Governments usually foul things up worse than they already are, especially when its intervention is propelled by Marxist and socialist doctrines. Such has been the case in Chile, although public outrage has stymied the worst of leftist policies from being implemented in 2014.
Moreover, the future is bright in Chile. It seems less likely that the left will be able to maintain itself in power after President Michelle Bachelet’s term ends in three years.
Nevertheless, enough leftist venom reached certain sectors of the Chilean economy to cause lasting damage. One of the more important casualties of leftist public policies has been in new construction, where media reports put national unemployment for the industry at 12%.
In Viña del Mar, a construction firm posted four internet ads in order to recruit a total of three day laborers, offering to pay 350,000 pesos (US $577) per month. The sites selected were www.yapo.cl, www.vivastreet.cl, www.elrastro.cl and www.locanto.cl. A print ad was also ordered for the local daily El Mercurio de Valparaíso, but the ad was canceled before it ever ran since the internet sites alone yielded over 25 calls from prospective workers.
Hiring good construction workers is easy these days in the Valparaíso metropolitan area. The cost of construction is also quite low on account of lower labor costs. Bad business conditions led big box store Construmart (a chain like Home Depot) to close its Concón branch, adjacent to Viña del Mar.
The situation is worse in Iquique, where government policy has stifled the opening of a new copper mine and a planned salt mine by a German firm. Some genius in the leftist government decided that these minerals will have to be mined by state-owned companies, or at least not by foreigners.
What is the result of such folly? Fewer jobs and layoffs. One mining support firm recently laid off 600 people in town.
None of this activity has helped the construction industry, which has slowed considerably. Iquique was booming but now there are only 6 or 7 apartment tower projects left going, and government policy has made little land available for anything but tower projects, stifling single family home and town-home construction. Workers in Iquique used to be making as much as three times the salaries of their counterparts in Viña del Mar, but now their futures are bleak. They face a state-imposed slowdown and little help from tourism (nothing like what is available in Viña del Mar) to impel progress.
The story of leftist failure is repeated time and again. It is “obvious” to libertarian-minded people that the state fails. And Chile in 2014 has added yet more evidence against interventionism.
Chile also provides a good present opportunity to buy real estate on account of the huge and growing immigration numbers, up 21% since March, 50% over the las 5 years and over 80% during the last decade. Most immigration stems from Perú but there are plenty of professionals coming from Brazil, Argentina and Spain, as well as Germany and the United States.
Despite the bad local news, foreigners are coming to Chile in order to escape the failed interventionist paradises where they reside. These people demand homes, just as tourists from Brazil and Argentina continue to demand summer beach homes near Viña del Mar.
Those are some of the reasons why housing demand is not just a function of a bubble bolstered by artificially low interest rates (which is also the case in Chile 2014). It is a sheer function of demand and good value relative to other countries.
Even with the rise in selling prices over the last few years, compare home prices in Santiago and Viña del Mar (or Iquique) with prices with Auckland (50% to 80% more than comparable Viña del Mar) most European or “developed” Asian cities. Chile remains a bargain.