Sergio Bitar is a leading Chilean politician. He is president of the Chilean Council for Strategy and Foresight, president of the “Fundación por la Democracia” and president and founder of Corporacion Museo del Salitre (UNESCO industrial heritage site), in charge of the restoration of saltpeter facilities in the North of Chile. Also, as a senior nonresident fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, he directs the program “Global Trends and Latin America´s Future”. He is a member of the Council of the University of Chile, representing the president of the Republic, as well as a member of the Advisory Board of IDEA (Stockholm, 2016- ). He has edited, together with Prof Abraham Lowenthal, a book with the results of the project “Democratic Transitions. Lessons Learned” of the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), based on interviews to presidents that led transitions in 9 countries of Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia. He has participated in the processes of social change and transition to democracy in Chile, and in the design of public policies and strategies for the development of Chile and Latin America. He has been a Mining Minister under President Allende’s government (1973), Education Minister under President Lagos (2003-06), and Public Works Minister under President Bachelet (2008-10). He has also been a Senator of the Republic (1994-2002) and President of the “Partido por la Democracia” on three occasions (last one being 2006-08).
TRAJECTORY AND MAIN PUBLIC FUNCTIONS
*After finishing his studies in Chile (University of Chile), France (Centre d’Études des Programmes Économiques) and the U.S. (Harvard University), he was a professor of economics, director of the Department of Industries in the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Mathematics of the University of Chile.; and then Industrial Planning Manager of the “Corporación de Fomento de la Producción” (CORFO, 1968-1970).
*In 1971 and 1972 he was President Salvador Allende’s economic advisor and Mining Minister in 1973. During that period he was one of the founders and main leaders of the new political party “Izquierda Cristiana.”
*The 11th of September of 1973 military coup changed his life. He became a political prisoner for over a year at Dawson Island and other concentration camps under Pinochet’s dictatorship. He was then expelled and sent on exile, for 10 years, with a prohibition on reentry back into Chile. He lived with his family in the U.S. and Venezuela.
*During this time, he worked as an entrepreneur and consultant, writer and academic. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Institute for International Development (1974-76) and Visiting Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, Latin American Program (1982-83). He was an active organizer of the Chilean community in exile until his return in 1984.
*Then he joined the democratic forces, and participated in the the creation of the “Partido por la Democracia” (1987, PPD) and the “Concertación de Partidos por el NO” (1988) and “Concertacion de Partidos por la Democracia” (1989).
- President of the Party pro-Democracy (1992-94, 1997-2000, 2006- 2008). Elected for a third term with 60% of the vote. Spokesman for the government coalition in 1998 and 1999. Head of the PPD presidential campaign (1999) and parliamentary campaign (2001).
- Senator (1994-2002) He was a member of the Finance, Foreign Affairs, Economics and Mining Committees. Leading senator in promoting the “Leyes Arica” (regional development) and implementing an e-legislation program in the Senate for citizen’s participation. President of the Budget Sub Committee for the Armed Forces (2000 and 2001). He also created a nonprofit organization (Corporación Museo del Salitre) to protect and restore the last nitrate mining facilities in the Atacama Desert. Later, as Minister of Education, he requested and obtained the nomination of these facilities as a UNESCO Industrial Heritage Site in 2005.
- Minister of Education and President of the Chilean National Commission of UNESCO. (2003-2005). His priorities were the quality of education and a reform in higher education in order to for increase coverage for low-income students and foster quality. In 2003 he obtained the approval of a major constitutional amendment enforcing mandatory and free secondary education. Congress also approved a bill mandating teacher’s evaluation in all public schools. Minister Bitar launched and won the approval of two relevant laws for higher education, one providing government loan guarantee for students and another mandating accreditation of universities. He also initiated a new program to improve English language teaching.
- Coordinator for Michelle Bachelet´s presidential campaign (second round of voting, Dec. 2005, Jan. 2006).
