Sergio Bitar is a leading Chilean engineer, economist and politician. He has participated in the processes of social change and transition to democracy in Chile, and in the design of public policies and development strategies for Chile and Latin America.
He is president of the Chilean Council for Strategy and Foresight, 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.
He is a senior nonresident fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, where he directs the program “Global Trends and Latin America´s Future”. He is Vice president of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA, Stockholm, 2016- ).
Also a member of the following institutions: Consejo de Políticas de Infraestructura; Advisory Council Department of Industry, Faculty of Engineering; Advisory Council of the Sustainability Observatory, Faculty of Economics, University of Chile; member of the board of Foundation Chile 21.
HIS FIRST POLITICAL AND ACADEMIC ACTIVITIES
After finishing his studies in Chile, France and the U.S.
- He was a professor of economics, director of the Department of Industries of the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Mathematics of the University of Chile;
- In charge of the Industrial Planning Division, “Corporación de Fomento de la Producción” (CORFO, 1968-1970).
- 1971 and 1972, President Salvador Allende’s economic advisor
- Minister of Mining. 1973,
- He was one of the founders (1971) of the “Izquierda Cristiana” a new political party.
The military coup of 9/11/1973 changed his life. He became a political prisoner for over a year at Dawson Island (South of Magellan strait) and other concentration camps under Pinochet’s dictatorship. He was then expelled and sent to exile for 10 years (1975-84), banned from returning to his country. 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 to oppose the dictatorship and participated in the creation of the “Partido por la Democracia” (1987, PPD), the “Concertación de Partidos por el NO” (1988) and “Concertacion de Partidos por la Democracia” (1989).
PUBLIC FUNCTIONS AFTER THE RETURN TO DEMOCRACY 1990-2010
- President of the Party pro-Democracy on 3 occasions (1992-94, 1997-2000, 2006- 2008). 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 (Senador Virtual). President of the Budget Sub Committee for the Armed Forces (2000 and 2001).
- He created and presides the Corporación Museo del Salitre, a nonprofit organization, 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 increasing access to higher education of low-income students. In 2003, he contributed to 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 higher education 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:
- He was a member of the Consejo de la Universidad de Chile, representing the president of the Republic (2014-18), as well member of the Board of Catholic University of Temuco (2014-15), Universidad Mayor (2010-2011) and Universidad de Santiago (2002)
- Vice-President of the “Fundación Paz Ciudadana”, dedicated to studies and proposals for citizen´s security (1992-2018)
- President Fundacion por la Democracia, Chile (2011-15)
- 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- )
- Vice president Board of Advisers, Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, IDEA, Sweden ( 2016- )
- 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 (Diplôme, 1965) and at Harvard University (Master´s Degree in Public Administration, 1971).
- Degree in Civil Engineering, Universidad de Chile (1963)
- Secondary education, Instituto Nacional (1951-1957).
EXPERIENCE AS BUSINESSMAN
- President and general manager of an industrial company in Venezuela (1976-1986) and member of the board of other companies in Chile (1987-1993).
AUTHOR OF BOOKS:
- Democratic Transitions. Conversation with World Leaders, Sergio Bitar and 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, Russian, 2017, Vietnamese and Portuguese, 2019. The book is based on interviews to 13 presidents that led transitions in 9 countries of Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
- Tendencias Mundiales y el Futuro de America Latina, CEPAL, 2014 and 2016
- Why and how Latin America should think about the Future, Washington, editions 2014 and 2016
- El Gobierno de Allende, 4a edición, 2017; Previous titles: Chile 1970-1973, Editorial Pehuén, Chile, 1996 and 2001, also published as Transicion, Socialismo y Democracia. La Experiencia Chilena, Editorial Siglo XXI, Mexico, 1978; in Portuguese 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.
- La Caída de Allende y la Huelga de El Teniente, with C Pizarro, Editorial Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, 2018, Ediciones del Ornitorrinco, Santiago, 1986
- Isla 10, 14 editions, Chile, 2018. (Also translated to Arab 1995; Albanian, Biblioteca Elefans, Pristina, 2014; Italian, Teti editores, Roma, 2015, French Edit. Tiresias, Paris, 2017, and English Prisoner of Pinochet, Wisconsin University Press, 2018). In 2009 was released the film Dawson, based on Bitar’ book and directed by Miguel Littin. The Consejo Cinematográfico de Chile nominated that film to the Goya and Oscar film festivals.
- 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 by 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.
- Cambiar la Vida, with E Edwards and C Ominami, Editorial Melquiades, Santiago, 1988
- Política Económica de Estados Unidos en América Latina, Documentos de la Administración Reagan, Grupo Editor Latinoamericano, Buenos Aires, 1984.
- Corporaciones Multinacionales y Autonomía Nacional, Monte Ávila editores, Caracas, Venezuela, 1976
- Economía de Empresas, Departamento de Industrias, Universidad de Chile, 1972 and 1975
- How Foresight Could Strenghten Governance in Latin America, Inter-American Dialogue, 2019
- Cambio Tecnológico y Futuro del Trabajo en America Latina. ¿Cómo impactara la digitalización y qué Hacer? Inter-American Dialogue, 2019
- America Latina: Desafíos de la Democracia. Wall Street International, Enero 2019
- Democracia y Fuerzas Armadas en Chile, World Street International, enero 2019.
- Lessons from Hope and Failure. Allende’s Government Attempt to Achieve Major Transformations in Chile, forthcoming, 2019, Claes Brundenius, editor
- 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, January 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
- Gold Medal Institute of Engineers of Chile, 2017
- O’Donnell Democracy Award and Lectureship, Latin American Studies Association, 2017
- Ingeniero del Año 2016, Colegio de Ingenieros de Chile, 2016
- ” Advocacy Award” conferred by TESOL (Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages), in Tampa, Florida, in 2006, for his efforts as Minister of Education in promoting the teaching of English in Chile.
- “Ingeniero destacado”, 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).