Administrative division. – The 1980 administrative reorganization reduced the previous 25 provinces to 12 regions and a metropolitan area. The new division has left the provinces of the North and South almost intact, which have become regions, keeping almost all of the denomination and territorial extension (Tarapacá, Antofagasta, Atacama, Coquimbo, Aisén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, Magallanes y Antártica Chilena). In practice, therefore, the 6 peripheral provinces, sparsely populated, have kept their capitals with the sole exception of Aisén. Santiago has lost almost 2000 km 2and it became the metropolitan region of the capital, while the remaining 18 provinces were grouped to form the other 6 regions, with the difference that O’Higgins remained almost intact, Valparaíso groups Aconcagua, Valparaíso and part of Santiago; Bíobío groups Linares, Nubles, Concepción and Arauco, Maule the provinces of Colchagua, Curicó, Talca and Maule; Araucanía includes the provinces of Malleco and Cautín, Los Lagos, those of Valdivia, Osorno, Llanquihue and a large part of Chiloé.
Population. – In just over 30 years, the Chilean population has doubled, from about 6 million residents in 1952, to 8,784,820 in 1970 and to over 12.7 million in 1988. Population growth continues to remain high, even if some points lower than those of South America, so much so that economic development is unlikely to match the rate of growth of the population and its needs.
The difficult relationship between residents and resources is the primary cause of internal, territorial and sectoral imbalances, and of welfare, social and employment difficulties; the extraordinary expansion of Santiago, which accommodates 40% of the Chilean population in its metropolitan area, exacerbates in some ways the situation between the capital and the rest of the state and aggravates the imbalances. For Chile public policy, please check proexchangerates.com.
The new administrative structure allows comparisons to be made only for large areas: in the North the total population has increased by over a quarter, in the South by a third, in the center (including the metropolitan area) by over two thirds, greatly increasing the economic and political weight of this part of the country, as has already been pointed out.
Cities have exerted great attraction, so much so that over 80% of the population is considered urban: Santiago with its gravitation area is home to nearly 5 million people; the minor conurbations (Valparaíso-Viña del Mar with 530,000 residents; Concepción-Talcahuano with 470,000 residents) and other notable cities host over 2.5 million. If the larger ones have generally recorded the most considerable demographic growth, there are various smaller cities (San Bernardo, Punta Arenas, Chillán, Calama, Puente Alto) which have undergone very high percentage increases. Some of them have doubled their population in a decade, polarizing functions and demand for services.
Economic conditions. – Statistical data indicate a significant increase in the agricultural area, which in a decade passed from 6 to 7.4% of the national territory, with an increase of one million hectares of cultivated land, partly to the detriment of meadows and pastures. But the increase in agricultural productivity is above all linked to the execution of hydraulic works, to crop improvements, to the selection of seeds and to the rationalization of crops. Among cereals, a prominent place goes to wheat (17.6 million q), maize, whose production has roughly doubled in a decade (9.9 million q), and rice (1, 8 million q), which doubled the area and tripled the production. The vine, on the other hand, has lost its surface and production, even if Chile continues to remain the second largest wine producer in South America. Among the woody crops, fruit trees and citrus fruits have growing importance, which find favorable conditions for their development in central Chile The production of citrus fruits has increased significantly in the last decade (oranges, 700,000 q; lemons 500,000 q), as well as that of apples, pears and peaches. Fresh fruit is an important item among the country’s exports.
Livestock activity is stationary, with slight increases for cattle, and part of the products feed good export currents. Fishing has had a considerable boost: in a few years Chile has managed to arm a fishing flotilla capable of competing with the United States for the primacy of fish among American countries and occupying fourth place with them, after Japan, the Soviet Union and China., among the major fish producers. Chilean production has doubled several times in a decade (0.7 million t in 1973, 4.8 in 1987) and represents a food base for the population and livestock, and a raw material for the processing industry.
Mineral resources have always represented the main items of the Chilean economy and have also contributed in recent years to rescuing the country from the crisis. The energy sources come mainly from Tierra del Fuego: coal and lignite in the southern regions; oil at Cerro Manantiales, started by pipeline first at Caleta Clarencia and from there to the Talcahuano terminal; natural gas, 5 billion m 3 in Pampa Larga, Punta Delgada, Chanarcillo and elsewhere; Electricity is on the rise (9 billion kWh in 1973; 15.6 in 1987, of which almost four-fifths is water) thanks to the new hydroelectric plants. These energy sources are all intended for internal consumption. Chile also possesses vast deposits of metal ores.
Among these is copper, whose extraction, doubled in a decade, places Chile in first place in the world for the production of mines (1.4 million t) and fourth for that of foundries (1 million t).): copper is the main item of exports and contributes 50% to the total value. Other minerals whose production is increasing are molybdenum (16,700 t in 1987), gold (22,700 kg in 1988) and silver (506,500 kg in 1988), which help to balance the balance of payments. More stationary, but equally important for industrial development and the Chilean economy, are the productions of iron, lead, zinc, vanadium, titanium, manganese, nitrates, salt, guano and potassium salts.
The industrial activity concerns in particular the oil refineries in Talcahuano and Valparaíso, the steel plants in Concepción, Talcahuano and elsewhere, which among other things feed the shipyards in Valdivia, the processing of nitrates and copper in Antofagasta, the food sector, with the most notable plants in the central valley (Santiago), where there are also other industries, from chemicals to electronics, to paper mills, to building materials. Nor should we neglect the assembly of motor vehicles in Arica, a port that serves not only the Chile, but also Bolivia, of which it is the main outlet on the Pacific and a free port.
Communications and foreign trade. – Land communications take place mainly along the central furrow, where the railway and the Pan-American Highway (3369 km) run, which send few branches towards the coast or the Andes. Maritime transport (oil, coal, timber, minerals) and air transport are also of considerable importance. The sharp increase in motor vehicles (738,000 in 1987), which doubled in a decade, is another testimony to the progress made.
The trade balance, which for years had registered a significant deficit between exports and imports, has been constantly active since 1982; in addition, the income derived from tourism, strongly stimulated in recent years.