- Minister of Public Works (2008-2010). His main achievement was an increased investment in infrastructure, reaching the highest level in 2010, and a record in new biddings for investments through public- private partnership (concessions) in 2009; the approval of a new law regulating such concessions in 2010, and a plan for infrastructure: Chile 2020. “Infraestructura para el Desarrollo.” He presided a ministerial committee on water resources and a promoted a constitutional amendment to define water as a public good. His ministry actively participated in a special program to generate employment during the global financial crisis of 2008-9. He also had to face the challenges caused by the major earthquake that hit Chile on February 27, 2010 and, in a short span of 14 days, ensure complete connectivity by land, sea and air throughout the country.
OTHER PUBLIC ACTIVITIES:
- Vice-President of the “Fundación Paz Ciudadana”, dedicated to studies and proposals of citizen security
- Member of the Board Council for Public Infrastructure (Public Private Initiative)
- Member Advisory Council on Infrastructure Financing (Minister of Public Works 2014-15) and member of the Advisory Council for Higher Education (Minister of Education, 2015)
- Member of the Board “Asociación Chilena de Empresas de Tecnologías de la Información (ACTI, 2014-16)
- Member of the Board “Instituto de Ingenieros de Chile” (2011-2014)
- Ambassador on special mission on behalf of the Chilean Senate to request support for the election of a Chilean senator as President of the World Parliamentary Union (2002).
- Founder and vice-president of the newspaper Fortín Mapocho (opposition newspaper during the Pinochet military regime) and board member of several Chilean magazines (1986-1992).
OTHER ACADEMIC ACTIVITIES:
- Visiting Fellow Inter-American Dialogue (2011- )
- Member of the Board of Catholic University of Temuco (2014-15), Universidad Mayor (2010-2011) and Universidad de Santiago (2002)
- Founder and president of the Latin American Center for International Economics and Politics (CLEPI) Santiago (1987-1993)
- Visiting Fellow, the Wilson International Center for Scholars, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC (1982-1983)
- Visiting Fellow, Harvard Institute for International Development (1975-1978)
- Consultant for ECLA (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, UN) (1985) and SELA (Sistema Económico Latinoamericano) (1979-1981)
- Full professor School of Engineering (1965-73) and Director Department of Industries (1966-1968) Universidad de Chile
- Graduate studies in Economics at the Centre d´Etudes de Programmes Economiques, Paris (Diplome, 1965) and at Harvard University (Master´s Degree in Public Administration, 1971).
- Degree in Civil Engineering, Universidad de Chile (1963) received the Marcos Orrego award for most outstanding student, Instituto de Ingenieros, 1965.
- Secondary education at the Instituto Nacional (1951-1957).
EXPERIENCE AS BUSINESSMAN
- President of an industrial company in Caracas, Venezuela (1976-1986) and member of the board of other companies in Chile (1987-1993).
AUTHOR OF THE FOLLOWING BOOKS:
- Democratic Transitions. Conversation with World Leaders, Sergio Bitar y Abraham Lowenthal editors, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015; Transiciones Democráticas (Gutenberg Galaxia, 2016), has been also translated to Arabic, French, Dutch and Burmese, in 2016.
- Tendencias Mundiales y el Futuro de America Latina, CEPAL, Enero 2014;
- Why and how Latin America should think about the Future, Washington, 2014;
- El Gobierno de Allende, 3a edición, 2013; Antes: Chile 1970-1973, Editorial Pehuén, Chile, 1996 and 2001, también publicado como Transición, Socialismo y Democracia. La Experiencia Chilena, Editorial Siglo XXI, Mexico, 1978, Transiçao, Socialismo e Democracia, Paz e Terra, Rio de Janeiro, 1981 (“el mejor libro escrito sobre la experiencia chilena” según el economista brasilero Celso Furtado) and Chile Experiments on Democracy, Institute for the Study of Human Issues, Pittsburg, USA, 1985.
- Isla 10, 13 edición, Chile 2010. (Arab translation, 1995; Albanian translation, Biblioteca Elefans, Pristina, 2014; Italian translation, Teti editores, Roma, 2015). The film Dawson, Isla 10, directed by Miguel Littin, based on Bitar´s book was released in September 2009, and nominated to the Goya and Oscar competitions by the Consejo Cinematográfico de Chile.
- Chile Bolivia Perú, Un Futuro Común, El norte de Chile en el siglo XXI, Editorial Aguilar, Santiago, Octubre 2011.
