Chile's Bachelet unveils $28 bln infrastructure investment plans

SANTIAGO, July 3 (Reuters) - Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet unveiled on Thursday plans for nearly $28 billion in public and private investment in infrastructure projects over the next eight years, increasing public works spending by a percentage point of gross domestic product.

Only about a fourth of the Andean nation’s nearly 90,000 kilometers of roads are paved, far short of the average of 79 percent among member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which includes Chile.

Bachelet said the plan “addresses the challenges we face in terms of public infrastructure in the short and long term ... we can’t let this opportunity pass because we’re only going to become developed if we invest heavily and continually in public infrastructure.”

The plan encompasses two main areas of investment, including an estimated $18 billion through 2021 to improve road infrastructure in Chile’s extreme north and south, build dams, pave rural roads and upgrade ports and air fields.

It also considers investments of $9.9 billion through 2020 in concession-operated roads.

Several foreign companies, such as Spain’s Abertis own and operate Chile’s main toll roads.

With the planned investments, Chile will increase spending in infrastructure to 3.5 percent of GDP, from a current 2.5 percent, said Bachelet, who in her second term in office is pursuing a battery of reforms to reduce high levels of income inequality. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by David Gregorio)

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