Eduardo Frei Montalva


Eduardo Frei Montalva : biography

January 16, 1911 – January 22, 1982

Frei’s administration also introduced a wealth tax and carried out a property tax reassessment in order to make the taxation system more progressive. Taxes as a percentage of GNP increased 12.8% in 1964 to 21.2% in 1970. The social reforms introduced by Frei’s government led to a huge increase in public expenditure, which rose as a proportion of GNP from 35.7% in 1965 to 46.9% in 1970. Expenditures on education, agriculture, and housing rose went up considerably, with spending on housing increasing by 70% in real terms in 1965 alone.

In 1965, he started a presidential tour through France, the United Kingdom, Federal Republic of Germany, Italy and the Vatican. During this time, he also visited countries in Latin America such as: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela; places where he delivered important speeches on international issues.

On his return, he initiated important plans involving housing, education, reforestation, land reform, health, and the nationalization of copper. The Comisión Nacional de Cultura (National Culture Commission), the Consejería Nacional de la Promoción Popular and the Juntas de Vecinos (“Neighborhood Committees”) were also created.

One area of reform given high priority by the Frei Administration was the fostering of networks of local, self-help organisations (especially among the “unorganised” residents of the shantytowns), which was placed under a national supervisory council. As a result of the government’s actions, Mothers’ centres, sports associations, youth clubs, residents’ committees, and parents’ groups proliferated, with an estimated 20,000 units of this type in existence by 1970, according to government figures. Half of these new units were mothers’ centres, with an estimated membership of 45,000 women, and the government claimed to have distributed 70,000 sewing machines to these centres. According to Frei, these measures had given “a new form of life and hope” to hundreds of thousands of people.A History of Chile, 1808–1994, by Simon Collier and William F. Sater

Improvements were also made in areas such as housing, education and medical care. Between 1964 and 1970, around 260,000 houses were constructed (around a third by the state housing corporation CORVI) and about 200,000 housing solutions were claimed (referring to the provision of sites for self-help housing projects). The number of hospitals (and beds) doubled under the PDC, and spending on education as a proportion of public expenditure rose from one-seventh to one-fifth. Around 3,000 new schools were built throughout the country, and by 1970 95% of children in the relevant age group were covered by primary education. Expenditure on scholarships and school loans was doubled, and school enrolment was raised from 1.8 million to 2.9 million. Expenditure on education doubled, the number of years of basic education was increased from six to eight, and a two-shift schoolday was introduced that doubled the capacity of the country’s system. Frei’s initiatives in education led to increased rates of enrolment in both primary and secondary education, with primary school coverage reaching 90% in the majority of rural and urban areas by 1970, while secondary school coverage reached 49% in 1970, compared with 18% at the start of the Sixties.

A new law establishing work-accident and occupational disease insurance was signed into law in January 1968, providing for compulsory coverage of all salaried employees and wage earners, including apprentices and domestic servants. In March that year, a piece of legislation creating government-sponsored health insurance for public and private salaried employees and their dependents was signed into law. Basic health services were expanded with the training of community health workers, the building of rural health clinics, and the shifting of financial and personnel resources from hospitals to community health centres. These efforts contributed to a steep decline in infant mortality in Chile during the Sixties and Seventies.