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Chile's Pinera announces frugal 2020 budget amid trade tensions

Credit: REUTERS/CARLO ALLEGRI

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera said late on Thursday he would boost spending by a modest 3 percent in his proposed 2020 budget, the lowest increase in a decade, as the world's top copper producer continues to reel from global trade tensions.

By Dave Sherwood

SANTIAGO, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Chile's President Sebastian Pinera said late on Thursday he would boost spending by a modest 3 percent in his proposed 2020 budget, the lowest increase in a decade, as the world's top copper producer continues to reel from global trade tensions.

Pinera, a center-right billionaire, said in a televised address to the nation that the modest spending hike would be aimed at "reactivating" the country's sputtering economy.

The frugal $74.2 billion budget would "permit us to finance more than 2,000 investment projects...and keep Chile moving forward amid difficult times for the global economy," Pinera said.

Chile, which produces nearly one-third the world's copper, has suffered amid floundering prices for the red metal. Heavy rains in the country's normally parched northern desert that is home to many of its mines, labor strife and a blistering drought in its central agricultural region have added to the pain.

Pinera on Thursday acknowledged the Central Bank's prediction that the country would grow 2.5% this year, down from his administration's initial expectations of 3.8%. Chile's economy grew 4% in 2018.

"On average, then, in our first two years, we will grow 3.25%...which puts us at the top of the list in an ailing Latin America," Pinera said.

The 2020 budget, financed through a mix of belt-tightening and growth, would boost investment by 7.5% in efforts to beef up the country's health care system, improve public safety and fight the decade-long drought.

Pinera is expected to send the budget to Congress in the coming days. Lawmakers must vote on the plan by November 30.

(Reporting by Dave Sherwood)

((dave.sherwood@thomsonreuters.com; +56 9 9138 1047, +56 2 2370 4224; Reuters Messaging: dave.sherwood.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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