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Development policy, lithium extraction and the technological development of Bolivia

Tamara Almeyda
Universität Potsdam
Tamara Almeyda
Universität Potsdam
Open Panel

Abstract

Development theories have been long been an influence in South American politics and development policy. This paper will analyze how the tradition of these theories can still be found in the current Bolivian mineral resource policy. It also aims at showing how the government policies are changing while Bolivia wants to use its natural resources to enter a technology-driven, international market. The discovery of large lithium deposits in the Salar de Uyuni in the Bolivian highlands raised new expectations of wealth and development in Bolivia. The importance of lithium for innovative technologies such as electric vehicles and electronic devices led to plans of using the lithium reserves for the technological development of the country. Questions arise of how far Bolivia can reach this goal on its own and where international cooperation, external know-how and investment are required. While Bolivia aims at nationalizing its natural resources, the need for cooperation in technology-driven sectors seems to prohibit that policy. The extraction of lithium from the Salar de Uyuni and the development of its own lithium processing industry are challenging the Bolivian policy makers in adapting their path to socialism to the requirements of a technology-driven, globalized economy. This paper aims at identifying the consequences these potentially conflicting policies of the Bolivian government. How does the path towards a modern technology based industry combine with the path towards socialism and goals to promote the national industry?