Chile's right-wing presidential candidate seeks policy continuity
SANTIAGO, Oct 1 (Reuters) - The presidential candidate for Chile's ruling right-wing bloc, trailing in the polls, laid out her policy proposals on Tuesday, seeking to continue the incumbent government's strategies without the tax reform that is her rival's centerpiece.
Former Labor Minister Evelyn Matthei, the candidate for the right-wing Alianza coalition, said she will not propose a tax reform program, differentiating herself from center-left front runner and ex-President Michelle Bachelet, who wants to boost taxes to help pay for education reform.
"We need to follow a path of looking after growth. If Chile has stood out in Latin America for its achievements, what is the sense of making profound changes when it is precisely existing institutions that have allowed us to make great progress?" Matthei said.
Her program would assume economic growth of around 5 percent per year to fund spending that would cost around $17 billion over four years. It would seek to create around 600,000 new jobs, reduce poverty and redistribute more funds to Chile's regions, in a move to decentralize wealth.
After growth of 5.6 percent last year, the economy of the world's top copper producer has gradually slowed this year as investment has cooled, domestic demand has softened and exports have fallen.
The government forecasts that Chile's gross domestic product will grow by 4.5 percent this year and by 4.9 percent in 2014.
"This program doesn't need another tax reform, because we know this threatens our small- and medium-size companies, threatens national savings and investments and thus threatens the successful formula of providing more jobs and better pensions, which is growth," Matthei's campaign manager Felipe Morande said in a televised press conference.
Conservative President Sebastian Pinera's government already pushed through tax reform last year after long months of nation-wide student protests slashed his government's approval ratings and proved a hindrance to governance.
Critics said his reforms did not go far enough.
Matthei, whose father was a member of dictator Augusto Pinochet's military junta, became the right-wing bloc's presidential candidate after the former front-runner unexpectedly dropped out in July.
In the latest opinion poll she was favored by only 12 percent of voters, compared with Bachelet's 44 percent. But under Chile's electoral system, even if Bachelet wins she will likely have a slim majority in Congress and will have to cut deals with Alianza in order to push through her reforms.