Chile tax reform, mining royalty 'priority number one,' minister says
SANTIAGO, June 16 (Reuters) - Chile's government is set to push forward its tax reform plans, including a bill on mining royalties, by the end of this month, a top cabinet member to President Gabriel Boric told Reuters, legislation that could impact the world's top copper producer.
Giorgio Jackson, a former student leader alongside Boric and now his Minister Secretary-General of the Presidency, said tax adjustments were a key focus, essential to raising funds to pay for overhauling social programs from education to health.
"On June 30 we are going to make the announcement of the entire tax reform and we are going to start with a couple of bills immediately. One of them is the mining royalty," he said late last week at his office in La Moneda, the presidential palace.
He added tax reform was a "necessary condition" to make the changes 36-year-old Boric's leftist government had promised when he came into office in March, though a separate mining royalty plan that builds upon a bill currently making its way through congress is also key.
"For us that's a priority, probably number one," he said.
Boric, approaching 100 days in office, won strong support in an election last year but has seen his popularity tumble amid high inflation and ongoing social unrest including in the country's south and questions over migration in the north.
Jackson said the tax reforms would "boost" Chile on par with other mineral-rich nations, bringing funds to support research and development of new growth areas for the world's top copper producer and the second largest producer of lithium.
"There is an opportunity Chile has with copper, with lithium, to use them and imagine a different productive system," he said.
He admitted that tax reforms were never an easy sell, especially with inflation in the Andean country at its highest since the 1990s and economic growth expected to only grow weakly this year despite soaring global metals prices.
"When you're in a bonanza and good times or in bad times, they always say why are you going to do it now?" he said. "There's never a good time to do tax reform."
Chile is also in the process of overhauling its market-orientated Constitution which dates back to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. That process, which stemmed from social protests in 2019, has been hit as support for the new document has dwindled, with the risk it could fail to pass.
Jackson said that "unnecessary controversies" through the process had left some people disillusioned, but hoped support would pick up again once the draft was finalized in July. The final referendum vote is in September.
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