y revision de studio cuantativos”, Frierich Ebert Stoftung, Analisis 4/2018.

26. Based on figures provided by the National Tax Service (Recaudación tributaria y aduanera en efectivo y valores, por tipo de impuesto, 1990 - 2018(p)).

27. World Bank, Doing Business, http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/bolivia/paying-taxes#DB_tax

28. According to a study carried out in 2013, it was 12.9 per cent on average.  Lykke E. Andersen and Luis Carlos Jemio, Decentralization and Poverty Reduction in Bolivia: Challenges and Opportunities, Institute for Advanced Development Studies (INESAD) (2016), at 9.

29. IMF, Staff report for the 2018 Article IV Consultation (October 2018), at 19.

30. Since 2014, 51.8 per cent of seats in Parliament are held by women. http://hdr.undp.org/en/indicators/31706

31. http://hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/BOL

32. ECLAC, Social Panorama of Latin America (2018), at 194.

33. See Report of the Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights, on the impact of economic reforms and austerity measures on women’s human rights (A/73/179)

34. A survey that dates back in 2001 indicated that approximately 56 percent of women and 36 percent of men participate in the care of children or the elderly. Pan American Health Organization, The Invisible Economy and Gender Inequalities: The importance of measuring and valuing unpaid work (2010), at 141.

35. Article 30, Constitution of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

36. Article 352, Constitution of the Plurinational State of Bolivia

37. Article 10, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

38. Article 29, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

39. Article 32 (2), United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

40. See, for e.g.: John Redwood, Managing the Environmental and Social Impacts of a Major IDB-Financed Road Improvement Project – The Case of Santa Cruz-Puerto Suarez Highway in Bolivia, Inter-American Development Bank, November 2012, at 4-5.

41. See mission report to China, A/HRC/31/60/Add.1, 2016

42. Article 241, Constitution of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

43. See: Final study on illicit financial flows, human rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the Independent Expert Foreign Debt and Human Rights, A/HRC/31/61

44. Global Financial Integrity, Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2004-2013, Global Financial Integrity (2015), available at: https://www.gfintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/IFF-Update_2015-Final-1.pdf

45. https://www.unicef.es/sites/unicef.es/files/IPSOS_UNICEF_ChildWellBeingreport.pdf