MR. JAIME RAVINET.
THE MINISTER OF HOUSING, URBAN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL ASSETS OF CHILE
SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR
AN OVERALL REVIEW AND APPRAISSAL OF THE
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE OUTCOME OF THE
UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON HUMAN
SETTLEMENTS (HABITAT II)
JUNE 8, 2001
1. I am here as the representative of my country, Chile, leading a delegation comprised of slum-dwellers, parliamentarians, mayors, academics, business people and Government officials. We represent a nation which for many years has been making a joint and common effort to create better living conditions for our neediest sectors.
Chile is a small country of 15 million inhabitants, with just over 4 million dwellings, of which nearly one million have been constructed during the last decade. We can say with pride that we are reducing the housing deficit in Chile and that providing housing for the neediest sectors has been a priority of all our Governments over the past 50 years.
Today we are closer to achieving the goal of ensuring that each Chilean family has its own house in which to live.
2. HOW WE HAVE DONE IT
In Chile, it has been demonstrated that the key to improving the quality of life of our human settlements is the implementation of effective public policies, such as:
Sustained economic growth, fiscal balances and a steady increase in public social investment in sanitation, housing and habitat;
Ongoing cooperation between the public and private sectors - with the latter designing and implementing projects with subsidies from the State and contributing to their financing - is an essential requirement for steady progress towards overcoming the quantitative and qualitative deficits in housing, which is evident in other areas of urban infrastructure;
We have established a policy of public infrastructure concessions (roads and inter-urban routes, ports and health infrastructure), which has led to a three-fold increase in the level of traditional investment, with reasonable rates of return and a strong regulatory framework. This concession-based approach is now also being extended to land and tax areas with tourism potential and to the construction of prison establishments.
Clear rules governing applications for access to housing characterized by transparent procedures, regular savings by each applicant family, the organization of applicants and payment of the obligations and loans contracted by beneficiaries;
Organization of residents, who have contributed significantly to the progress that has been made towards overcoming the deficits; and
Improvements in public institutions at the central, regional and municipal
levels through the modernization and professionalization of these institutions,
improvement in information and in the quality of service provided to beneficiary
The above principles, which have been at the heart of our policies and programmes, have yielded demonstrably efficient and effective results at times of varying economic performance, as has been the case in the second half of the period 1997-2001, when the international crisis forced us to exercise even greater discipline in our investments and public expenditures.
In short, the principles of increased production, collaboration between the public and private sectors, transparency of procedures, organization of residents and modernization of institutions are just as or more valid in times of economic downturns.
3. CURRENT CHALLENGES
A great deal remains to be done, however. Our country still has many unmet needs as a result of which many of our compatriots live under extremely marginal conditions. I would like on this occasion to share with you our challenges, which are surely also the challenges facing many of the countries that are represented here today.
(A) BUILDING A MORE JUST SOCIETY
In Chile we succeeded in the decade of the 1990s in significantly reducing the level of poverty (from two out of every five families to one out of every five or a reduction from 40 per cent to 20 per cent of the population), as a result of the doubling of our national product during the decade and of pro-active and innovative social policies.
As a result of the marked increase in life expectancy, smaller family sizes and increased expectations, new problems are emerging in the areas of housing and habitat. We have therefore been forced to adapt the Government's response to these circumstances. It is no longer possible, for example, to think only of overcoming the housing deficit. We need also to adopt an integral approach to the problem by devising programmes to benefit the most disadvantaged sectors.
(B) OVERCOMING THE HOUSING SHORTAGE IN CHILE
We must meet the challenge of overcoming the difficult situation faced by Chilean families who still lack access to safe and decent housing.
The challenge facing the country is to be able to meet the housing shortage over the next 10 years. It is a very ambitious goal, but with the commitment of all of us we are ready to take up the challenge as a testimony and tribute to the bicentenary of our independent life as a nation.
We have pledged to build 25,000 basic houses per year - all with the capacity to be extended - for our neediest sectors, by encouraging savings and providing a State subsidy that removes the need for obtaining a mortgage.
Under the programme <Chile Barrio>, 100,000 families currently living in squatter settlements and slums will be relocated by the year 2005 and 30,000 more by the year 2007.
Together, these two programmes will provide housing for the 300,000 poorest families in Chile by the year 2007.
(C) BUILDING SAFER AND MORE FRIENDLY CITIES
In Chile, we are also witnessing the phenomenon of the concentration of our population in cities. Today, 85 per cent of our population reside in urban areas.
Meeting this present-day challenge is therefore another of our concerns as a country.
Spontaneous horizontal sprawl and its consequences are a well-known phenomenon throughout Latin America.
We are therefore promoting a policy to develop our cities that seeks to exploit the potential of and to restore central districts and zones as well as to take full advantage of existing service networks, including "older housing", as a way of addressing the problem of the lack of access by families to housing. We have focused on programmes of urban concentration that rely on land-use planning instruments that strengthen our programmes.
Among future areas of action, the following should be mentioned:
We believe that it is necessary to modernize our institutions in order to enhance the efficiency of urban governance.
URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND LAND-USE MANAGEMENT
We need to develop new information systems and planning methodologies.
REFORMING FINANCING OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND LANDUSE MANAGEMENT
We need to redirect the allocation of public expenditures taking into account specific areas and strategies for their development.
MANAGEMENT OF T HE URBAN ENVIRONMENT
We are developing urban tree-planting plans, plans for the restoration of degraded areas, and other initiatives.
STRENGTHENING OF COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION
Cities are built with everybody: Government, private sector and social actors.
(D) SUPPORTING VILLAGES AND HUMAN SETTLEMENTS IN THE RURAL WORLD.
(E) A COUNTRY UNITED
Throughout our recent history, we have striven to develop and maintain mutual trust. Our intention is to continue this approach, which has proven to be an effective one.
Experience has shown us that ongoing cooperation between the public and private sectors and between Government and the opposition has been a key condition for steady progress towards overcoming the quantitative and qualitative deficits in housing and essential services.
Faced with this challenge of meeting the need for housing of a large number of persons, it is essential to establish and strengthen our ties of cooperation with the international community.
Exchanging experiences, developing technologies, building the future, are words that should resonate in guiding our efforts.
Today, in this global forum, I wish to assure you once again of our cooperation and to urge you to embark upon the task of building once and for all a more livable world in which all of us can grow and develop.