CAMPAIGNS: PUBLIC AFFAIRS; Firing up red hot Chile pensions

Client: Chile PR Team: Larkspur Communications Campaign: Chile’s personal pensions scheme Timescale: November 1995 to May 1996 Budget: Around pounds 12,000 per month for full country image campaign

Client: Chile

PR Team: Larkspur Communications

Campaign: Chile’s personal pensions scheme

Timescale: November 1995 to May 1996

Budget: Around pounds 12,000 per month for full country image campaign

Memories of Pinochet’s brutal military coup, and subsequent

dictatorship, and the unstability of wider Latin America often eclipse

Chile’s current status as a democracy with the strongest economy in the

region. Larkspur, which has been handling Chile’s UK PR since June 1995,

sought to fly a more up-beat Chilean flag.


To emphasise Chile’s financial credentials and stability.


Larkspur decided to highlight Chile’s private pension scheme. Under the

Administradoras de Fondos de Pensiones or AFPs system, workers pay no

social security tax but have at least ten per cent of their pay credited

to an investment account.

Since their introduction in 1980, around 90 per cent of Chilean workers

have taken out AFPs. Pensions are now 50 to 100 per cent higher than

under the old state-run scheme; dollars 25 billion - equivalent to 40

per cent of Chile’s GNP - has been saved, and largely due to the success

of AFPs, GDP growth has averaged at 6.4 per cent for more than a decade.

Larkspur kicked off the campaign with releases quoting influential

third-parties sanctioning Chile under the theme: Chile, the Switzerland

of Latin America.

To demonstrate this progress to the UK, Labour’s social security team

was then advised about AFPs, leading to requests for further information

from the then Labour social security spokesman Donald Dewar.

Various public policy think tanks were contacted, one of which, the Adam

Smith Institute, was about to publish a report on the UK’s social

security system. The report, commissioned by social security secretary

Peter Lilley, already cited Chile’s model as a possible alternative to

the UK system.

With ASI agreement, Larkspur attended the report’s House of Commons

launch with its own media release. Simultaneously, it contacted Sunday

Telegraph economics editor Bill Jamieson, who based his next column on

how AFPs had transformed the Chilean economy.

Larkspur also arranged meetings between Jamieson and Chilean ministers,

and other key figures - including pension scheme architect Jose Pinera -

to coincide with a trip the journalist was already making to Chile.

Following Jamieson’s piece, which sparked more media coverage, the

social security select committee requested more information. An agency-

arranged visit by Pinera to the UK followed, during which he give

televised evidence to the committee and met Peter Lilley.

Larkspur is now assisting the select committee prior to a fact-finding

visit to Chile.


The pensions scheme gained wide and positive coverage in the quality

press and on TV and radio. It also captured the time and interest, of

politicians from both main parties, including Peter Lilley, think-tanks

and the social security select committee.


By promoting Chile’s innovative private pensions system at a time when a

social security overhaul, and the stakeholder economy, were on the

agenda, Larkspur managed to give the media, and politicians, what they

wanted, when they wanted it.

The spotlight may, of course, have fallen on Chile’s pensions anyway.

Radhika Ajmera, a director of fund managers Abtrust, says Chile has been

seen as a model for Latin America for several years and that the

financial community is aware of the benefits of its pension scheme.

However, Larkspur was, undeniably, fundamental in fuelling this year’s

interest. As the Sunday Telegraph’s Bill Jamieson says: ‘Without the

agency, my article wouldn’t have been written. It’s certainly put Chile

on the map.’

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in