Bolivia’s Social Policy Response to Covid-19: Hindered by Political and Economic Crises

Bolivia during 2020 was the victim of simultaneous political, economic, and public health crises. The three crises interacted with one another in ways that made each individual crisis more severe. The country’s social policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic was uneven. Emergency cash transfers, a legacy of the left-wing Movement toward Socialism’s (MAS) nearly 14 years in power, performed well. Although the amounts transferred were quite modest, they did reach the vast majority of Bolivians. On education, however, the government failed utterly, ultimately abandoning its constitutional obligation to provide free and universal schooling to all children. Online education never got off the ground and the school year was prematurely cancelled. The Bolivian state’s chronic weakness was on display in its healthcare policy response. Not only did the government inherit inadequate infrastructure, but a combination of administrative incompetence and corruption marred the procurement of much-needed ventilators and other medical equipment. The result was one of the world’s highest Covid-19 mortality rates.