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Bolivian Senate Approves Nationalization of Pension Fund System

Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Bolivia’s Senate approved President Evo Morales’ plan to nationalize the pension system and lower the retirement age in the South American country.

The move, approved late last night, will transfer administration of Bolivia’s pension funds from Futuro de Bolivia S.A., managed by Switzerland’s Zurich Financial Services AG, and Prevision S.A., managed by Spain’s Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, to state entity Gestora Publica de la Seguridad Social de Largo Plazo, Viviana Arinez, a Finance Ministry spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Press officials at Zurich Financial Services and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria didn’t immediately respond to e-mail and phone messages left by Bloomberg. The pension system had about $3 billion in assets, Buenos Aires-based news website Infobae reported, without saying where it obtained the information.

The takeover is the latest by the 51-year-old Morales, who took office in 2006 vowing greater state control over the economy. Morales enacted a new constitution last year that calls for increased government control over the country’s natural resources and utilities. Earlier this year he nationalized four power generating utilities.

Morales will sign the bill into law within days, according to Bolivian state newswire ABI. The move comes two years after neighboring Argentina took over its $24 billion private pension fund industry.

The legislation calls for subsidies to boost the retirement benefits of low-income workers who contribute to the system and lowers the retirement age to 58 for men and as low as 55 for women with children from a previous age of 65, according to the Finance Ministry and ABI. Miners could retire as early as 51.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Shahriari in La Paz at sshahriari@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

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