According to COUNTRYAAH, Bolivia has large assets on natural gas, minerals and oil. In 2006, the gas industry was nationalized and since then production has doubled to 60 million cubic meters per day. Previously, Bolivia exported natural gas and oil in commodity form, but since 2013 there is domestic oil refining and production of liquid gas. Gas, minerals and oil account for a majority of the country’s exports and go mainly to Brazil and Argentina.
The country’s economic policy has undergone two major changes in the last 30 years. At the end of the 20th century, a severe financial tightening was carried out in which subsidies were abolished and many state companies privatized. This policy led to a more stable economy but had severe social consequences and also led to major protests. In 2006, left-wing President Evo Morales took office. He started a new economic direction by nationalizing companies in the natural gas and oil sector as well as in telecommunications. Likewise, a land reform was initiated.
During the 1990s, Bolivia has had higher GDP growth than many other countries in the region, but the country still has high unemployment. Furthermore, the extensive illegal cocaine trafficking has not come to fruition.
Agriculture employs just over a third of the working population, but only 2% of Bolivia’s land is agricultural land. The country has a skewed ownership structure where large farmers own the majority of land, while small farmers have only very small shares. At Evo Morale’s take-over as president in 2006, a redistribution program introduced which meant that state land was distributed to landless peasants, that the state could coerce unused land and that a limit on the size of newly purchased land to 5,000 be introduced. These rules have met strong opposition from the large landowners.
The cultivated land is largely found on the densely populated plateau, Altiplano, where the climatic conditions are not very favorable. Primarily, potatoes, seeds etc. are grown for self-sufficiency. Furthermore, sheep management is significant. In the sparsely populated eastern lowland area, new cultivation is underway with more modern methods. Products from here are soybeans, sugarcane, rice and cotton. Oriente has also focused on large-scale livestock management, which has entailed deforestation with the ecological problems that this entails. Indians have reacted to forest logging and want a sustainable utilization of forest resources.
In the Andes slope zone, ie between Altiplano and Oriente, there are fertile but narrow and partially overcrowded valleys (Yungas). Here, bananas, coffee and citrus fruits are grown, but above all there are crops of coca bushes, which in the 1980s and 1990s became the country’s most important crop. In 1988, all coca cultivation was banned except for a smaller cultivation for traditional use. By the beginning of the 1990s large areas of coca cultivation had been destroyed, but after 2006 the illegal cultivation has again increased. Half of Bolivia’s area is forested, but forestry is of little importance due to transport difficulties.
Minerals and energy
Bolivia is known for its mineral deposits. Originally, silver (in Potosí) and later tin (in Oruro and Potosí) were the major sources of income. Mining in the highland areas (3,500–5,500 m above sea level) has always taken place under difficult conditions.
For many years the country was one of the world’s leading tin producers, but in the mid-1980s production fell sharply as a result of a large price race on the world market. Instead, production of gold, silver and zinc. Some time in the 00s, the tin market recovered, and together with zinc, tin is again of great importance for the country’s exports. Most of the mining operations are run by private companies, but the state mining company COMIBOL has become increasingly important during Evo Morale’s term of office. In addition to gold, silver, tin and zinc, the country also has one of the world’s largest assets of lithium.
Oil and natural gas are extracted in southeastern Bolivia (Santa Cruz area). In recent years, oil production has declined, which is offset by a sharp increase in the natural gas sector. Gas exports to Brazil increased sharply in 1999 when a gas pipeline from the Santa Cruz area to the industrial metropolis of São Paulo in Brazil was put into operation. Oil and natural gas account for almost 50% of the country’s export revenue. In terms of water energy, Bolivia has tremendous potential in the Andes slopes towards the Amazon basin.
Bolivia’s industrial sector is poorly developed and employs 17% of the workforce. The domestic market lacks purchasing power and export conditions are limited. The production of consumer goods (food, textiles, etc.) for one’s own market is most important. Production is usually small-scale, partly of a craftsmanship. In addition, there is some industry related to the mining and energy sectors. Industrial development is hampered by the lack of capital.
Like most small countries, Bolivia has extensive foreign trade and is sensitive to changes in world trade conditions. In addition, the country is particularly vulnerable in view of its one-sided exports, which officially comprise 80 per cent of natural gas and metals.
In addition to these, the export of soybeans is also important. Brazil is the most important trading partner, followed by Chile, Argentina and the United States. Bolivia is a member of the Andean Community and is an associate member of Mercosur.
Tourism and gastronomy
Bolivia’s development as a tourist country is hampered by poor infrastructure and social unrest. Every year about 400,000 foreign visitors visit the country, most of them from China, France, Spain and the United States. What mainly attracts tourists are the major cities of La Paz, Sucre and Potosí, the distinctive Native American culture and the magnificent mountain landscape with, among other things, Lake Titicaca.
The country’s second largest city La Paz is located in a valley. The international airport is the highest in the world and is over 4,000 meters above sea level, and from there you travel on a winding highway down to the center of 3,600 meters above sea level. The colonial center around Murillo Square offers picturesque neighborhoods with low houses. The Museo Nacional de Arqueología, or MuseoTiahuanaco as it is also called, in La Paz is a good preparation for a day trip to the world heritage site Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku), with the country’s strangest ancient heritage site inhabited 400 BC-1100 AD. This is located near Lake Titicaca with its bright lights, clear air and stately islands.
- According to AllCityPopulation, the capital city of Bolivia are La Paz (Administrative Capital) with a population of 765,000, and Sucre (Formal Capital) with a population of 259,000 (2012 Census). Other major cities include Santa Cruz with a population of 1,454,000, El Alto with a population of 849,000 , Cochabamba with a population of 630,000, Oruro 265,000 (2012 census).
The country’s formal capital Sucre is worth a visit with its many Baroque churches and monasteries and its special architecture from the 19th century. From there, you can safely reach the city of Potosí at 4,070 m above sea level. The city and its mining environment are listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List; not much remains of the mine but the renaissance and baroque city is so much more interesting. Hikers and ski enthusiasts have nice terrain east of La Paz.
A basic rule is that travelers to the Bolivian highlands should be prepared for problems with mountain sickness (tiredness and headaches) and shortness of breath even in small efforts.
Food management in Bolivia is characterized by the country’s geographical location; without coast, ie referred to freshwater fish, and high level, which gives longer cooking times. Bolivia is counted alongside Peru as the country of origin of the potatoes. The food is generally spicy by Swedish standards; locoto is the local variety of chili pepper that is used extensively in most dishes, for example the very common dish picante de pollo which is a chicken stew with onions, locoto, red pepper, garlic, tomatoes, parsley and thyme. Distinctive Bolivian is the conejo estirado, rabbit that has been stretched to make the meat even darker. For this you can drink Bolivia’s excellent beer or the country’s own wines.