Starting to discuss the future

Publicado: 21 January, 2016

There is an old question in Chilean history: ¿ when will Chile become a developed country? Being a developed country is not simple arithmetic for reaching a certain per capita income, say US$ 25.000/inhab, for example.

There are three crucial differences between developed and developing countries: (i) Existence of a long term perspective; (ii) innovative capacity; (iii) balanced distribution of income.

We will focus on how to introduce a new long term perspective in Chile. In other words, how is introduced the future in public political and economic debate.

A conventional way of doing it is “planning of scenarios”, which in reality is the “imagination of scenarios”. ¿How will be Chile in Year 2050? It has not been done much in this area. I suggest a different approach: ¿ which are the challenges the main public productive sectors will face in the future? As an illustrative way, let see what happened in a consortium that has reflected about copper .

Chile is small on everything but copper. China has a population 75 times the Chilean and the Chinese PIB is 36 times the Chilean. But in copper, Chile is 6 times bigger than China. On the other side, copper represents 55% of the exports and is the second income mechanism of tax authorities. Right now, there is no productive sector that may substitute copper’s role in Chilean economy.

Present copper production is 6 TM millions, Chile being producer of 30% of copper in the world. Because of the ageing of copper deposit and the decrease of mining grade, if important investments aren’t made, the production level would fall to 4 TM in 2025. As Chile has 30% of world copper reserves, there’s been set as a goal that Chile should keep this 30% of market share in production of copper; this involve producing more than 8 TM by year 2025. ¿What are the challenges for achieving this goal?

To identify these challenges and suggest solutions for a future copper production of 8 million TM, a Technological Roadmap (RMT) has been made.

A board of 30 experts linked to the main institutions involved in copper production has been created: main mining companies, big and small suppliers, trade associations, Corfo, Mining and Economy representatives government agencies, scholars (UCh, UC) and consultants; Fundación Chile acts as coordinator and executive agent for different studies. There have been several meetings during the last year where every one of them has attended. In summary, this has been the empiric version of what is called a “public-private alliance”, discussing about future development of Chilean mining.

Actually, the debate process has been more important than the final RMT product itself. ¿Why? Because this process has generated a significant share capital in the mining sector, coming to a general agreement regarding the future of Chilean copper. There is an agreement regarding the objectives and main challenges. There has been an open and sincere discussion about every topic. The associated mining companies, usually so individualistic in their behavior as if they were maximizers Robinson Crusoe, have discovered that cooperation between sectors allow them resolve common cross-disciplinary problems that end up helping every company and society in general.

In short, constructive debates about the future of the sector allow anticipate long term challenges, besides generate shared capital, which involves trust-building.