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Throughout the economic adjustment of the 1980s, numerous countries of the Latin America witnessed a decline in investment in public services. Today, though, most analysts have the same opinion that the problem in Latin America is not the amount of resources owed to social-sector expenditure, however the distribution and poor performance of social programs due to weak public-sector institutions. Actually, social spending in Latin America evaluates constructively with other regions of the world (Milanovic, Branko. 2005). Pouring added funds into the current system will not develop social conditions because of structural flaws within government institutions and because of public-spending policies that support the wealthy and the politically powerful.

An devastating majority of the victims of human rights infringements belong to the world of the poor and the demoralized: half of those detained and disappeared throughout Argentina’s 1976-83 military dictatorship were workers, and two-thirds were wage-earners; seventy percent of those who died or were moved out between 1979 and 1982 at the hands of the military and death forces in El Salvador were peasants; more than eighty per cent of the victims of human rights violations in Guatemala all through the eighties were native peasants and rural and urban laborers (Vilas 1994, 1995a). Similar findings exist with respect to ethnic (Solares 1993) and women’s movements (Fisher 1993).

The prevalent social mobilizations of recent decades thus highlight the significance of the ‘popular’, meant here as the junction of economic exploitation, political oppression, and poverty. In Latin America the ‘popular’ is a mixture of socioeconomic, political, and cultural elements. The ‘popular’ takes in but is not limited to poverty. integrating also a political and cultural aspect, the ‘popular’ includes middle-class groups mobilized not so much by austerely economic demands as around calls for democratization, public freedoms, and citizenship rights. The political and the cultural extent of the ‘popular’ imply a self-identification of subordination and oppression (labor, ethnic, gender) in the face of a dominance that is expressed by exploitation (insufficient income, meager wages, denial of a distinguished life or prospects for the future) and is spoken institutionally, through insecurity, arbitrariness, and socially biased compulsion. It therefore implies some type of delineation and, ultimately, opposition to recognized power. In particular it signals opposition to the institutions and organizations that symbolize and eloquent exploitation and authority in its various forms.

Much of the literature on social policy and public-sector reform in Latin America stresses the need to look first and foremost at large, unproductive social ministries as obstacles to progress. In numerous countries, efforts to implement more-constructive approaches to the delivery of necessary public goods and services pale in contrast with the vital role played by national systems. For instance, Venezuela’s Ministry of Education is by far the country’s largest single employer, followed by the Ministry of Health and the social security system (Ricardo Hausmann, 1994, p. 178).

As the sole providers of social services, ministries manage public goods in a highly central structure that hardly ever consults beneficiaries or bodies responsible for program implementation at the local level. Consequently, the central monopoly over social services has had a crowding-out result on local government and other actors. Organizational processes have yet to be rationalized and are plagued by strong institutional inflexibilities. The organizational structure lends itself to excessive influence and interfering of interest groups. Ministry units dealing with services for the poor are “less sophisticated and well connected than units accountable for higher education or for hospitals.” Doctors typically control policy choices in health ministries, which are “nearly an agent of the profession in some countries.” (Joan Nelson, 1996).

Social ministries do not have high status and those chosen to head them are not strong leaders nor do they have supporting clout. High turnover at the top explains to both a lack of continuity in leadership and improved influence of bureaucratic interests.

Health and education ministries particularly are often deeply divided internally and have failed to undertake the challenges of sectoral assimilation and coordination of policies. The majority countries in Latin America offer a wide range of social services and programs, often with overlying objectives. Hardly ever do those involved in the design and delivery of services come jointly to organize efforts in a noticeably defined set of national priorities for an overall approach toward poverty improvement and social equity.

Problems rated in this need of integration and synchronization is compounded by failures in program design and assessment. Uncertain objectives and uncertainty in criterion for selection of program beneficiaries can often be accredited to an absence of explicit diagnostics of the population’s needs. A 1995 assessment of antipoverty strategies employed all through the region finds that “there are no in-depth assessments of the programs’ impact on the living conditions of their beneficiaries, nor studies to establish the actual coverage of the target group or to identify sectors that are expelled.”(Dagmar Raczynski, 1995, p. 15).  Unlike economic progress, it is very hard to measure and monitor input and output of social services; it is unattainable to assess the impact of policies without adequate data. “Countries spend a great deal to measure inflation, the fiscal discrepancy, output, and the balance of payments accurately. Poverty, income distribution, and social indicator are never measured with equal care,” concludes Nora Lustig in another broad study of social policies (1995, p. 35).

