Social Development Secretary in Argentina from 1994 to 1998 and Ambassador in Washington from 2002 to 2003, Argentine economist Eduardo Amadeo is a consultant for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), an institution of the United Nations (UN), and a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). In this interview, he talks about the importance of public policies to improve quality of life for the underprivileged in Latin America and the Caribbean.
What kind of virtues do social programs require to establish productive dialogue with public authorities?
The most important virtues are pertinence (being tailored to real needs and having the capacity to respond to them), quality of focus, the process itself, capacity to be sustainable and a broad vision to incorporate key players. In short, programs need to identify the problem at hand, propose firm solutions and be sustainable and inclusive.
Should public policies originate in communities or from the State?
There’s no set formula. The creation of agendas has various origins. In times of crisis, it arises from community conflicts – often violent. In other cases, the process of political participation and decentralization produces more balanced policies, originating from grassroots participation. It’s important for the State to lay the foundations for dialogue and be capable of identifying the needs, have the technical capacity to formulate policies and the willingness to submit them for consultation, and amend them. It also needs to set up a permanent system to monitor the results. If all these conditions are met, successful policies can emerge.
Can public policies produce important social changes?
Yes, they can have extremely important impacts, provided they observe these condition and States implement them resolutely, have the inclination and the conditions to monitor them and allocate sufficient resources. Another condition is integration of public policies, which need to be applied with a systemic approach. Isolated policies and short-lived actions don’t resolve anything.
What Latin American experience would you illustrate as an example?
One particularly interesting example is the program to combat hunger conducted over the past 10 years by the Chilean government. It has managed to substantially reduce poverty thanks to the integration of social and economic work, which was treated as State policy. It’s an interesting case study, even though inequality may not have improved significantly – which is another issue that needs to be studied.
Published in Interaction nº 15