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Paraguay: The Supremacy of Informality in Public Administration

The Emerald Handbook of Public Administration in Latin America

ISBN: 978-1-83982-677-1, eISBN: 978-1-83982-676-4

Publication date: 12 January 2021


This chapter assesses public administration in Paraguay. It argues that the country's public administration and public personnel structures have been shaped by a predominance of informal decision-making norms, patron–client relations, exceptional legislative interference in what elsewhere tend to be executive prerogatives, and weak accountability mechanisms of a state largely captured by a small oligarchy. In this context, administrative reform has been mostly instigated by external actors—donors and international financial institutions—and only achieved incremental progress in, in particular, the modernization of public finance institutions during periods of economic crises or political change when external demand coincided with domestic pressure. Except for some “pockets of efficiency,” Paraguay thus remains a benchmark case of a neopatrimonial state in a formally democratic Presidential system, in which informal patron–client relations trump formal bureaucratic structures—albeit one in which the legislature has exceptional influence over administrative matters and public sector jobs are exceptionally dominant in clientelist exchanges of state resources.



Professor in Public Management, School of Public Policy, University College London. This chapter was prepared by the author in 2013 for The Emerald Handbook of Public Administration in Latin America. The author would like to thank Jose Tomas Sanchez, former Minister of Civil Service in Paraguay, for comments and suggestions on the chapter and Mauro Casa for updating parts of the chapter in 2018.


Schuster, C. (2021), "Paraguay: The Supremacy of Informality in Public Administration", Peters, B.G., Tercedor, C.A. and Ramos, C. (Ed.) The Emerald Handbook of Public Administration in Latin America, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 203-228.



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