Without accurate data collection or sophisticated program design and coordination, entrenched patterns of social exclusion, clientelism, and corruption persist to permeate state services, reflecting a system ruled by corporate interests and political support. Despite stated policies of universalism, large divisions of the population are excluded from social services, predominantly rural workers and urban poor employed in the informal sector. Social policies originated in this context have had a regressive effect on income distribution in Latin America. Reforms to address fairness in the distribution of public goods will always challenge vested interests and conventional patterns of political power.

Despite powerful interests to protect policies that have been influenced toward Latin America’s influential and the middle class, there is extensive consensus today for the need to undertake institutional and structural obstacles to evenhanded growth. Reform of the state at present means much more than downsizing or policies of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation. Political leaders, with the support of international lending institutions, have altered beyond efforts to reverse policies founded on populism and import replacement to pursue a course toward institutional development (Shahid Javed Burki and Guillermo E. Perry, 1998). Focus on social-welfare issues has brought public attention away from interceding the costs of adjustment to deeper concerns regarding the quality of and access to social services, above all health and education. Though, the region lacks a model for addressing more difficult second-generation reforms.

Delineation and opposition are not unidirectional; the plurality of expressions of domination orients communal action towards a multiplicity of targets, most evidently the state, but also political parties, trade unions, non-governmental organizations, or international organizations. Nor does the state proceed with a single voice with respect to these demands. Several state agencies may be seen as more receptive allies or interlocutors than others. Likewise, collective action refers to proportions of the private sphere violence against women and children, sexual direction, the household division of labor as well as to the public sphere. In effect, the very differentiation between public and private globes is subject to question, in that public sharing of some actors is conditioned by relations of power and divisions of labor in the private sphere. In general, these factors set up a tension between the delineation of the ‘popular’ in terms of a plurality of identities, and the unity of the ‘popular’ as a meaning of shared conditions of oppression, utilization, and impoverishment.

The multiple directions of collective action entail the multiple dimensions of that action, varying from demands for institutional contribution to the search for forms of coordination or collaboration among institutional actors, and to dissent movements and appeals to direct action. Processes of democratization in Latin America have had obscurity integrating the agendas and dynamics of social movements, and social movements themselves, into the establishment and functioning of institutions. Representative democracy is linked uncomfortably to social participation. Political and institutional rigidities that obstruct incorporation of their agenda lean to relegate social movements to the area of social protest and pressures from outside the political system. The ineptness of institutional actors in processing the demands of social movements weakens the representative basis of the democratic regime and reinforces the institutional eccentricity of these movements.

The conjoining of domination, utilization, and poverty in the construction of a popular subject means that the popular is comprised on the basis of multiple reference points positioned in a complex web of complementarily and negation, in which subjects ‘choose’ those ingredients that best state their condition of oppression and utilization. In some cases, the popular is constructed around class individualities, in others it is based on ethnic referents, as in still others gender or representative elements become central. Other referents are articulated around these, additionally to the fact that explicit modes of insertion into the labor market, disparities in access to economic resources, and particular positions in power relations influence how actors put up their own notions of gender, ethnicity, class, or other categories. No identity is explicit or static; what remains eternal for the popular subject is coercion and utilization in a context of poverty, even though the phenomenology of each of these dimensions, and the perspectives through which actors approach, conceptualize, and experience them, are reliant.

