May 17, 2013

Bolivian Exports 2012

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Many are asking how is Bolivia's economy responding to the different political events developing in the country. Well, there are plenty of analyses regularly coming out, not only from governmental agencies such as the Central Bank, the Statistical Institute and the government itself, but also from other non-governmental institutions such as the (literally translated) Bolivian Institute for Outer Commerce (Instituto Boliviano de Comercio ExteriorIBCE) - in English it might be most properly translated as the Bolivian Institute of Trade.

The IBCE recently released some numbers which are, for Bolivia, pretty current. Normally, the numbers have a lag of around 2 years.

Be that as it may, according to these numbers, it looks as though the country's source of financial resources is still up for interpretation. If you look at the evolution over time of Bolivian exports (a graph that I don't include here because it didn't seem important for this post), you'll notice a steep increase in the last five or six years. Having said that, if you take a critical look at the numbers you'll find the following.

The graph above shows the percentage of Bolivian exports of the most significant type of exports, i.e. manufactured products, minerals, agricultural products and the so called hydrocarbon products (natural gas). The graph shows what I recognize as a dependency upon the selling of natural gas and mineral products. Altogether these two types of exports make up around 67 percent of the total export value. The rest is made up by manufacturing and agricultural activity. That is, almost half of the total value is generated by the exports of natural gas, which as is already known is also dependent on the international level of prices for these products. Of course, Bolivia has, in the contracts, a set range of prices, but this is set for revision every so often.

This other graph, above, only underlines what is already said. It shows how Bolivian exports are transported to their destiny. A large percentage of the products is transported through pipelines. Period!

One other question that often comes my way is who is benefiting from the selling of natural gas. The answer is given by the graph above. It shows that the departments of Tarija and Santa Cruz, both make up around 59 per cent of the exports. The reason is because the largest (actually most of) natural gas camps are located in those departments. Tarija, with the Margarita camp, has the largest of them. The Potosi department has historically relied on mining, actually since colonial times. Now that all the silver reserves are used up, the mines are still producing Tin, Zinc and some Silver.

Yet another question is where do these exports end up. As you might have guessed already, Brazil and Argentina are the countries that receive the largest volumes of Bolivian exports. That is because these two countries are the only two countries that buy Bolivian natural gas. Among the two, Brazil is the one that buys the most. Despite all the disagreement and antagonism against the USA, it is still the number three destiny for Bolivian exports. North Americans mainly buy precious stones, precious metals and jewellery as well as some rice and soy. The rest of the countries are recipients of agricultural and mineral products.

The prospects for Bolivian products is not bad. Actually if you consider that the volumes continue rising, the prospects for the Bolivian economy all in all are, say, positive, at least in the medium range. What happens in the long range is up to the buoyant prices of natural gas and minerals.