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Quality of public institutions in Latin America does not correspond to region’s income level

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil - Contrasts between the role of the state in the countries of Asia and those of Latin America and the Caribbean were examined today in a seminar on governance and public administration.

The quality of public institutions in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean does not correspond to the region’s level of income, according to participants. Asian countries have much stronger and more autonomous States, supported by top quality bureaucracies.

“The quality of public administration and institutions is an important factor that up until recently has been ignored in efforts to advance development in the region,” said Antonio Vives, manager of the Sustainable Development Department of the Inter-American Development Bank. “But it is essential to ensure equity and competitiveness,” he said. “Without strong institutions, the possibilities for accumulating and distributing wealth are seriously limited,” he said. 

Institutional capacity was a key factor in making possible a dynamic and equitable growth for some Asian countries. Good State management, with competent public officials, sheltered from the vicissitudes of governmental changes, ensured the necessary stability, participants said.

According to an IDB report, “The Politics of Policies,” Brazil and Chile—although following very different models—are examples of good government, said Vives. “They demonstrate that, as in so many critical areas of development, there is no one road to achieving results.”

Vives noted the pioneering role played by Brazil in institutional development and the professionalism of its civil service, which features “the most complete and consolidated merit system in the region,” he said. “This level of institutionalization is fundamental to give continuity to the State,” he concluded.

Renata Vilhena, secretary of planning and management of the state of Minas Gerais, added that the challenge is not only the wise use of limited resources, but also effective management and the efficient implementation of policies.

Caio Marini, professor at Brazil’s Dom Cabral Foundation, emphasized the continual evolution in this field and the importance of a new integrated and participatory perspective to create a strategic governmental agenda, in which officials, together with the private sector and civil society, can “jointly construct a national program.”

Francisco Longo of the Institute of Public Management ESADE, analyzed achievements and challenges over two decades of reforms in which the State has significantly changed its modus operandi and that, far from playing a minor role, has become more important.

Longo noted that, according to a recent OECD report, the expansion of goal-oriented management, Brazil has created more open and transparent governments, modernized of systems of control and evaluation, used the budget as a strategic management tool, carried out decentralization, increased flexibility in management of public employment, and incorporated market forces. The new challenges facing public administration include developing institutional frameworks and structures for control, accountability and public ethics.

Professor Antonio Augusto Anastasia, former official of the Minas Gerais government, noted the gains of his state’s administration and the reforms carried out in public administration. 

Vives reaffirmed the IDB’s pledge to support institutional strengthening and reform in the region in accordance with the needs of each country.

The well-attended event was organized by the Planning Secretariat of the government of Minias Gerais in coordination with the IDB. It was part of a series of activities held by the IDB in this city in conjunction with the 47th Annual Meeting of the IDB Board of Governors and the 21st annual Meeting of the Inter-American Investment Corporation, April 3-5.

The IDB Annual Meeting is the fourth held in Brazil, one of the founding members of the IDB. The IDB is the foremost and oldest regional development bank and the major source of multilateral development financing in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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