Michelle Bachelet took the oath of office as president of Chile on Tuesday, vowing to overhaul the country’s education system and jump-start an economy suffering from a lack of skilled labor. Bachelet, 62, has made history by becoming the first leader to return to Chile’s presidential palace for a second term since 1952.
In her inaugural address, Bachelet promised to do everything she can to narrow the widening gulf between the rich and poor in the South American country. Her return is expected to revive the country’s export promotions – especially in global services – which were allegedly neglected under outgoing president Sebastián Piñera.
In 2008, Bachelet’s administration launched programs to teach English language and offered incentives to software makers. Although she was very popular when she left office in 2010, Chile’s constitution barred her from seeking a second successive term in office. Bachelet now enjoys a clear majority in both houses of parliament, something her predecessor lacked.
During her last term, Bachelet resisted calls to spend the huge copper revenues to close the country’s income gap. Instead, she established a sovereign wealth fund to finance social policies and economic stimulus packages.
‘Inequality is Chile’s adversary and it should be defeated,’ she said after taking oath in a colorful ceremony held at the port city of Valparaiso.
Reforming education sector is the biggest challenge facing Bachelet, who defeated her conservative rival Evelyn Matthei in a December runoff.
Thousands of Chilean students have been protesting on the streets demanding that the government reform the education sector and enable easier access to higher education. Bachelet has talked of amending the constitution and raising taxes to fund free higher education.
The Piñera government focused on grooming start-ups and internationalizing Chilean tech firms. Though it poured huge sums of money into the technology sector, the outsourcing sector did not benefit much, partly because of a shrinking skilled workforce.