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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 December 2005, 03:56 GMT
Bolivian leader to cut own salary
By Simon Watts
BBC News

Evo Morales (L) chats to outgoing President Eduardo Rodriguez on Tuesday
Morales is moving out of a room and into a palace
The socialist president-elect of Bolivia, Evo Morales, has said he will cut his salary by half when he takes office next month.

Mr Morales said his cabinet would follow suit and that members of Bolivia's parliament would be expected to cut their allowances.

He also reaffirmed his commitment to change Bolivia's economic system.

At the moment, Mr Morales, an Aymara Indian born into poverty, rents a single room in a shared house.

When he moves into the presidential palace next month, Mr Morales is not planning to switch to a jet-set lifestyle.

Wealth tax

Announcing the salary cut, he said that in a country as poor as Bolivia, the president and his cabinet should share the burden.

The money saved will go on social programmes, particularly in the field of education.

Mr Morales also confirmed that his government plans to introduce a new tax on the wealthy as soon as possible.

His advisors say they are planning to revoke a decree from 1985 which switched Bolivia to the sort of free-market economy recommended by Washington.

These announcements will go down well with the poor voters who gave Mr Morales a resounding election victory.

Huge expectations

The real task for the president-elect, however, is to manage the huge expectations he has generated in Bolivia.

Mr Morales will be able to point to the sort of measures unveiled on Tuesday if, as seems likely, he moves more slowly on other pledges such as nationalisation of the gas industry or easing restrictions on growing the coca plant.

Mr Morales also announced that his first foreign trip as president-elect would be to Cuba, a country he has long admired.

This visit will be closely watched in Washington, which fears the potential influence in Latin America of an alliance between Cuba, Bolivia and oil-rich Venezuela.

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