The Emerald Handbook of Public Administration in Latin America

Cover of The Emerald Handbook of Public Administration in Latin America
Subject:

Synopsis

Table of contents

(20 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xvi
Content available
click here to view access options
Abstract

Identifying a single model of public administration in Latin America entails a simplification due to the variety of countries with different governance structures, administrative systems, historical legacies, and ways of addressing public sector reforms over time. Nevertheless, an extended feature among Latin American public administrations is the coexistence of Weberian models with patrimonialism and large-scale patronage practices. Although at first sight public administrations can formally contain all or most of the typical characteristics of a modern bureaucratic system, some of their practices are extraneous to everyday management. In this context, the waves of administrative reforms have sought, with different approaches, to strengthen the public machinery. An important point is that administrative reforms in Latin America largely followed a center–periphery pattern. Firstly, through the imitation of practices of the colonialist countries and later by importing reform packages from the central countries. Thus, this chapter goes over the main historical characteristics in the construction of the Latin American public administration, the reforms paradigms that have marked it and their consequences.

Country Chapters

Abstract

Administrative reforms in Argentina have followed an irregular trajectory as a result of the penetration of patronage in the state apparatus. Extensive politicization has impeded the development of a univocal and stable civil service at the national level.

In this context, the goal of this chapter is to analyze the characteristics of the federal civil service in its interaction with actors and institutions of the political system during the 2004–2014 period. The study reveals two main findings: (1) a diversity of bureaucratic formats coexist in the country, both formally and informally; and (2) the relationships between the administration and the political system vary according to the predominant bureaucratic format.

Abstract

The objective of this chapter is to describe and analyze Brazil's main steps in its long and incomplete process of organizing a professional and responsive public service. During the twentieth century, Brazil had two authoritarian regimes and organized a state-oriented process of industrialization. After 1988, democracy has changed how public administration should be constituted, imposing demands for universal recruitment and accountability. The level of professionalization of the federal public service was improved, with a higher level of education, better wages and the recruitment of public servants to management positions. The challenges ahead are improving governance and executive coordination and raising the responsiveness and quality of public management (such as human resources, planning, budgeting, procurement, information and communication technologies, and organizational modeling) in a context of political instability, slow economic recovery, and substantial public debts at the federal government.

Abstract

In the decades following Chile's 1990 return to democracy, successive governments adopted pioneering reforms aimed at modernizing the state and strengthening democratic governance. This chapter discusses the major developments within Chile's public sector since 1990, with an emphasis on reforms affecting the civil service and public sector management. The politics of the reform process was notable for successful consensus building and led to a more meritocratic, professionally managed public employment system. This chapter also provides an overview of initiatives to strengthen accountability through greater transparency and citizen participation in government, as well as the major public sector management reforms adopted during the last three decades.

Abstract

Uncertainty is one of the principal features of public administration in Colombia. Therefore, presenting a clear and consistent analysis is difficult. This uncertainty exists alongside interesting efforts to modernize institutions. Among the challenges faced by public administration in Colombia, we find corruption, illegal bands of drug traffickers, and the lack of trust between critical actors involved in governance. The aim of this chapter is to share an analysis that illustrates the difficulties and contradictions faced by those working in the public sector.

“Colombia is a legal social state organized in the form of a unitary republic, decentralized, with the autonomy of its territorial units, democratic, participatory, and pluralistic, based on respect of human dignity, on the work and solidarity of the individuals who belong to it, and the predominance of the general interest” (National Constitution, 1st Article).

“Colombia is a legal social state organized in the form of a unitary republic, decentralized, with the autonomy of its territorial units, democratic, participatory, and pluralistic, based on respect of human dignity, on the work and solidarity of the individuals who belong to it, and the predominance of the general interest” (National Constitution, 1st Article).

Abstract

Costa Rica is recognized as one of the two countries with the longest continuous democracy in Latin America. After a short civil war, the country dissolved its armed forces and adopted a new constitution that established the basis of a Welfare State and a meritocratic public administration. The aim of this chapter is to analyze the characteristics of the Costa Rican public administration since the end of the 1990s. We discuss the dilemmas presented by its high level of fragmentation and the actions that have been taken—based mainly on the neo-Weberian paradigm—to modernize the traditional public apparatus so that it becomes more efficient, transparent, and responsive to citizens.

Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to analyze the profile of public administration concerning its capacity to authoritatively assign values to a society, and in particular to the political system in Mexico. Many of the recent transformations in the Mexican public administration have occurred in a context in which a democratic opening of the political system has been the main trait of public life. This is the main light under which these changes in Mexico's federal public administration in recent years should be read.

The article explores the structural features of both the government and the federal public administration in Mexico. In particular, the transformation of the administrative apparatus not only in quantitative but also in qualitative terms is explained as a result of a change in the balance between the public and private sectors in recent decades, as well as the experience of the Professional Career Service and its impact on public officials in Mexico. We examine the links of the bureaucracy with political parties and civil society, as well as the political relationships within the public administration itself. We also describe accountability within the federal public administration. We explore recent reform and change processes in Mexico's administrative apparatus. Finally, some considerations are given to the opportunities and challenges facing the contemporary Mexican public administration as a result of having huge problems and at the same time partial solutions.

Abstract

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.

Abstract

Modernization attempts have been undertaken in Uruguay during the last 20 years, inspired by both neo-managerial and neo-Weberian approaches. However, except for a few cases, most reforms have failed to achieve substantial gains in administrative capacity, effectiveness, or efficiency. We argue that some virtuous qualities of Uruguayan democracy can also show a dark side as they frequently turn into obstacles for State sector reform, no matter its orientation. Firstly, the electoral and party system obliges the Executive to build wide interparty consensus through intensive negotiations in order to advance significant transformations. Secondly, there are multiple nonpartisan actors which are powerful enough to block reform attempts. Moreover, the current pact between politicians and bureaucrats carries several negative consequences: high politicization of management decisions, serious management deficit, as well as low responsiveness of middle and lower staff levels. For all these reasons, the road to modernization of public management in Uruguay is sinuous and plagued with obstacles.

Cross Country Chapters

Abstract

Departing from a so-called “modern civil service” as an ideal type, this chapter evaluates the status of public personnel management in Latin America. Such an ideal model is considered a mix between the organizational principles of the traditional civil service and those of the new public management perspective. First, the chapter presents the different phases that public management practices have undergone in some developed countries. Secondly, following several studies and data provided by the IADB, the level of development of several civil service systems in Latin America is analyzed and several of their construction–destruction–reconstruction patterns are presented. Lastly, the cases that most approach a modern civil service are discussed and some recommendations offered to reformers in this region.

click here to view access options
Abstract

This chapter explores the question of the relationship between bureaucracy and politics in Latin America. The objective is exploring the role that politics plays in guaranteeing a professional and autonomous bureaucracy structure.

The chapter first examines an institutional explanation for bureaucratic performance. I will scrutinize the institutional arrangements that might preclude the existence of a professional bureaucracy. The chapter then “brings the state back in,” under the assumption that the explanation for performance of bureaucracy might have been related to long-lasting conditions of “Stateness.” The bureaucracy is analyzed in a more historical perspective and relates the former with specific societal and partisan coalitions at the time of state consolidation. These historical decisions seem to have determined a pattern of clientelistic utilization of the State apparatus in some countries but not in others. The partial evidence presented in this section suggests the importance of “state strength” to understand bureaucratic performance.

Abstract

This chapter analyzes the concept of the Center of Government (CoG) and its relevance for the public administration agenda in Latin America. It identifies five key functions of the CoG: strategic management, policy coordination, performance monitoring and improvement, political management, and communications and accountability, and it assesses the region's performance for each of them, citing concrete experiences. The CoG is still an emerging topic for scholars and practitioners in Latin America. Despite the fact that CoGs in Latin America formally recognize most if not all of its five key functions, the region shows a relatively weak performance in practice. Nonetheless, recent innovative experiences show an increased interest in governments to strengthen the CoG and suggest paths that may lead to improved performance.

