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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 June 2006, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Bolivia unveils anti-poverty plan
By Daniel Schweimler
BBC South America correspondent

An elderly Bolivian woman begs for money in El Alto (file picture)
Bolivia is the poorest country in South America
The government of Bolivia has announced a radical plan to reduce poverty and create employment in the poorest country in South America.

Almost $7bn (3.8bn) will be invested in ambitious public works programmes.

The economic plan announced by Planning and Development Minister Carlos Villegas aims to create 100,000 jobs a year for the next five years.

It is the latest measure in a series implemented by President Evo Morales since taking office in January.

The people of South America, and especially Bolivia, have often heard their leaders promise to reduce poverty and create jobs.

But President Morales appears to mean it and many Bolivians believe what he says.

The money will come from the recently nationalised gas industry, supplemented by international lending and foreign investment.

The plan, presented in the presidential palace in La Paz, also aims to deliver more basic public services such as school meals and better access to clean water.

Speedy changes

Since he came to office, Evo Morales, a former coca leaf grower, has launched a number of ambitious projects to reduce poverty and close the gap between rich and poor in Bolivia.

He cut wages in the public sector, including his own, and sent troops in to take control of oil and gas installations after he nationalised the industries. He has forged links with Venezuela and Cuba and worries Washington.

Few in Bolivia deny that the country needs radical changes.

The speed with which President Morales has moved to implement those changes has delighted his supporters, but left wealthy Bolivians and foreign investors nervous and uncertain how they should react.

See the moves to re-distribute land in Bolivia

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