May 18, 2011 / 6:24 PM / 9 years ago

Minister sees Peru remaining business-friendly

* Energy minister says private sector confidence high

* Says country to stick to policies whoever wins vote

By Daniel Wallis

LA JOLLA, Calif., May 18 (Reuters) - Peru will stick to pro-business policies whoever wins the June 5 presidential run-off, the South American country’s energy and mining minister told an industry conference on Wednesday.

Leftist candidate Ollanta Humala has fallen behind his right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori in opinion polls as moderate voters shy away from the former soldier, who many fear might roll back years of free-market reforms in the booming economy.

Energy and Mining Minister Pedro Sanchez told a Latin American energy conference in La Jolla, California, his country has built up a critical mass of investment in the extractive sector and private investors have faith in Peru’s future.

“There is confidence among investors that our robust fundamentals provide a good place to invest,” Sanchez said.

“I’m convinced that ... we’re going to continue on the path that has been so profitable in terms of alleviating poverty and increasing quality of life,” he said.

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Humala has consistently toned down his once radical views since narrowly losing the 2006 race on a platform endorsed by Venezuela’s firebrand socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

But nearly half of Peruvian voters still think he would follow the path of state intervention in the economy of his former political mentor if elected president, local pollster Datum said this week.

Many moderate voters worry Humala would take over private companies — even though he has repeatedly said he would respect contracts, emphasize fiscal discipline, keep inflation low and maintain the Central Bank’s independence.

Sanchez said a range of mining and energy deals agreed in recent weeks showed international investors were not spooked.

Peru had investment commitments of some $41 billion in its mining sector — almost $16 billion of which had received all the needed permits and were under construction — he said, and it had about $5 billion in pledged hydrocarbon investments.

“It’s a huge amount of committed investment, and that shows the confidence there is in the Peruvian economy,” he said. (Reporting by Daniel Wallis, editing by Anthony Boadle)

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