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Lessons from the Experience with Senior Public Management: Comparing the Experiences of Countries in the Region

Eglé Iturbe de Blanco

Latin America is entering a new period in which the role of the State is being reassessed after many years of declining public values and structural reforms that rejected any concept of development that was not market-based rather than one that considered the human dimension. Such an approach has only exacerbated the social problems that exist in the region. In this context, we need to ask ourselves whether the macroeconomic policies applied and the institutional model adopted have brought about the desired results and what were the reasons that policy decisions had so little impact on raising living standards in the region.

What are the views of the individuals who played a leading role in shaping public policy in recent years? What constraints did they face and how did they address them? What strategies did they use in performing their tasks and in making decisions to ensure good governance?

These topics were discussed with 86 senior officials and former officials (Presidents, Vice Presidents, and various cabinet ministers) from four countries in the region (Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela), and ministers from three other countries (Brazil, Peru, and Nicaragua).

The present document sums up the results in the seven areas examined in the research, and this has enabled us to learn about the experiences and establish frameworks for reflection on the future of the public service. The most important contribution made by the ministers interviewed may be summed up in one phrase: "the task of governing cannot be improvised".

In addition to this basic principle, other concepts stressed for improving democratic governance were the need for a national vision, effective government teams, and a formal decision-making process. Also, priority should be given to developing a civil service career, encouraging public leadership, particularly at the highest levels, and building political and administrative institutions that serve for development.

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