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Chile's economic success, maybe it is a matter of education

By Tony Pagliaro

20.03.06 | Evo Morales, the recently elected President of Bolivia, has appointed a new and different Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is Mr. Choquehanca, a man that proudly has admitted to the press that he has not read a book in his whole life. Not even one. That much for his deep knowledge about how the world operates.

But Mr. Choquehanca is not shy, he has just pompously said that the problems of Bolivia are in fact caused by the fact that people �read too much�.

No wonder why he has just said, as well, that all Bolivian children should not have milk for breakfast but, instead, �coca�s calcium�. In all likelihood he did so when he was a child himself and therefore lost the concentration required to be able to read a book. That much for his level of personal quality and education. Frightening, of course. Let�s go on, but switching countries.

Argentina�s Senator, Mrs. Cristina Kirchner, cannot speak a word of English, nor of any other language apart from Spanish. She has admitted that she was only able to learn (when she was a student, at the University of La Plata, where she attended Law School) a short phrase in English: �Yankees, go home�. And she pretends that her pronunciation (of such phrase) is definitely excellent. This is not a joke. It is exactly what she gave (as a serious �explanation�) for her ignorance. It occurred when she was visiting California for the first time (paid by all Argentines), last year.

Her husband, President N�stor Kirchner, Cristina�s leader, cannot speak anything but Spanish. But has read almost every Marxist book that has been published.

Chile is very different. Michelle Bachelet, the recently elected President, a medical doctor herself, speaks English, German and other two foreign languages. Her entire ministerial cabinet is made up of people 70% of whom are capable of speaking English fluently. The regional average is only 10%. In addition, most of Bachelet�s ministers have post-graduate degrees obtained in foreign universities. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alejandro Foxley, has a Doctor�s degree from the University of Wisconsin. The Minister of Finance, Andr�s Velasco, was a member of Harvard University�s faculty, and has a Master�s degree from Yale. Karen Poniachik, the Minister of Mining, has a degree from Columbia University. The Minister of Defense, Vivianne Blanlot, has a Master�s degree from the American University. The Minister of Public Works, Eduardo Bitran, has a degree from Boston University. The Minister of Agriculture, Alvaro M. Rojas Mar�n, has a degree from the University of Munich. And the list does not stop there.

Chilean leaders have a very different level of education and quality. It does matter. It probably has a lot to do with the Chilean success. Its leaders do know how the world operates. They do not dream. They have read many books. In different languages. And have paid attention to the rest of the world and were able to learn from its success and failures.

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