(Bloomberg) -- Chilean President Gabriel Boric vowed to take a revamped tax reform proposal to the nation’s Senate next month to finance a long list of social promises outlined in his annual State of the Nation address.
His administration is counting on new income to finance a wide range of programs devoted to fighting crime, education and helping victims of sexual violence, among other objectives, Boric said in a nearly four-hour long speech broadcast from Chile’s Congress Thursday. The agenda will be focused on social rights, public security and sustainable development, he said.
“Neither this government nor any other will be able to advance in fulfilling these rights without a tax reform,” Boric said. “If we don’t do it now, it will be up to the next person who holds this position. Let’s not continue to delay this.”
Boric, the world’s youngest leader, struck a conciliatory tone while laying out ambitious plans for the coming months. His government’s initial tax reform proposal was shot down in congress in March, jeopardizing plans to carry out his progressive agenda. Still, he has scored wins in recent weeks, including the approval of a mining tax hike and a shorter workweek.
Read more: Chile to Call Political Parties for Tax Bill Talks, Marcel Says
Chile’s president is looking for firmer footing as polls show he is backed by only about 30% of the electorate. Citizens have expressed outrage over issues including rising crime, above-target inflation and political missteps.
The voter concerns have come as a reality check for the former student protest leader who won the presidency in 2021 on vows to strengthen public services and make Chile a more egalitarian and environmentally friendly nation.
“We have reorganized our priorities, and we will continue to do so,” Boric said. “The people’s urgencies are also the government’s urgencies.”
The fight against crime will center on strengthening institutions that oversee public security, combating organized crime broadly and implementing focused strategies in neighborhoods with high rates of illegal activity, Boric said.
The government will increase Chile’s jail capacities, implement a remote system that utilizes artificial intelligence and toughen oversight of guns.
Also high on the administration’s list of priorities is pension reform, with Boric chiding lawmakers for not having been able to agree on an overhaul in the past 15 years.
“This government is willing to discuss the best tools to meet the objective and I hope this Congress is, too,” Boric said. “Our fellow countrymen won’t tolerate another failure in this area.”
Earlier Thursday, Chile’s central bank reported that economic activity remained flat in April as declines in commerce and services offset a gain in mining. The reading fanned investor bets that borrowing costs may soon fall from 11.25%, the highest level in over 20 years.
In his speech, Boric said the nation’s inflation surge has been halted. “We have a resilient economy and we will take care of it.”
Boric’s standing abroad got a boost this week when he pushed back against Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s embrace of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro at a summit by calling out human rights abuses.
Read more: Lula’s Support of Maduro Clouds Summit of South American Leaders
On Thursday, Boric said Chile is strengthening ties with Latin American nations, while also showing leadership in areas such as climate change. He pointed out that the country will be a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council until 2025.
“We won’t yield on the defense of human rights in Chile and in the world, regardless of the government that violates them,” he said. “Having one standard in this area is, for me, an essential issue.”
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