The maximum number of days they can stay in office is 53% less than in seven other countries evaluated. Of a total of 21 presidents, Pedro Castillo's administration is the one with the record for ministers changed.
- 60% of Latin American countries chose left or center-left governments in the last elections
In 11 months, Castillo has changed 38 ministers. He changes portfolio leaders, on average, every 9 days./
Ana Bazo Reisman
An analysis carried out by the Data Journalism Unit of El Comercio of the latest government efforts in eight South American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Peru, reveals that the latter is in the the fewest days a minister can last: 200 on average. Peru has the last place in permanence in sectors such as economy, health, interior and education.
In addition, it is the country where the maximum number of days that can remain as a portfolio leader is 53% less than in the other countries evaluated: while in all of them it exceeds 1,200 days in the position, in the Peru barely reaches 575.
The political scientist Katherine Zegarra explains that a high turnover of ministers and senior officials, in general, also generates a high turnover within the entire bureaucratic apparatus, “Not only does the political head of a sector leave when replacing a minister by another, but also a team and public policies are left aside”, he says.
In the same vein, Paulo Vilca, political analyst, argues that in terms of public management, the continuity of public policies is important. The constant changes of officials, impede that continuity and prevent projects from being carried out or the expected objectives from being achieved. “It's not just the change itself, but there's this idea of starting all over again,” he says.
Vilca explains that the concerns of governors and mayors have to do with the low permanence of ministers. “They seek to obtain budgets from the sectors based on political agreements with the incumbent, but if a minister is changed three times in a year, they must make three agreements that will most likely not be fulfilled,” says Vilca, who maintains that in a crisis situation, such as the one experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic, the consequences of this problem are aggravated.
A little over a month ago, President Pedro Castillo swore in four new ministers who today lead the Interior portfolios, Energy and Mines, Agriculture and Transport and Communications. The administration of Castillo holds the record for ministers changed in 11 months of government, with 38 changes. Second place is occupied by Jeanine Añez from Bolivia, with 14. The difference with other efforts is much greater.
Katherine ZegarraHe maintains that in order to generate good public policies it is important that there is a specialized and professional bureaucracy: that public managers have some time of experience in the sector, as well as technical and political knowledge about it. “Prioritizing, for example, a partisan quota, instead of the expertis, as what apparently happened with the minister of health, in the midst of a pandemic, represents contempt for the public good,” he says.< /p>
Factors for high turnover
For Paulo Vilca, the constant change of ministersdue to two factors. On the one hand, unlike Peru, in many countries the ministers are in some way political actors and their arrival at a certain position is also due to their ability to negotiate with the president. “In some way, they are people who have a political background and weight, so there are agreements and negotiations that guarantee a certain stability to the government,” says Vical.
The expert affirms that this does not exist in Peru. Therefore, the permanence of a Peruvian minister depends solely on the will of the president. They are not people who have their own political weight. “You owe everything to the president. That makes them more dependent on him and his presence is much more precarious, changing them does not mean higher cost, “says Vilca.
On the other hand, presidents, especially recent ones, have also been politically weak. This has generated a series of recurring crises that cost them much more to overcome, so they are forced to have refreshments with the changes of ministers.
For the government of Castillo, Vilca adds a third element.“There is a predisposition of the president to seek to ingratiate himself or establish a certain type of rapprochement with some sectors, on the basis of handing over the leadership of a ministry to them,” he maintains.
However, according to what he says, the problem is that these alliances are also precarious. They do not guarantee that these allies will remain in office.
In that sense, Katherine Zegarra points out that political quotas are far from the common good and have brought us very unfortunate profiles in the heads of portfolios. The expert also mentions that Congress has a share of responsibility. As an institution that provides balance between powers, it has the possibility of censoring a minister and shortening his mandate. “The departure of a minister in the country has not always depended on the executive. This could designate a good element as head of a ministry, but sometimes for political reasons these are censored”, he assures.
What profile should a minister have?
According to experts, a minister or high-ranking official requires minimal knowledge of the sector they are going to lead. “There should be concordance with the person's life profile and professional history. Clearly, someone who works in the food industry would not be the ideal person for mining or for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” says Zegarra.
Also, you should have political skills that allow you to gain support and be able to handle certain scenarios that require them. In that sense, Vilcamentions that those who assume these responsibilities should have a minimum of experience or weight, a kind of prestige that guarantees them, that in addition to their decisions being within the general framework of government policy, they will be able to interact and coordinate with the president, congressmen and all politicians until reaching a favorable agreement for the citizens. “It can't be someone who only obeys orders or is subject to the ruler at that moment”, he emphasizes.
< b>Zegarra also considers it relevant that he be a person with experience in the public sector. As he explains, the rules of the game in the State are very different from those in the private sector. “When you run a ministry you have to face a series of challenges that you don't have in the private sector, such as political control, the budget, among others,” he says.
For his part, Vilca mentions that given the circumstances in which people live in the country, it is also required that the person show a path linked to integrity. That could guarantee that there is a minimum level of honesty in running a portfolio.“You have to consider that the most recurrent problems that exist in public administration have to do with corruption,” he says.
Position compared to other countries
Both experts agree that these figures do not place them in a disadvantageous position compared to other countries, given that the functioning of the state is crucial in the development of the well-being of citizens. Above all, if we consider that the objectives of public policies revolve around citizen problems.
In addition, it should be considered that although each The minister is responsible for a sector, the Council of Ministers, in general, is the body that sets the general policies of a country and when there are constant changes within the Council, it is prevented from consolidating itself as a work team, which also harms the achievement of objectives.
However, Zegarra also explains that the total stability, the fact that a minister stays permanently during the five years of government does not necessarily guarantee that good public policies will be generated. There are other nuances that must be considered to understand the generation of good services for citizens, such as state capacity, the professionalization of the bureaucracy, the generation of good indicators, or the management of good public policies.