Institutions Count: Their Role and Significance in Latin American Development

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Regional architecture

Source: Constructed by the author, The authors explore how elected officials use statutes to establish policy details in an effort to achieve desired outcomes. In this context, the scholars pay attention to two different strategies: one is to write long statutes with extremely detailed language in an effort to micromanage the policy making process; while the other is to write vague statutes that leave many details unspecified, thereby delegating policy making authority to bureaucrats Huber and Shipan General policy language. Understand the establishment of goals and policies in its own competence areas.

Specific policy language. Process, harmonize and conciliate the set of public policies and integrate them to the Development Plan. Propose alternatives and necessary resources for the financing of national and sub-national development plans. Set the social and economic valuation criteria for investment projects financed directly or indirectly by the state.

Promote and coordinate research and studies on modernization and technification of the macro-structure of the State. Approve the methodologies for the identification, formulation and evaluation of projects financed with public resources. Latin-American presidents have played a major role in shaping the structure of public administration in their countries. Much of this influence comes from the presidential power to veto legislation and the executive right to introduce legislative proposals in certain policy areas, particularly in the creation of new bureaucratic offices.

This authority of creating, transforming and terminating administrative agencies has not faced effective veto points. There have not been strong actors with access to institutional or extra-institutional means of blocking the presidential will of organizational change. This situation, combined with the fact that the legal mandates and functions of the central planning agencies leave many details unspecified, has allowed the executive substantial discretion in transforming the structural arrangement of the planning agency.

Through the redeployment of the goals, functions and purposes of the planning organization, the planning agencies have been converted in ways unanticipated by their designers. Historically, Presidents in Latin America have adopted a wait-and-see approach that better suited their interests, becoming the main agent of endogenous organizational change within this process.

However, what is the rationale for Presidents to influence the course of action taken by the planning agencies? While Presidents have been the main actor responsible for the evolving role of the central planning agencies, they have not always actively sought to preserve or change the planning agency. Instead, they act in an opportunistic manner and depending on the circumstances and historical moments they use the planning agency in ways that better suit their interests. Mobilizing foreign aid resources : Presidents first saw the opportunity in establishing planning agencies when the Alliance for Progress and later on the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development-IBRD World Bank started requiring countries to set up a planning agency and construct a national development plan, as conditionality to access external aid and obtain technical assistance.

By the lates, Presidents had fulfilled their commitment made in Punta del Este, the central planning agency was in motion and at least one national development plan had been created. However, these plans were infrequently used as a basis for economic policy making and appeared to constitute a diplomatic maneuver for attracting foreign capital.

Exercising veto against politically powerful ministers and controlling the spending appetite of the line ministers : Starting in the lates and throughout the s, countries in the region created mechanisms inside the planning agency to filter and prioritize the spending proposals coming from the line ministries.

By means of these project prioritization tools, governments could rationalize the national budget and provide technical viability to public investment projects. This meant that all ministries and other public organizations had to submit their investment projects to the planning office for approval prior to sending them to the Ministry of Finance. Providing the President with technical justifications and legitimacy : Supported by the work conducted in the planning agencies, Presidents have sought to remain popular and strengthen their legitimacy by using national plans to explain how national goals and economic growth can be achieved.

Also, Presidents have used the technocracies inside the planning agencies to justify politically costly decisions such as fiscal adjustments, budget cuts and tax rises. While turnover of staff at the planning agency occurred, the data was jealously kept. Likewise, the tentacles of the planning agency across the public sector have historically granted Presidents with an across-the-board control-point and influence of the public sector, whether through the establishment of satellite planning dependencies inside line ministries, regional and municipal planning offices or through the appointment of the head of the planning agency in the boards of other public agencies.

This paper explains the paradoxical transformation of the central planning agencies in Latin America. Although these agencies were the natural candidates for retrenchment when confronted with pro-market and multilevel planning public sector reforms, they nonetheless persisted with distinct structural attributes from one country to another. Even though external shocks and pressures have been powerful stimuli for changes in organizational arrangements of the planning bodies, transformations occurred neither rapidly nor as a result of exogenous distresses. Indeed, Presidents have been major agents of change underpinning transformations of central planning agencies.

The political environment in Latin America, particularly presidential systems of government that have characterized the region, have granted presidents with powers to rearrange the functions and the internal structure of the public sector via decrees, laws, and reorganization plans with little or close to zero veto powers from other stakeholders, such as Congress.

However, presidents are actors who have ambiguous preferences about the organizational continuity of organizations. They have not actively sought to preserve planning agencies nor have they tried to change them. Instead, presidents have exploited whatever possibilities exist within the institutional context of planning organizations to achieve their ends.

Venezuela —; Mexico —; Bolivia —; Argentina —; Peru —; Nicaragua —; Brazil —; Colombia — Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Open Access. First Online: 24 June The tendency to pursue administrative reforms in Latin America through the executive rather than through Congress is present in the context of the planning agencies. However, in these four cases it was the President executive who initiated the legislation, submitting the draft bill to Congress. Table 1 Legal instrument behind the creation of the planning office.

Republic Junta Nac. Para la Planific. Presidential Agreement Nicaragua Ofic. The authority of Latin American Presidents to create, transform and terminate administrative agencies has not significantly changed since the onset of the planning offices. Once again, in these latter countries, it was the President who initiated the legislation, submitting the respective bill to Congress.

Table 2 Legal instruments used to transform the planning offices. Measure No.

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Republic Secr. Decree No. Table 3 Amendments to the planning agencies made by presidential mandate. Country Presidential mandates Argentina Decree 7. The GFI captures average sentence length and the frequency of use of multisyllabic words 2 : the higher the GFI, the harder the written passage is to comprehend. While near-universal understanding requires an index of less than 8 for texts in English, in Spanish it calls for an index no greater than As illustrated in Fig. These rather high scores suggest that the mission statement of the planning agencies is complicated and hard to communicate, thus allowing for great possibility of interpretation in terms of what the agency is expected to do.

Open image in new window. Specific tasks are understood here as those that entail the agency doing something concrete and measurable, such as formulating the national development plan, preparing the annual investment budget and establishing the evaluation criteria for the national development plan, while general policy language entails broad functions such as coordinating decentralization policies, advising the President on economic matters, conducting sectoral and macroeconomic studies, participating in the definition of economic policy, etc.

Table 4 Examples of general and specific policy language. Specific policy language Intervene on the definition of the structure of import taxes. Specific policy language Propose alternatives and necessary resources for the financing of national and sub-national development plans. Chile Law Specific policy language Approve the methodologies for the identification, formulation and evaluation of projects financed with public resources. Table 5 Percentage of functions that fall under general or specific policy language.

The research finds that the planning agencies have been useful to the President in at least four aspects: i Mobilizing foreign aid resources : Presidents first saw the opportunity in establishing planning agencies when the Alliance for Progress and later on the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development-IBRD World Bank started requiring countries to set up a planning agency and construct a national development plan, as conditionality to access external aid and obtain technical assistance.

Bonvecchi, A. The presidency and the executive branch in Latin America: What we know and what we need to know. In Research department publications Google Scholar. Cameron, M. Third World Quarterly, 30 2 , — CrossRef Google Scholar. Chun, Y. Goal ambiguity in U.


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In other projects Wikimedia Commons Wikivoyage. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Metro areas [3] [4] 1. Mexico City 3. Buenos Aires 4. Lima 5. Rio de Janeiro 6. Santiago 8. Belo Horizonte 9. The summary results of this ambitious study are presented in the concluding chapter draws comparisons across countries and discusses what these results mean for national development in Latin America.

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