Economic Analysis
Chile

Chile

Population 18,2 million
GDP 13,576 US$
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Country risk assessment
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

Main economic indicators 2015 2016 2017(f) 2018(f)
GDP growth (%) 2.2 1.5 1.5 2.7
Inflation (yearly average, %) 4.3 3.8 2.2 2.4
Budget balance (% GDP) -2.1 -2.7 -2.7 -2.1
Current account balance (% GDP) -2.0 -1.4 -1.7 -1.2
Public debt (% GDP)* 17.4 21.3 24.3 27.0

 

* Central government debt (f): forecast

SECTOR RISK ASSESSMENTS

 

STRENGTHS

  • Mining (leading copper producer), agricultural, fishery and forestry resources
  • Numerous free-trade agreements
  • Flexible monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policies
  • Favourable business climate, political and institutional stability
  • International companies operating in distribution, air transport and paper
  • Member of the OECD and the Pacific Alliance

WEAKNESSES

  • Small, open economy vulnerable to external shocks given the dependence on copper and Chinese demand, as well as exposure to climate and earthquake risks
  • Weak budgetary resources: 20% of GDP
  • Inadequate research and innovation
  • Vulnerability of the road network and electricity grid; high energy price because of the country’s geographic situation (long and narrow) long and narrow country
  • Income disparity and poor education system

Risk assessment

Stronger growth in 2018

Growth is expected to pick up in 2018. Following the rise in prices and production, copper exports (50% of total exports) are expected to rise. This upturn in mining should encourage investment in the sector, as well as jobs and wage growth. In this context, and with imported inflation moderated by the peso’s appreciation, the contribution of household consumption (64% of GDP) to growth is expected to rise. Public consumption will perform at least as well. The non-mining sector is expected to benefit indirectly, even if construction could lag behind because of persistent overcapacity. Save for a climate disaster, the production of fruit, timber, paper pulp, wine and prepared fish will benefit from strong North American and European demand, as well as the improved regional economy. Nevertheless, confidence among business owners, hit by higher taxes introduced by the previous government, will influence investment and recruitment.

Gradual rebuilding of budget leeway

The robust initial position of the public finances and the fiscal easing have helped mitigate the negative impact of falling copper prices on activity without the deficit and the debt reaching significant levels. In order to rebuild room for manoeuvre, fiscal consolidation is expected to begin in early 2018, though at a measured pace so as to manage investment in healthcare, education and in road and energy infrastructure. Greater use of concessions, as well as higher income drawn from copper extraction and the completion of the 2014 tax reforms will make this easier. Nevertheless, it will not be enough to halt the increase in debt.

 

Low current account deficit and significant investment abroad

The current account deficit, already fairly low, is expected to fall thanks to improved trade terms in 2018. Higher copper exports will generate an increase in the trade surplus increase. An increase in imports linked to robust internal demand and the slight upturn in oil prices is likely to be dampened by the appreciation of the peso. The services deficit, broadly due to the reliance on foreign transport services will fall in a context of higher tourism income. Against this, the income deficit will rise in connection with higher dividend repatriation by foreign mining companies and higher payment of interest on external debt, which represented 63% of GDP at end September 2017, three quarters of which concerns the private sector, specifically in the context of FDIs. The flow of FDIs is, moreover, exceeded by Chilean direct investments abroad mostly by pension funds. It is therefore no surprise that Chile’s foreign assets are almost as high as its foreign liabilities.

 

Opposing President and Parliament will co-habit

From the centre-right and supported by the business world, and a businessman himself, Sebastian Piñera (already president from 2010 to 2014) was elected in the second round of the presidential elections on the 17th December 2017 with over 54% of the vote and a participation rate of 48.5%, beating Alejandro Guillier, the centre-left candidate. He succeeds Michelle Bachelet, also from the centre-left. Bachelet, who was ineligible to stand for a second consecutive term, lost a good deal of popularity because of the economic downturn, corruption scandals involving high-profile figures and allies, as well as reforms deemed insufficient by her electorate but damaging by business leaders.

The new government, installed in March 2018, will have to co-habit with a parliament from the opposing side. This is because at the same time as the first round elections on the 19th November, the centre-right party Chile Vamos only won 73 seats out of 155 against 56 for the centre-left party Nueva Mayoria led by the unfortunate opponent, 20 for the Frente Amplio on the left and 6 for the independent centre-left candidates. In the Senate, half of whose members was renewed, Nueva Mayoria now has 22 seats out of 42. With a left-leaning parliament, Sebastian Piñera will find it difficult to go back on the reforms carried out by his predecessor on tax, social and education matters. The confrontation will focus on the pace of fiscal consolidation, the cancellation of the taxation hike for corporates and wealthy households, the extension of free education and reform of the private pension system. There will be little in the way of significant progress, which could make everyone unhappy. Internationally, the main problem remains the conflict with Bolivia over the re-establishment of Bolivian access to the sea.

 

Last update: January 2018

Payment

Promissory notes, cheques and bills of exchange are frequently used for commercial transactions in Chile. In an event of default, it offers creditors some safeguards, including access to the summary proceeding (Juicio Ejecutivo). Under ajuicio ejecutivo, based on his appraisal of the documents submitted, a first instance judge (Juzgado Civil) may order a debtor to pay at the moment of the notification – if the debtor fails to do so, his property will be seized. These documents may need to be validated by court before becoming legally enforceable.

