CHILE IS NO ORDINARY Latin American country, if there ever was such a thing.
The country has 2,670 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, but at its widest point there are only 217 miles separating the east and west coasts.
Over the past three decades Chile has established itself as a benchmark for the rest of the continent in many aspects.
In 2006 Chile became the country with the highest nominal GDP per capita in Latin America, while in 2010 it became the first nation from the continent to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of mainly wealthy countries.
The Global Competitiveness Report, published by the World Economic Forum, consistently ranked the country as the top nation in the continent – well above its larger neighbours, Argentina and Brazil – before it slipped out of the world’s top 30 in the 2011-12 listings. Before a recent dip, the economy had grown steadily for more than a generation on the back of a reputation as a sophisticated, politically stable and relatively easy place to do business.
The capital, Santiago, is situated just a couple of hours away from the Pacific to the west and winter sports resorts in the Andes to the east. While house prices were tumbling in other parts of the world during the global financial crisis, the average price of a home in Santiago increased by 15 per cent in real terms between 2008 and 2012, according to BBVA Research.
However, even though the mining-heavy economy has struggled of late, with growth expected to stumble along at between 1.5 and two per cent this year after expanding at 2.1 per cent in 2015, Chile remains resilient.
Although the economy contracted by 0.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2016, retail activity increased by five per cent. In 2013 a report by Euromonitor International found that spending on sportswear per capita was far higher in Chile ($72.80) per year than any other country in Latin America, with Argentina second on $65.90 and Brazil third on $55.10.
“Most international observers will agree that Chile is not only a reputable emergent market that has serious potential to become a developed nation, but also Chile has served as a role model for many other less developed economies, particularly those in Latin America,” Santiago native Gonzalo Bravo, associate professor of sport management at West Virginia University’s College, tells SportBusiness International.
“Therefore, over the past 20 years an established and solid economy has contributed significantly to improve the standard of living of most Chileans. A higher standard of living had also contributed to change some aspects in Chileans’ daily lifestyle.”
However, there is a world that is a million miles away from the sparkling skyscrapers of ambitious and outward-looking Santiago.
According to the OECD’s figures in 2015, Chile is the most unequal country in the developed world. Although the gap between the rich and poor is starting to close, the income of the wealthiest 10 per cent in Chile is still more than 25 times that of the poorest.
In spite of the challenges, spending on leisure and entertainment has increased from 5.5 per cent of total expenditure in 1997 to 6.6 per cent in 2013. Chileans are keen to spend their money on enjoying themselves. Sport simply needs to find a way to position itself at the forefront of their minds.
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