Chile finance minister predicts 'very bad' end to year

Santiago (AFP) –


Chile's economy is facing a "very bad" end to the year due to ongoing protests against social and economic inequality, new Finance Minister Ignacio Briones said on Tuesday.

Briones was only appointed to the role on Monday as under-fire President Sebastian Pinera reshuffled his cabinet for the third time since assuming office in March 2018.

At least 20 people have died in demonstrations that began on October 18 and protesters continued to clash with security forces in central Santiago on Monday despite Pinera's latest measures.

The crisis "will signify a very bad end of the year for the Chilean economy, but the most worrying thing is that the signals we've given out ... will generate a decrease in investment," Briones told radio Cooperativa.

He said the "new reality" meant expected growth of 2.5 percent would have to be revised.

Protesters have been demanding Pinera's resignation and despite his making a raft of concessions including an increase in the minimum wage and pensions, public unrest shows no sign of abating.

While the level of destruction and looting has dropped significantly since the first two days of protests, some shops were ransacked on Monday and a fire tore through a building housing a shopping center and a hotel.

"There are ventures and businesses completely ruined that are not going to be able to operate for the coming months," added Briones.

As the new finance minister, Briones has been tasked with finding the resources to fund Pinera's social package aimed at calming protesters.

The billionaire president last week announced measures to reduce health care costs, as well as the minimum wage subsidy and higher pensions.