 

Bills of exchange that are guaranteed by a bank are widely accepted, though somewhat difficult to obtain. They limit the risk of payment default by offering creditor additional recourse to the endorser of the bill.

 

Cheques, which are used more often than bills of exchange or promissory notes, offer similar legal safeguards underJuicio Ejecutivoin the event of unpaid for a cause (protesto), uncovered cheques, or closed accounts. Checks and the other mentioned documents, if not paid on time, can be reported to a Credit Report Company calledBoletin Comercial.

 

The same is true of the promissory note (pagaré), which - like bills of exchange and cheques – is an instrument enforceable by law and, when unpaid, may also be recorded at Boletín Comercial. The promissory note needs to be validated (protestada) by a public notary or in a judicial trial.

 

The “Boletín Comercial” is a company dedicated to conducting financial risk analysis. Itprovides to other information companies (such as Dicom, SIISA) information about the debts registered at national level for all kind of debtors. Boletín Comercial is the official and most important company, on this matter, at national level under the authority of the Santiago Chamber of Commerce (Cámara de Comercio de Santiago). Both, Companies and individuals, can be registered as debtors in the Boletin Comercial. The register provides key financial information that can be consulted by anyone who is interested in obtaining a picture of the financial behaviour of a Company or individual.

 

Electronic transfers via the SWIFT network, widely used by Chilean banks, are a quick, fairly reliable, and cheap instrument 

 

Debt collection

Amicable phase

Collection begins with an amicable collection process where parties can agree on a payment settlement or other payment plan. The length of this amicable phase depends on the predefined term of the documents supporting the debt (cheque, invoice, promissory note, bill of exchange). A formal notice is sent by a recorded delivery letter inviting the debtor to pay.

 

If the parties did not include any specific clauses in the commercial contract, the applicable rate for delays on the payment is the conventional interest rate as defined by the Central Bank of Chile on a periodical basis.

 

Ordinary proceedings

When a settlement agreement cannot be reached with the debtor, the creditor will initiate a legal collection process ruled by local civil procedure which.

 

Besides the Juicio Ejecutivo creditors who are unable to settle with their debtors out of court may enforce their right to payment through the corresponding legal action ruled by the civil procedure. According to the local procedural laws, there are two kinds of judicial collection procedures; i), ordinary proceedings (Juicio Ordinario); ii) and abbreviated proceeding (Juicio Sumario) depending on the value of the sued amount and the type of documents that support the debt .

 

Claimant needs to explain the basis for their legal action and enclose all supporting documents (original copies) and evidence. After the first presentation in court, the judge will decide whether the legal action has basis or not. If the judge considers there are enough arguments and evidence, he will give course to the process.

 

All judicial action needs the presence of a barrister or solicitor (lawyer), whether taking place in front of a minor court (Juzgados – primera instancia) or superior court (Corte Apelaciones o Suprema- segunda instancia)

 

Debtors can dispute ruling with motivated arguments that law contains at the Código de Procedimiento Civil (Civil Procedure Code, defences) such as payment of debt, prescription, compensation, etc. Judges will consider these arguments and will accept or reject the defence. It is important to note that, while the defences of the debtor are discussed by the parties in the trial, the steps relating to seizure of assets are not stayed. The idea of this is that the debtor cannot delay the procedure unnecessarily.

 

Trials can last from six months up to two years, depending on the document, the debtor’s defence, and if an appeal is filed following the initial judgement.

 

Enforcement of a court decision

 

Domestic judgments are enforceable when all appeals have been exhausted. If the debtor fails to comply with the decision, the court can order an auction of the debtor’s assets. Collection from a third party owing to the debtor is not possible.

 

Foreign judgments may be enforced if the Supreme Court validates these through an exequatur proceeding. Chilean law only recognises foreign judgements on a reciprocity basis: the issuing country must have an agreement with Chile regarding recognition and enforcement of legal decisions. Proceedings can last from between one to two years.

 

Insolvency proceedings

Out-of court proceedings: Extra-judicial reorganization

The 2014 bankruptcy law recognizes agreements between creditors and debtors that are reached outside of a bankruptcy proceeding, whereby a court approves the agreement that was developed outside of the bankruptcy court. In order to be approved, two or more creditors whose claims represent at least 75% of the total claims corresponding to their respective group must accept the plan.

 

Chilean law distinguishes different categories of creditors during a bankruptcy process, e.g. employees owned money, creditors that have a mortgage (usually banks), etc. Creditors in these categories have preference for payment over others. If creditors do not meet the criteria to be part of these categories, they do not receive have any kind of preference for payment.

 

While considering the approval of said plan, the court stays the procedure and the legal actions against the debtor. However, during this time also, the debtor is prohibited from disposing of any of its assets. After approval, the plan has the same effect as a judicial reorganization.

 

Restructuring proceedings: Judicial reorganization

These agreements are more formal than extra-judicial agreements, and can only be filed by debtors, as they have to declare their insolvency to the court. The proceedings apply to both secured and unsecured creditors. Once debtors enter the judicial reorganization process, they must subsequently propose a reorganization plan, which requires the approval of at least two thirds of the total number of creditors.  

 

Liquidation

Liquidation is organized through a single procedure initiated upon demand of the debtor or creditors. The latter can file for bankruptcy when a debtor defaults without appointing an administrator for its business. Once bankruptcy is declared, a trustee is given responsibility for the debtors’ business and assets.

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