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Lack of coordination in executive branches hurting delivery to citizens, IDB study finds

The heads of executive branches of most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean lack sufficiently strong oversight, coordination and monitoring mechanisms to ensure campaign promises and other outputs are delivered effectively, a new study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) shows.

The study is the first of its kind in the region that looks at the capacities of these crucial agencies within administrations – known as “strategic cores” or “centers of government” – to coordinate the vast bureaucratic machinery of government.

These agencies are often part of the offices of presidents, prime ministers, and, at the subnational level, governor and mayors. Examples include the Office of Management and Budget at the White House, Casa Civil at the Brazilian Federal Government and the Office of the President in Mexico.

Performing these “center of government” functions is increasingly more critical for governments under pressure to deliver. Issues such as social inclusion, job creation or citizen security are cross-cutting and need integrated, whole-of-government policy responses. The growing demand from citizens for better public services has underscored the importance of strengthening the governments’ capacity to deliver.

The report -- Governing to Deliver: Reinventing the Center of Government in Latin America and the Caribbean – analyzes the existing literature to establish performance benchmarks and used survey data from officials and experts in 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to determine how these coordinating functions work in practice.

In most instances, countries of Latin America and the Caribbean lag behind their more developed peers. Just over one in three countries in Latin America use their Centers of Government to systematically coordinate inter-ministerial initiatives. This contrasts with OECD countries, where 97 percent of its member countries use their strategic cores to coordinate the implementation of initiatives that involve several ministries.

The trend towards stronger Centers of Government has existed for some years in OECD countries, especially since the creation of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in the United Kingdom in 2001. Similar innovations have since then been replicated in other European and Asian countries, and, only more recently, in a few Latin American and Caribbean ones. The publication reviews and analyzes the most relevant of these international experiences.

“Strategic cores tend to be politically strong in Latin America and the Caribbean because of their connections with the presidencies or the prime ministers,” said Carlos Santiso, the division chief of the Institutional Capacity of the State Division of the IDB. “Mostly, however, they are technically weak, leading to frustrations by presidents, as well as by citizens who find government services wanting.”

“This book looks at ways political leaders can better plan, coordinate, monitor and then communicate their priorities,” Santiso added.

The study includes a new self-assessment tool that looks at 21 indicators, from whether government priorities are aligned with budgets to communications and accountability mechanisms.

In an ideal scenario, the Center of Government will have the institutionalized processes necessary to plan the priorities and strategies for the chief executive’s term in office, real power to ensure consistency and coordination in policy design and execution, and the organizations or advisors to negotiate and secure the approval of government programs.

The publication was produced by the IDB’s Institutional Capacity of the State division, which supports Latin American and Caribbean countries in their quest to achieve more effective, efficient and open governments.

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