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Usted está aquí: Inicio Acerca del CLAD Publicaciones Revista del CLAD Reforma y Democracia Artículos por número publicado 032, Junio 2005 Towards a New Profile of the State in Latin America: the Changes in the Perceptions and Demands of the Citizenship

Towards a New Profile of the State in Latin America: the Changes in the Perceptions and Demands of the Citizenship

Bernardo Kliksberg

In the past decades Latin America has carried out significant State reforms. The reforms were part of the orthodox economic policies and the maxim of the reforms was to minimize the State. Countries in the region reduced the size of the State substantially, both as a percentage of GDP and in the number of functionaries. With this, the message that civil servants were an obstacle to progress spread. The time has now come to evaluate the results of the reforms, which is the current objective of this work.

The report shows that the State in Latin America has shrunk to half the size of developed countries. However, the supposed benefits of reforms have not been fulfilled. Poverty is more prevalent now than it was in 1980 (44% vs. 40%), unemployment has doubled (exceeding 10%), social exclusion has risen sharply (where 25% of young people remain outside of the formal job market and education system), 60% of children live in poverty, and 35% of children under 2 years of age suffer from malnutrition. The extreme weakening of public policies substantially increased inequality in Latin America, which is considered the worst in the world. This is one of the fundamental reasons why a region with such economic potential has such poverty. Meanwhile, the efficiency of the State has not improved and privatization has been accompanied by corruption.

Today, there are new demands from citizens for the strengthening of public policies. Surveys indicate that citizens are disappointed with the policies of the 1980’s and 1990’s which increased social suffering. They now want an active State that is different from those of the past: decentralized, transparent, with a stable administrative career staff, and with a strong social focus. In the surveys, citizens say that the State should be responsible for assuring all the rights that correspond to democracy which include the right to nutrition, health, education, and work while also providing support to small and medium businesses, open access to credit, and democratizing the economy. This work analyzes the disappointments with the reforms, the situation of the State following these reforms, the new social demands, and the profound changes in the role and profile of the State as a response to these demands.


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