- Chile Mas Allá del Bicentenario, Editorial Planeta, Santiago, 2009.
- Cita con la Historia, Interview with Patricia Arancibia C, Editorial Biblioteca Americana, Santiago, 2006
- Educación Nuestra Riqueza, Chile Educa para el siglo XXI , Editorial El Mercurio- Aguilar, Santiago, 2005
- Chile para Todos, Editorial Planeta, Santiago, 1988
- Venezuela The Industrial Challenge, University Press of America, 1990, also published as El Desafío Industrial de Venezuela, Editorial Pomaire, Buenos Aires, 1983.
- Crisis Financiera e Industrial en América Latina, Grupo Editor Latinoamericano. Buenos Aires, 1988.
- Política Económica de Estados Unidos en América Latina, Documentos de la Administración Reagan, Grupo Editor Latinoamericano, Buenos Aires, 1984.
- La caída de Allende y la Huelga de El Teniente, with C Pizarro, Ediciones del Ornitorrinco, Santiago, 1986
- Cambiar la Vida, with E Edwards and C Ominami, Editorial Melquiades, Santiago, 1888
- Corporaciones Multinacionales y Autonomía Nacional, Monte Ávila editores, Caracas, Venezuela, 1976
- Economía de Empresas, Departamento de Industrias, Universidad de Chile, 1972
- Chile 2016, ¡No al Pesimismo!, Revista Mensaje , Enero 2016
- Getting to Democracy. Lessons from Successful Transitions. By Abraham F. Lowenthal and Sergio Bitar, Foreign Affairs, 2016
- “Preparar la Estrategia Chile” en Prospectiva y Estrategia, Cuadernos de Difusión, N° 9 Año 7, 2014, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. P. 9-12.
- Tendencias Mundiales y el Futuro de la Educación Superior en Chile, PREAL, Inter American Dialogue, 2015.
- From authoritarian rule toward democratic governance: Learning from political leaders. IDEA, Abril 2015.
- La demanda boliviana de acceso soberano al Pacífico y el interés de Chile en Las propuestas de solución al conflicto entre Chile y Bolivia. Editor Sergio Molina Monasterios. Santiago: LOM ediciones; 2014.
- “Las Tendencias Globales y el Chile Futuro”, en Pensando a Chile del año 2030, Luis Riveros editor, Editorial Occidente, 2012.
- Consensos de reformas educativas en Chile”, PREAL (Programa de promoción de la reforma educativa en América Latina y el Caribe), Agosto 2012.
- El sistema de concesiones para el año 2020, en Concesiones: El esperado relanzamiento, Ediciones LYD, 2012.
- ¿Cómo gobernar mejor el mundo que viene? Tendencias Globales y el Futuro en América Latina. Presentado en Linowitz Forum, Inter American Dialogue, Washington, 8 junio 2012.
- Nueva política de aguas para Chile, Exposición en seminario sobre Futuro, Senado Chile, Enero 2012.
- Concesiones de Obras Públicas al 2020. Exposición Inaugural, Encuentro Concesiones, Debates Bicentenario, Presidencia del Senado, Noviembre 2011.
- “Estados Unidos y América Latina de Cara al 2020” Bildner Center New York City University, May 2011.
- ¿Paralelismos entre Mubarak y Pinochet?, El País, España, 5 May 2011
- “Infrastructure and development” in Toward the Consolidation of the G20, C Bradford and W Lim, editors, Korea Development institute, 2010.
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
- ”Advocacy Award” conferred by TESOL (Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages), in Tampa, Florida, in March of 2006, for his efforts as Minister of Education in promoting the teaching of English in Chile .
- “Outstanding Engineer”, Awarded by Department of Industry, Universidad de Chile, 2004
- Award in recognition for outstanding “Public Service” (Centro ex Alumnos Instituto Nacional, 2001).
- Medalla al Mérito Democrático conferred by the Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia, Chile (2000).
- Decorations by the governments of Argentina, España, Marruecos, Perú, Venezuela.
- “Outstanding Entrepreneur” Award by Corpoprensa, Venezuela, 1978.
- Marcos Orrego Prize, awarded to best student by the Instituto de Ingenieros de Chile (1964).