Bolivia is a landlocked country in South American. It borders Peru and Chile to the west, Argentina and Paraguay to the south and Brazil to the east. Bolivia is home to the Altiplano plateau on which lives half the country’s population. The big cities of Oruro, PotosÃ, and La Paz are found in the plateau, which has an altitude of 11,910 ft (3,630 m). The north eastern and eastern lowlands of the Oriente make two-thirds of the country. This region is mainly forest and grassland. Bolivia also boasts of Lake Titicaca, which is the highest commercially traversable water body in the world. The lake stands at an altitude of 12,507 ft (3,812 m).
In pre-colonial period, Bolivia was part of the ancient Inca Empire. During the Spanish colonial rule, the native and predominantly Indian population in Bolivia became slaves. Bolivia thus became a largely stratified society characterized by social and economic inequalities. The country became independent in 1825. It was then named after SimÃ³n BolÃvar, its famous liberator. As a result of internal communal wrangles, Bolivia lost sizeable chunks of its territory to Chile, Brazil, and Paraguay.
Bolivia is quite rich in natural and man-made resources. It also has a huge market share for natural resources such as gas. Its key export trade partners in the region are Brazil and Argentina to which it exports quite a lot of gas and related products, which form about half of Bolivia’s export trade. The economic growth of Bolivia is typically attributed to its gas exports to Brazil and Argentina. In spite of the gas exports, Bolivia is among the most underdeveloped Latin American states. The worrying economic trend is attributed to state-focused policies that hinder private investment and economic growth.
The country has also faced numerous economic challenges such as the economic crisis of the early 1980s and the political insurgencies and racial tensions of 2003-2005. Also, the Bolivian government passed a contentious hydrocarbons law that imposed significantly higher royalties and required foreign firms operating under risk-sharing contracts to surrender all production to the state energy company in exchange for a predetermined service fee. The 2007-2008 global financial recessions also slowed Bolivia’s economic growth. However, it reported the highest growth rate in South America in 2009. Since 2009, Bolivia’s economic growth has averaged 5.3%.
The economic growth can be explained by high commodity prices and trade surpluses. Other hindrances to Bolivia’s economic growth and sustainability are poor foreign investment policies for its mining and energy sectors, internal conflicts, and unstable global oil prices.
Bolivia faces several international challenges such as international disputes, human trafficking, and illicit drug use and trafficking. On international disputes, Bolivia currently has a wrangle with Chile and Peru over Bolivia’s attempt to reclaim the Atacama corridor, which it ceded to Chile in 1884. Concerning human trafficking, Bolivia is a major source of children, men, and women for human trafficking cartels who traffic humans for sex slavery and forced labor. Bolivian women and girls are mainly sex trafficked to countries such as Brazil, Chile, Peru, Spain, and the US.
Bolivia is the third largest producer of cocoa. It is estimated that in 2011, Bolivia had 30,000 hectares of land under cocoa. It also produces huge quantities of cocaine, increasing its potential for pure cocaine production. Bolivia has weak border controls, which explains the ease of transit for Peruvian and Colombian cocaine destined for Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Europe. Bolivian cocaine finally finds its way into the US and elsewhere across the world.