Economic studies
Chile

Chile

Population 19.7 million
GDP per capita 16,065 US$
A4
Country risk assessment
A3
Business Climate
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2020 2021 2022 (e) 2023 (p)
GDP growth (%) -6.0 11.7 2.5 -1.5
Inflation (yearly average, %) 3.0 4.5 11.6 8.7
Budget balance (% GDP) -7.3 -7.6 1.0 -3.0
Current account balance (% GDP) -1.7 -6.6 -7.5 -3.5
Public debt (% GDP) 32.6 36.3 36.0 36.5

(e): Estimate (f): Forecast

STRENGTHS

  • Mining (leading copper producer and the second-largest lithium producer), agricultural, fishery and forestry resources
  • Numerous free-trade agreements
  • Flexible monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policies
  • Member of the OECD and the Pacific Alliance
  • Solid institutions

WEAKNESSES

  • Small and open economy vulnerable to external shocks given the dependence on copper and on Chinese demand
  • Exposure to climatic and earthquake risks
  • Inadequate research and innovation
  • Income and wealth disparity, poor education and health systems, fostering social discontent

Risk assessment

Economy to enter into recession

In 2023, activity will enter recession, mainly dragged down by a contraction in household consumption (65% of GDP). The index will be affected by the gradual dry-up of the excess of liquidity linked to the withdrawal of pension savings, a weaker job market, durably historically high inflation and by the lagged impact of tighter credit conditions (policy rate stands on hold at 11.25 % per year since October 2022, up from a minimum of 0.5% up to July 2021). Meanwhile, the latter will also affect gross fixed investment (24% of GDP), which is expected to drop, influenced as well by eroding business confidence and due to investors being likely to remain somewhat cautious amid the prolonged uncertainty prompted by the ongoing process to redraft the Constitution. Conversely, exports are expected to bring a positive contribution to activity. They should mildly expand, driven by the lithium boom (accounting for 8% of all foreign sales in January-November 2022, up from 1% in the same period of 2021) and by relatively higher growth in China (the main destination of foreign sales), as the economy reopens from the COVID-19 lockdowns. This could also support copper prices. Mining accounted for 62% of total foreign sales in 2021, with the red metal representing 57% on its own.

 

External shortfall to narrow somewhat and fiscal account to switch back into a deficit

The large current account deficit registered in 2022 will partially ease this year. The trade balance surplus will widen, as imports contract amid dropping domestic demand, while exports continue to expand. In addition, the lower local economic impetus will also help curb the primary income deficit somewhat as it should reduce foreign firms’ profit repatriation. Finally, the services deficit should slightly decrease, as freight costs moderate and tourism pursues its recovery. On the financing side, FDI should weaken, due to weaker domestic economic momentum and the higher financing cost. Furthermore, more volatile portfolio investment net inflows should fill the remaining gap, along with public, non-financial enterprise and bank debt issuance. Importantly, in 2022 the central bank also used foreign exchange reserves to cover the external shortfall. As a result, reserves went down from USD 51.3 billion in December 2021 to USD 38.6 billion in November 2022 (covering roughly 5 months of imports). Since May 2022, the country has also had access to a USD 3.5 billion IMF Short-term Liquidity Line (for one renewable year). Furthermore, Chile’s negative net international investment position stood at roughly -14% of GDP in Q3 2022, mainly smoothed by the existence of relevant pension funds’ investments abroad (estimated at 21% of GDP). The external debt was at 84% of GDP in Q3 2022, 71% of which was owed by the private sector. Overall, the wide external shortfall exposes Chile to changes in global investors’ moods.

On the fiscal side, after a strong consolidation in 2022 in the aftermath of the phase-out of COVID-related stimuli, the budgetary deficit is set to widen in 2023. This is underpinned by the economic recession, which will prompt a drop in tax collection, and amid higher financing costs. In addition, the 2023 budget contemplates a rise of 4.2% in real expenditure, based on three planks: economic, citizen and social security.

 

Political uncertainty amid the prolonged process to redraft the Constitution

President Gabriel Boric, from the left-wing Apruebo Dignidad coalition, was sworn in on 11 March 2022. He was a student leader and his victory represented a shift from the centrist incumbents who presided over the country since the end of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1990. His coalition holds only 37 out of 155 seats in the fragmented Lower House and five out 50 of seats in the Senate (split evenly between the centre-right coalition led by Chile Podemos Mas, several left-wing parties, and independents). As a result, the ruling government relies on negotiating to move forward with reforms. Mr. Boric describes himself as a moderate socialist and aims to increase social spending. In order to finance higher expenditure, in July 2022, it was presented a tax reform package to increase revenues by 4.1% of GDP once fully implemented (gradually from 2023 up to 2026). However, currently being discussed in Congress, the proposal has already had its impact reduced to 3.6% of GDP. The bill chiefly encompasses raising taxation on higher incomes, increasing mining royalties, and curbing tax exemption and evasion. In addition, the government presented a pension reform in November 2022, which would create a new social security scheme financed by new contributions equivalent to 6% of employees’ wages and to be fully paid by employers (contributions to increase gradually). Meanwhile, the national plebiscite held in September 2022 widely rejected the Constitutional Assembly’s draft, which would have expanded the provision of social transfers, reduced government centralisation, and strengthened the environmental role and indigenous rights. The outcome was considered a defeat for Mr. Boric, whose popularity dropped recently (from 38% in September 2022 to 30% in December 2022). In December 2022, politicians representing the main parties in Congress reached an agreement for a new constitutional process (pending approval by both houses), which would consider a Council made up of 50 elected delegates (from 155 in the previous process) and 24 experts (none previously). It would also include 12 principles that must be respected by a new text. Moreover, experts would begin to draft the basis of a new Magna Carta before the delegates’ election. Lastly, the national plebiscite with mandatory voting would take place in November 2023.

 

Last updated: February 2023

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 a juicio 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 under Juicio Ejecutivo in 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 called Boletin 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 (see below). 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. It provides 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.

Aside from 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.

The 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 Legal 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 and the amounts to recover decrease because it is not possible to request the restitution of taxes paid to the treasury, which national companies can require.

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

Restructuring processes carried out without a formal bankruptcy process are also carried out through a court trial at the request of the creditor(s). In the event that the debtor is not able to reorganize his debt through any agreement or negotiation, creditors may request the liquidation of the company.

 

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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