The emergence and activism of social movements permitted for the manifestation and recognition of a wide range of actors as sources of communal action. This is at the same time a discrete way of conceptualizing and practicing citizenship. The revolt of identities makes open the multiple ingredients — in addition to socioeconomic or class status — that play a role in the foundation of citizenship: the right to civic equality is asserted together with, and intertwined with, the right to recognize differences (de Sousa Santos 1994). Moreover, this diversity of social identities marks a clear counterpoint with the legal unidimensionality of political citizenship: the multiplicity and involvedness of the popular in the face of the literalness of citizenship; the democratic nature of identity construction and of efforts to instill identities with an institutional existence; and the authoritarian nature of an institutional democracy that lessens, denies, and homogenizes the richness of social diversity. while an indigenous child is barred from speaking his or her own language in school, or is taught that what he or she speaks is a parlance, this child is being taught that there are first-class and second-class languages, first-class and second-class language speakers, and that the child’s father, mother, brothers and sisters, and all those like him or her, are second-class people. As children witness a man (the father, uncle, or boyfriend) wreak abuse on their mother or sister, they are learning the legitimacy of gender violence one as victimizer and the other as inert victim. All this and much more are entirely compatible with democratic institutions and representative politics.

All through Latin America, in spite of the size of these new states as they took form in the first few decades after sovereignty, tensions between center and margin extended across the whole of the nineteenth century. National authorities found themselves in unvarying competition with local authorities to establish the locus of power. For them, decentralization of power and the recreation of control from the center became equated far too often through the disintegration of recently constituted national institutions. Within Spanish-speaking America, Mexico was the country where this fear most often became reality first losing control of its northern tier to the United States and then retaining control over its fringe in the north (the Border States) and the south (Yucatan) more as a significance of circumstance than of effective governance from Mexico City.

In time the issues faced by these national governments reallocated from consolidating political independence and founding the authority of the capital city over the locality to ensuring economic independence as well. Throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century and the first some decades of the twentieth, national elites became ever more aware that as foreign investment from abroad increased first British and then U.S. it did not inevitably enhance their nations’ own inner development. Gradually more, the response was one whereby such elites saw in the remedy to a stronger state and a well-developed administrative device the means with which to control the activities of foreign economic interests. Thus, in each of the republics, although at unstable intervals and with diverse constellations of national interests, concepts of the authoritarian state and legislation to support government controls over the foreign business sector became usual.

Simultaneously, national elites became aware that directive of foreign actors did not automatically show the way to strengthening the private domestic business sector. More often than not, export interests in agriculture and minerals became intimately linked with banking and consecutively with the economic activities of foreign firms. Where nascent national industries developed–such as in Medellin in Colombia, Monterrey in Mexico, and São Paulo in Brazil–they proved to be extremely vulnerable to external economic influences, either at a government-to government level or at the level of individual firm activities. The consequence was further argument for the need of government regulation and mediation between the international and domestic economy in defense of national interests.

Setting off governmental direction of economic policy was responsiveness that the state desired to mediate in society through social policy. The condition of a certain minimum of social services was seen as necessary to further social progress for the disadvantaged, particularly as they were rallied through elections and entered the political process. Devoid of state action, it did not become obvious in far too many cases that essential services would not build up on their own, nor would income disparities be automatically reduced as economic development took place. Hence, one finds increasing dependence after World War II on the formation of state agencies, typically on an autonomous basis, with the capability to undertake new economic activities such as the continuance of low prices for fundamental commodities and their distribution (namely, CONASUPO in Mexico). Still more significant was wakefulness of the need for government to take a more active role in the stipulation of social services to buy off labor protests for better working conditions. The best instance of this would be the mounting of wide-ranging social security systems all through Latin America, usually in the form of independent institutes and agencies, providing a broad range of services extending from health care through pensions for the elderly. On the whole, these provisions have been most advanced in those countries or regions where the first stage of economic modernization and the building of strong regional economies concurred with economic modernization in the last part of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth: Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and the central and southern regions of Brazil (particularly the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and areas to the south established largely by European immigrants).

