Bolivians' restaurant spending surges as economy expands

Bolivians have greatly increased their spending in restaurants as a result of an expanding economy that has provided more disposable income, the country´s Economy and Finance Ministry reported this week.

“One clear indicator that people now have more money in their pockets is the increase in the value of sales and services by restaurants and supermarkets in the country,” the ministry said. "In 2005 restaurants were selling $67 million but by 2014 the figured reached $635 million, which represents an 853 percent increase."

Between January and June 2014, restaurants reached a total sales revenue of $292 million. Between January and June 2015, that revenue was $335 million, representing a 15 percent increase compared with a year earlier, the ministry added.

Restaurants are just one indicator of the greater internal demand that is fueling the country´s economic growth, the ministry said. Other industries also dependent on internal demand such as construction, electricity and water are also expanding.

“The positive performance of all the previously described indicators has pushed the economic growth of the country,” the ministry said, adding that the economic growth for the first six months of the year stands at 5.2 percent.

For the first time in its history, Bolivia posted the biggest economic growth in Latin America of 3.4 percent in 2009. In 2014, it once again posted the highest economic growth in the region.

The expansion has been attributed by the government to diverse changes following the election of Evo Morales as president. One of the changes was the nationalization of hydrocarbon assets, which allowed Bolivians to receive much bigger revenues from the sale of natural gas extracted in its territory. The country has posted fast economic growth rates since then.

The Bolivian Chamber of Commerce separately has warned that a sharp slowdown in capital goods imports this year could be an indicator that there is a reduction in investments and that the economic growth may be about to slow. The imports of capital goods and supplies for industry are down 10.7 percent in the first seven months of the year compared with 2014, the chamber has warned, according to reports in its website.

The president of the country´s chamber of commerce, Fernando Caceres, has noted that the decrease in spending represents $163 million less in investment of capital goods and $39.5 million less in industrial supplies.