(Adds details on infrastructure plan, inflation predictions, context)
SANTIAGO, July 9 (Reuters) - Chile expects its economy to grow 3.2% in 2019, down from a previous estimate of 3.5% in April, the country’s finance minister said on Tuesday, amid slumping copper prices and a fall in global commerce.
Finance Minister Felipe Larrain told a Chilean Senate commission he expected the average copper price for 2019 to be $2.85 per pound, down sharply from a previous estimate of $3 per pound.
Copper exports from Chile, the world’s top producer of the red metal, can account for as much as 15% of the nation’s GDP.
“We all had higher hopes when the year started...but to grow at 3% would be a great accomplishment for our economy this year,” Larrain said.
Chile’s mining sector was also impacted earlier this year by unusually heavy rains in its copper-rich northern desert and a two-week strike at Codelco’s Chuquicamata copper mine, one of the world’s largest.
That prompted Chile’s Central Bank to cut its prediction for growth last month to 2.75-3.5% from a previous view of 3% to 4%.
Larrain predicted annual inflation to hit 2.2% this year, up slightly from a prediction of 2.1% in March.
The administration of center-right President Sebastian Pinera has planned nearly $1.5 billion in public spending in an effort to boost growth in the second half of 2019, Larrain said. (Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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