All these activities engendered a great expansion in the number of public workers employed and in the weight of the public sector in the domestic economies of these countries. As a result, by the middle of the twentieth century all the large- and medium-sized Latin American republics had obtained extensive, complex state apparatuses engaged in a wide range of social, political, and economic activities. Providing economic expansion was implicit to be the normal state of affairs if “correct” economic policies were tagged on and could counteract periodic economic crisis and bottlenecks, individual republics had no persuasive reason to reverse these patterns. For, economic growth and development had become associated with an ever-expanding, active public sector. Administrative reform did emerge on the national agendas of these countries from time to time most particularly in Brazil, Venezuela, and Mexico but the power of these endeavors was typically to rationalize, to reorder, and to manage government operations more effectively, not to restrain them or to improve alternative patterns of development. The guiding postulation was an ever escalating domestic and international economy.

Numerous policymakers, with enthusiastic support from multilateral development banks, have holded decentralization as a tool both to develop services and strengthen democracy by bringing decision making closer to the citizen. In response to political and fiscal devolution, local governments have implicit greater responsibility and are held more responsible for service provision. A 1996 World Bank study details how innovations at the local level can be exploited to drive the next stage of reform. Decentralization efforts that brought developments in administrative performance and the excellence of public services; strengthened fiscal management; improved private-sector development; and increased participation in local and regional decision making (Tim Campbell, 1996).

As there is uniform eagerness to increase the contribution of civil society at the local level, decentralization is not a panacea. Studies that mark out the effects of decentralization show mixed results. Decentralization has given rise to disagreement in the allotment of responsibility and finance among the federal, state, and municipal governments. In several cases, municipalities shoulder increasing responsibilities for social development without raise in transfers from the central government. In others, states have established sizable revenues for social services, but their efforts to deliver services have been common with inefficiencies and financial dismay. At issue here is the capability of municipalities to put up capacity as well as a sovereign tax base to sustain locally delivered social services. Inefficiencies and weaknesses met in the central government likewise appear in local-level public institutions with the same insinuations for quality, productivity, and effectiveness of social services. Finally, decentralization can “form problems of equity within countries, in the lack of central quality monitoring and financial and technical aid for poorer districts.” (Nelson, 1995).

In the same vein, there is a requirement for more empirical evidence to support the present enthusiasm for privatization. Advocates argue that the contracting-out of social services has introduced competition, giving users with choice as a tool to leverage quality and receptiveness. Yet evidence from ten years of privatized schools in Chile suggests little development in test scores.

Recent episodes of social turbulence in Latin America, such as in Chiapas, Mexico, offer insight into the frustrations of the poor. Devoid of basic standards of social equity, the fabric of Latin American society is beginning to loosen, manifest in political protest and violence, eventually threatening the consolidation of democracy in the region. Thriving economic and social policies have formed new stakeholders who serve as powerful advocates for reform, but absent amongst the participants in the policy process are the poor, whose voice relics diffuse and poorly planned. Opportunities for the configuration of citizenship and creation of connections between susceptible social groups and the state or its intermediaries remain limited.

In a drive to establish their ability, some governments have executed social-welfare reforms in a very undemocratic fashion. The most thriving social programs, such as social-emergency or investment funds, have been formed outside of social ministries and are administered by small, extremely skilled technical groups. Institutional bypassing weakens efforts to strengthen national governments and their democratic institutions. This is a mainly sensitive apprehension for a region with a legacy of authoritarian rule.

Social reforms, like economic reforms, are easier to execute when they are safeguarded against intrusion from partisan politics and political clientelism. Though, these protections can increase efficiency at the cost of transparency, liability, and ultimately, public participation. So as to be successful, social reforms require the support and participation of a wide range of actors within the government, across ministries, and within diverse levels of state and local governments. More highly, these government actors must, sequentially, gain the support of the citizenry for policy proposals.

Political leaders must learn how to communicate evidently the policies they advocate and influence the public of their value. The media, NGOs, and citizen-based organizations share in this accountability to inform the public, mediate demands, shape reforms, and help make associations between the state and society. Only in this way will citizens, mainly the poor and the marginalized, become authorized to participate significantly in the policy process.

As federal governments in Latin America redefine their role, several analysts have expressed disquiet that the collapse of the overcommitted state intimidates to result in the “under-engaged state.”(Jonathan Hartlyn, 1998). Central governments have a decisive role to play in providing organization, technical support, and information as well as in making sure equity..



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