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Miguel Kast Rist (December 18, 1948 - September 18, 1983) was a German-born Chilean economist of the Chicago Boys group. He was most known for his role in public policies, where he promoted a greater focus of resources toward the needy.
Upon getting his Master in Economics at University of Chicago, Miguel Kast joined Odeplan (1973), the state agency that led many public policy and economic changes after 1973. At Odeplan, Miguel Kast focused most of his energies on creating the "map of extreme poverty", which would become the cornerstone of Chile's social development programs. In 1978 he became the head of Odeplan and used his position to involve young professionals in the struggle against poverty by making them join Odeplan and by sending them to the country's outer regions to get insight into the real problems of Chile.
In 1980 Miguel Kast became Labor Minister under the Military government of Augusto Pinochet and in 1982 he became Governor of the Central Bank of Chile.
This was a complicated moment in Chile's economy; the exchange rate was fixed at 39 pesos per dollar and Chile's big economic groups had liabilities with their own banks. As a Central Banker he worked to reduce the level of related loans (loans made to the owners of the banks). He also created a mechanism called the "Portfolio Sale" through which the Central Bank could buy high risk credits to commercial banks. By keeping a fixed exchange rate of 39 pesos per dollar, Miguel Kast hoped to protect local companies that had liabilities in dollars. However the central authority saw it otherwise and on June 13, 1982 decided to devalue the peso. This brought a sharp loss of international reserves and Miguel Kast decided in August 1982 to completely free exchange rate thus further devaluing the peso and bringing a new intervention from the central authority. Under this new threat of instability, Miguel Kast resigned from the Central Bank.
Only few months after his resignation, in January 1983, Miguel Kast learned he had bone cancer. He died on September 18 of the same year.
In recognition to Miguel Kast work, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation created an award named after him to recognize the Latin American think tank which has made the most important contribution to help reduce poverty.
Two of his relatives are involved in politics too: his younger brother José Antonio, and one of his children, Felipe.
Sergio de la Cuadra
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