La maldición de los recursos naturales contraataca

SANTIAGO – El litio es un metal esencial para las baterías que emplean desde las computadoras hasta los automóviles. Actualmente, Chile produce un tercio del total del litio que se usa en el mundo y posee un gran potencial para expandir su capacidad productora. Pese al consenso general de que Chile debería desarrollar su potencial como proveedor mundial de litio, la discusión nacional sobre la forma de alcanzar esta meta ha estado lejos de ser esclarecedora.

El gobierno del Presidente Sebastián Piñera intentó llamar a una licitación para adjudicar el derecho a producir hasta 100.000 toneladas de litio durante los próximos 20 años. Como suele ocurrir con la explotación de los recursos naturales en los países en desarrollo – aunque no necesariamente en Chile – el proceso se ha convertido en una tragicomedia de errores, que retrasan el desarrollo del país. Esta experiencia encierra lecciones que pueden ser útiles para otros exportadores de recursos naturales.

El gobierno de centro-derecha de Piñera se ha mostrado rígido ideológicamente. Sus economistas, varios de ellos formados en la Universidad de Chicago, sostienen que lo más importante es atraer inversión privada a la producción primaria de litio y que fomentar las industrias locales que dependen de dicho metal como insumo no constituye una meta de política pública. Por lo tanto, el gobierno llevó a cabo una licitación en que la integración vertical y el valor agregado local no fueron criterios relevantes para adjudicar los derechos de producción. 

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