Nation at a Glance - Chile

History

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the Inca ruled northern Chile while the Mapuche inhabited central and southern Chile. Although Chile declared its independence in 1810, decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879-83), Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and won its present northern regions. It was not until the 1880s that the Mapuche were brought under central government control. After a series of elected governments, the three-year-old Marxist government of Salvador ALLENDE was overthrown in 1973 by a military coup led by General Augusto PINOCHET, who ruled until a freely elected president was inaugurated in 1990. Sound economic policies, maintained consistently since the 1980s, contributed to steady growth, reduced poverty rates by over half, and helped secure the country's commitment to democratic and representative government. Chile has increasingly assumed regional and international leadership roles befitting its status as a stable, democratic nation.

Location: Southern South America, bordering the South Pacific Ocean, between Argentina and Peru

Border Countries: Argentina 6,691 km, Bolivia 942 km, Peru 168 km

Total Area: 756,102 sq km Land: 743,812 sq km Water: 12,290 sq km

Climate: Temperate; desert in north; Mediterranean in central region; cool and damp in south

Terrain: Low coastal mountains, fertile central valley, rugged Andes in east

Natural resources: Copper, timber, iron ore, nitrates, precious metals, molybdenum, hydropower

Land use: Agricultural land: 21.1% arable land 1.7%; permanent crops 0.6%; permanent pasture 18.8% Forest: 21.9% Other: 57% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: White and non-indigenous 88.9%, Mapuche 9.1%, Aymara 0.7%, Other indigenous groups 1% (includes Rapa Nui, Likan Antai, Quechua, Colla, Diaguita, Kawesqar, Yagan or Yamana), Unspecified 0.3% (2012 est.)

Languages: Spanish 99.5% (official), English 10.2%, Indigenous 1% (includes Mapudungun, Aymara, Quechua, Rapa Nui), Other 2.3%, Unspecified 0.2%

Religions: Roman Catholic 66.7%, Evangelical or Protestant 16.4%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1%, Other 3.4%, None 11.5%, Unspecified 1.1% (2012 est.)

Population: 17,650,114 (July 2016 est.)

Literacy: 97.5%; Male: 97.6%; Female: 97.4% (2015 est.)

Administrative divisions: 15 regions (regiones, singular - region); Aysen, Antofagasta, Araucania, Arica y Parinacota, Atacama, Biobio, Coquimbo, Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins, Los Lagos, Los Rios, Magallanes y de la Antartica Chilena, Maule, Region Metropolitana (Santiago), Tarapaca, Valparaiso

Economy: Chile has a market-oriented economy characterized by a high level of foreign trade and a reputation for strong financial institutions and sound policy that have given it the strongest sovereign bond rating in South America. Exports of goods and services account for approximately one-third of GDP, with commodities making up some 60% of total exports. Copper alone provides 20% of government revenue.From 2003 through 2013, real growth averaged almost 5% per year, despite the slight contraction in 2009 that resulted from the global financial crisis. Growth slowed to an estimated 2.3% in 2015. A continued drop in copper prices prompted Chile to experience its second consecutive year of slow growth, elevated inflation, and a depreciating currency.Chile deepened its longstanding commitment to trade liberalization with the signing of a free trade agreement with the US, which took effect on 1 January 2004. Chile has 22 trade agreements covering 60 countries including agreements with the EU, Mercosur, China, India, South Korea, and Mexico. In May 2010, Chile signed the OECD Convention, becoming the first South American country to join the OECD. In October 2015, Chile joined the US and 10 other countries and concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The agreement will need to be ratified by the Chilean legislature.The Chilean Government has generally followed a countercyclical fiscal policy, accumulating surpluses in sovereign wealth funds during periods of high copper prices and economic growth, and generally allowing deficit spending only during periods of low copper prices and growth. As of 31 October 2015, those sovereign wealth funds - kept mostly outside the country and separate from Central Bank reserves - amounted to more than $22.4 billion. Chile used these funds to finance fiscal stimulus packages during the 2009 economic downturn.In 2014, President Michelle BACHELET introduced tax reforms aimed at delivering her campaign promise to fight inequality and to provide access to education and health care. The reforms are expected to generate additional tax revenues equal to 3% of Chile’s GDP, mostly by increasing corporate tax rates to OECD averages.

Agriculture - products: Grapes, apples, pears, onions, wheat, corn, oats, peaches, garlic, asparagus, beans; beef, poultry, wool; fish; timber

Industries: Copper, lithium, other minerals, foodstuffs, fish processing, iron and steel, wood and wood products, transport equipment, cement, textiles

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