RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Chilean President Sebastián Piñera’s approval plummeted to 9%, the lowest mark of his second term, in the midst of the discussion on the withdrawal of pension funds, a measure proposed to face the current economic crisis that the president initially rejected outright.
The Plaza Pública Cadem survey indicated that such a low approval rating (9%) had only been recorded in February 2020, a period in which social protests overlapped with the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic.
The pension withdrawal, which would allow Chileans to withdraw 10% of savings from their individual accounts managed by private funds, was overwhelmingly approved in Congress last Friday to help Chile’s middle class during the pandemic.
However, the initiative’s future is uncertain since the Executive rejected it outright, considering that it undermines citizens’ future pensions, and filed an injunction before the Constitutional Court to try to stop it.
Finally, and after intense negotiations, Piñera announced an alternative project to withdraw funds that includes the payment of taxes, a bonus for those who run out of funds, and a restitution system to strengthen pensions by increasing contributions.
This would be the third 10% pension withdrawal that Chile has approved since the beginning of the health crisis, a measure that has so far led the 11 million contributors to withdraw more than US$36 billion in total.
Proponents -the opposition and part of the ruling party- allege that these savings withdrawals are necessary because the 18 billion dollars announced by the Government for social aid are insufficient and “are not reaching the population”.
“The fall in presidential approval is especially in the middle class, in those identified with the right and the center”, Cadem pointed out.
According to the survey, 87% of Chileans agree with this project “even at the risk of having a lower pension,” The same percentage disagrees with the Government’s decision to stop the parliamentary motion.
Concerning state aid to face the crisis, 17% stated that they had received a bonus for the middle class, while 69% have not received it and consider that they need it.
The president’s approval has been declining since it reached 24% in February, encouraged by the rapid vaccination process, an achievement that gave Piñera a respite after months of harsh questioning for the management of the first months of the pandemic and the 2019 protests.
However, the worsening of the pandemic after the summer vacations, with a second wave that forced the imposition of massive quarantines and entailed the end of thousands of businesses, and the Government’s refusal to withdraw pensions, caused the brand to plummet.
The results of the Cadem survey are based on interviews with 701 people from 184 neighborhoods in the country conducted during April, with a sampling error estimated at ± 3.7% considering maximum variance and 95% confidence.