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Chilean Poverty Rate Resumes Downward Path as Economy Expands

The percentage of Chileans living below the poverty line fell to 14.4 percent last year, reversing the increase posted in the previous survey in 2009 when the economy was mired in recession.

The poverty rate slid from 15.1 percent three years ago and compared with 13.7 percent in 2006 and 38.6 percent in 1990 when the surveys began, Social Development Minister Joaquin Lavin said today on live TV. Extreme poverty, or the percentage of people who can’t afford the basic basket of foods, fell to 2.8 percent last year from 3.7 percent in 2009.

President Sebastian Pinera is committed to eliminating extreme poverty by the time his four-year term ends in 2014. He also campaigned on the promise to help Chile eliminate poverty by the end of this decade through a faster pace of job creation and economic growth.

“This is very good news, but we have a long way to go,” Pinera, a Harvard University-trained economist, said on state-owned television channel TVN today. “The commitment that gets me up in the morning -- even though many times one goes to bed frustrated and tired -- is being able to eliminate extreme poverty in our country.”

Economic growth in the Andean nation slowed to 6 percent last year from 6.1 percent in 2010 as the inflation rate climbed to 4.4 percent from 3 percent the year before. Growth will ease further in 2012, with GDP expanding 4.7 percent and inflation closing the year at 2.7 percent, according to government forecasts.

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