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Sage advice from the Chilean President on Europe's suicidal entitlement culture

'Latin America must avoid the costly welfare policies plunging Europe into crisis and should adhere to a market-friendly course to preserve gains made over the past decade’s economic boom, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said.

“We don’t want to put at risk everything we’ve done up to now,” said Pinera, a 62-year-old billionaire businessman who was elected in 2010 on a pledge to make Chile the first developed country in Latin America. “Take a look at European countries, that’s the path that we do not want to follow.”

Chile’s recent economic resilience should serve as a lesson for a region increasingly adopting protectionist policies, Pinera said. Even in the face of weaker demand from China, the world’s top copper producer will grow 4.9 percent this year, surpassing the 3.7 percent average for Latin America, according to a forecast this month by the United Nations’ economic unit for the region.

Pinera’s defense of a minimalist state has generated a backlash at home, where students demanding a bigger role for the state in education have been staging protests for more than a year. Pinera’s approval rating was 24 percent in April -- the lowest level of any president since Chile’s return to democracy in 1990, according to Santiago-based pollster CEP.

“People want to get immediate results in every field,” Pinera said, citing demands for free health care and university education. “But we cannot transform Chile into a welfare state; we are not rich enough for that.” '
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