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Usted está aquí: Inicio Acerca del CLAD Publicaciones Revista del CLAD Reforma y Democracia Artículos por número publicado 024, Octubre 2002 Policy Transfer and Public Sector Management Reform in Latin America: the Example of New Public Management
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Policy Transfer and Public Sector Management Reform in Latin America: the Example of New Public Management

Andrew Nickson

This paper offers a pessimistic assessment of the overall impact of New Public Management (NPM) in Latin America to date. The major features of the NPM are outlined. First, are those intra-organisational initiatives that derive from managerialism and principal/agent theory. Second, are those inter-organisational initiatives emanating from the New Institutional Economics that emphasise markets and competition as a way of giving "choice and voice" to users and that promote efficiency in service delivery. The main characteristics of the public administration system in Latin America are then described. A key feature that distinguishes it from its counterparts in the rest of the world is highlighted -the centralist tradition of caudillismo (political bossism).

The paper discusses three features of the administrative culture of Latin America that pose difficulties for the introduction of NPM initiatives -the absence of a genuine civil service career, the presidential system of government, and the rigid interpretation of the Luso-Hispanic tradition of administrative law. The limited experience of NPM initiatives in Latin America to date is then reviewed -in administrative deconcentration, contracting-out, executive agencies, user charging, regulatory agencies, quasi-markets, and citizen accountability.

The country experience of Brazil is explored in more detail, and its slow progress to date is highlighted. This is followed by two case studies of NPM-type reforms -that of the less successful Peruvian national tax authority (SUNAT), and the highly successful use of the internet for personal income tax declaration in Brazil. The author concludes that the very limited impact of NPM initiatives to date in Latin America can be linked to the absence of a key factor required for their success -namely a professional civil service. The limited progress towards creating such a professional civil service during the 1990s is discussed with special reference to initiatives in Argentina (SINAPA) and Mexico (PNDA).

The paper concludes that in marked contrast to the improvement in macro-economic management within the region, the overall performance of the public administration system in Latin America has not shown any marked improvement in recent years, with the noticeable exception of Chile. The successful transfer of the NPM paradigm to Latin America therefore remains problematic, given the absence of those structural features of the civil service that have to a large extent insulated the governance system of high-income countries from the inherent dangers associated with greater managerial autonomy in the public sector.

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