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Tension between Merit and Trust in the Top Managerial Levels of Latin American Civil Services

Mariana Chudnovsky

This paper aims to rethink whether the solution to the politization of the Latin American managerial levels in the public sector is always to try to establish contests based on merit for all appoitments. Comparative evidence in the region shows that seeking to completely eliminate political appointments can be counterproductive since the political reaction is so massive that no appointments are made based on merit. This argument is illustrated with the Argentine case in light of the experiences of both the cases of Chile and Peru, which were able to improve their civil services including the political component in their processes. In Argentina, despite the existence of norms that force the creation of an open, meritocratic and competitive selection system for the managerial levels -since its approval in 2008- nothing happened. Maybe it is necessary to rethink the role of politics, but not only from its negative consecuences, but also as a way to allow the so needed reforms. Political appointments can be a part of the process of selection of top managerial positions in an organized and monitored way, as both the cases of Peru and Chile show.

Key words: Civil Service Reform; Public Managers; Executive Personnel Administration; Assignment; Merit System; Politics and Administration; Argentina; Chile; Peru

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