Interview: President Ollanta Moisés Humala Tasso
Investment in mining has increased since your election. How will you maintain this upward trend?
OLLANTA MOISES HUMALA TASSO: From the first day I assumed the presidency, I have made it very clear that I will respect the commitments assumed by the country.
We in government are aware that the social inclusion we offered to the Peruvian people during the election campaign must be sustained through economic growth, for which investment is fundamental. We therefore do not discourage investment, and nor will we stop keeping our promise of development with social inclusion. We are making our best effort, in all sectors, to assure and sustain social harmony and political and economic stability in the country.
On this basis, when we took office we opened negotiations with the mining sector. In the process, I found evidence that many companies are quite clear on the idea of their social responsibility towards neighbouring populations, and display a serious commitment to the environment. These are the modern companies we wish to see in the country. This is the type of investment we are looking for, and we are sure that it will aid in the development of the remote communities in which they generally develop their projects.
We seek to assure harmonious coexistence between mining capital, investment and the working populations, through clear rules and responsible companies. As the state, we are also succeeding in establishing a presence that guarantees citizens’ rights, environmental respect, dialogue and the participation of companies, based on a modern, socially responsible outlook.
How much of your policy to spread prosperity in the country can be achieved in five years?
HUMALA: In my government, this is a central, high-priority issue. To this end, we have created the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion (Minsterio de Desarrollo e Inclusión Social, MIDIS), which gives us a professional team to coordinate and drive the social policy of inclusion. This sector is in charge of, for example, the design and implementation of the social programmes that help to generate the conditions for inclusion. This will ensure that, above all, the poorest and most vulnerable population groups can exercise their rights, apply their skills, and take advantage of the opportunities they find in their environment.
A set of goals has been defined, along with a followup system to measure and evaluate the social policy's effectiveness. Although MIDIS' involvement should result in a reduction in poverty indicators nationwide, the primary challenge is for these results to occur in the most excluded homes and areas. For us, poverty has a face, name and age. It is living in remote, indigenous and rural populations where the state did not go for many years. In my government they are prioritised.
Our country is growing, but we have inherited extreme poverty with very deep roots. We cannot continue growing while maintaining poverty.
Our challenge is to make every effort to ensure that growth leads to wellbeing. For this reason, by the time I finish my term in 2016, we hope to have reduced extreme poverty from 36% to 19%, and to have raised the number of homes that are receiving integrated state services from 11.6% to 46%.
The education and health care of our children is a constant concern, and by the end of our term we hope to have increased school attendance among three- to five-year-olds from 60% to 78%, while reducing chronic malnutrition of children aged under five from 23% to 10%. But the most important thing is to work to reduce the care gaps in the rural populations where poverty is concentrated. We are focusing efforts there.
Do you believe that Peru would benefit in terms of continuity if presidents were allowed two consecutive terms, as in the US?
HUMALA: Presidential re-election is a controversial issue here in Peru, as it is in other Latin American countries. In North America, the realities are quite different, as are the perception of citizens living in those states.
What is your strategy to reform education to develop research and development?
HUMALA: A country’s wealth is also measured by its capacity for generating knowledge and exporting technology. In Peru, we need to invest more in research and in the production of knowledge. At the moment, our investment is very low compared to the average in Latin America, even though we are one of the countries with the highest economic growth rates in the region.
My government believes the development of science, technology and innovation is fundamental to three objectives: economic growth, environmental sustainability and social equity. I aim for investment here to grow from 0.1% to 0.7% of our GDP by 2016.
Based on the proposals recently presented to the government by the Consultative Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation, we will make an effort to improve the quality of education and increase the number of researchers and administrators to create, transfer, and adapt knowledge and technology.
As a sign of this drive, we have just started the Scholarship 18 (Beca 18) programme, so that outstanding youths with limited resources can study at the undergraduate level and receive doctoral scholarships from domestic and foreign universities.
Is economic strength in the Union of South American Nations (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas, UNASUR) possible without political integration?
HUMALA: UNASUR's path is different from that of the EU, and is based on our peculiarities and experiences. Economic might is not the objective that UNASUR is pursuing. Our priority is integration that contributes to the development of our settlements in areas such as infrastructure, education, health care, energy, science and technology, and others.
We do seek growth, but alongside the inclusion of large sectors of our population that have not benefitted from the advances of our countries. In this way, stability is generated, which contributes to development. To this end, it is crucial that we have a consensual political arena to strengthen democracy and contribute to the peace, security and development of our regions.
How will you strengthen political ties with Brazil to become a trade platform between your neighbours and Trans-Pacific economies?
HUMALA: I think that Peru’s political links with its neighbours, and Brazil in particular, are excellent. Peru and Brazil have a strategic partnership that commits us to look towards the future together. One example of this is the presidential meetings planned as part of the Bi-national Cabinet, the first of which is to focus on the sectors linked to social inclusion. In addition, there is a willingness from both governments to make a number of efforts to facilitate mutual trade and investment.
BWe feel that dialogue is the basis of conflict prevention and resolution. Here, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers (Presidencia del Consejo de Ministros, PCM) plays an outstanding part, since it has political and technical means through its decentralisation office. Its participation is also an important factor in the population feeling the presence of the state. The PCM, through its conflict prevention office, provides training in averting and resolving conflicts to regional government officials, especially those which have direct contact with the population and act as mediators. In 2008 the National Water Authority was created to serve as the body overseeing the National Water Resource Management System. Its work is to promote the multi-sectoral and sustainable usage of water resources from drainage basins. It also participates in the resolution of water conflicts in conjunction with regional government. It should be noted that, as part of a national agreement, all social and political efforts are harmonised on the state's water management policy. This promises also to be a highly important development.
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