The CoG may be a relatively new topic in public administration research, but it is not a new phenomenon. It refers to functions that have been performed, and to structures that have existed, for several decades in many countries, including Latin American ones. However, a number of factors have led to an increased relevance of CoG institutions in recent years. The first section of this chapter will attempt to define the concept of “Center of Government”; to enumerate the CoG's main political and technical functions; to describe the typical structures that perform these functions; and to indicate why these institutions play a critical role in current times. Then, Section 2 will discuss how CoG institutions in Latin American countries have been performing their core functions, identifying regional trends and country-level configurations. The political economy of CoG strengthening will also be covered. Section 3 concludes.

Abstract

This chapter studies Digital (or Electronic) Government in Latin American (LatAm) countries from a comparative perspective. It analyzes a group of countries with a significant degree of economic diversity and public administration heterogeneity. This chapter presents data about the development of the Information Society in Latin America, regarding the diffusion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the Internet in the countries of the region and taking into account the digital divide phenomenon. It also analyzes Digital Government from a regional perspective, pinpointing intergovernmental institutions and international organizations devoted to design and define, and, in some cases, implement, shared perspectives and a common agenda within this region. This overview is brought forward by a comparative approximation to the development of e-Government readiness in LatAm countries, using data from the United Nations reports. Additionally, this chapter analyzes sectional e-Government dimensions, including digital public administration national agendas, electronic public service delivery websites, interoperability initiatives, social media technologies, open data and open government strategies, and the future of technology in public sector of the region. Therefore, this chapter is important to understand the role of ICTs as one of the most recent sources of innovation and reform in public administrations Latin America.

Abstract

Governance is becoming an increasingly important concept in European theoretical debates and in political practice as a new way to manage public policies, since the public sector reforms in the 1980s. However, the debate in Latin America has different characteristics than in Europe, so it is necessary to provide a critical review of the proposed agenda for the transformation of the state in the region, and of the transfer of the concept of governance by multilateral agencies. To understand these changes, this chapter examines three key areas of reforms in Latin America and the privatization of public services, new social policy proposals, and the decentralization process. This will help us understand the tension between normative models and specific patterns of governance that prevail in Latin America.

Abstract

This article will attempt to answer the following question: what has been done to prevent corruption and promote a “good government” in Latin America, what are the results and what explains the current situation? After analyzing very different experiences, the following could be stated: (1) there is at least a formal concern for promoting integrity in several countries, but there are problems of diagnosis and formulation; (2) the examples of implementation failures are far too many in Latin America. In any case, the most important factor explaining failures of design and implementation is the presence of a social trap and a political trap. The social trap is expressed by the incoherence of society itself, which demands honesty from Government, but in practice incentivizes corruption by paying bribes, breaching rules, and demanding privileges within the framework of clientelist networks. The political trap emerges from the strong path dependency effect resulting from the consolidation of patronage or clientelist networks.

Abstract

This chapter describes an institutional choice that most Latin American countries have taken in the past 25 years: the creation of national Public Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (PPME) systems. We summarize research assessing their institutionalization, identify their shortcomings, and discuss trends demonstrating a potential – not yet realized – to fulfill their vocation as instruments of political and democratic accountability. Despite remarkable progress in their institutionalization, the evidence suggests that the systems fall short in producing strong results-oriented democratic accountability. Key factors hindering this aspiration include the systems' low credibility, problems associated to their diversification, low institutional coherence, and lack of effective coordination mechanisms to improve information legibility, its quality, its usefulness, and thus its use by both public managers and citizens. We suggest that PPME systems depend on environmental conditions beyond government structures and processes and argue that citizen-oriented mechanisms and entry points for social participation around the systems are required to fulfill their accountability function.

Abstract

The chapters within this Handbook have contained a very large amount of information about the political and administrative systems of a number of Latin American countries. This concluding chapter will attempt to extract some general themes from that material, and to relate the findings in the chapters to our general themes of turbulence, formalism, and politicization of public administration in the region. These themes appear throughout the national cases and in the cross-cutting chapters but should be highlighted as we attempt to integrate the findings from our chapter authors.

Index

Pages 489-502
Content available
Cover of The Emerald Handbook of Public Administration in Latin America
DOI
10.1108/9781839826764
Publication date
2021-01-12
Editors
ISBN
978-1-83982-677-1
eISBN
978-1-83982-676-4