State institutions: ingredients for a cure to government incompetence during the coronavirus pandemic


State institutions: ingredients for a cure to government incompetence during the coronavirus pandemic

29 Julio, 2020

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Even without knowing the final number of sick and fatal victims - in the world there are, at the time of writing these lines, nearly 17 million cases and more than 600,000 dead - the consequences of the pandemic, in economic and social terms, are dramatic and historical both globally and in the Latin American region.

According to the ILO, the hours of work lost in the world in the second quarter of this year are equivalent to around 300 million full-time jobs. In a report based on studies by UN University, Oxfam estimates that 500 million people, the equivalent of 8% of the world´s population, will join the contingent of the world´s poor.

The Latin American region, meanwhile, ECLAC estimates that close to three million companies will close their doors, and that wealth per inhabitant will fall this year to values ??equivalent to 2010, thus consolidating a new decade lost in economic terms.

Before this dramatic panorama, where individual fears and social anguishes -which are nutrients for the emergence or advance of authoritarian leaderships- grow, the first responsibility of the rulers of all latitudes is to provide certainty.

Although we are not in a position to accurately forecast the local impact of eventual changes in the distribution of global power or the result of the dispute over technological dominance, what is out of the question is that this generation is facing a multifaceted and unprecedented crisis.

We know that the economic and social conditions will be, upon leaving the prolonged social isolation, even worse compared to previous conditions before the measures of social distancing and confinement were implemented. It is expected for this year, in relation to 2019, a fall of 4.9% in the global GDP, along with soaring unemployment rates across the globe.

Those indisputable facts of reality oblige those with government responsibilities to carry out an exercise that has been little practiced in our history: that of forging agreements between the political forces endowed with the efficiency to stimulate transformations with a strategic and future perspective.

Recently in Chile it has been shown how this reality forced the conservative government to enact laws that were approved by large majorities in the Senate and Congress, in a historic vote that analysts assimilate to the Brexit of the Chilean pension system. Despite the options to veto the law or delay its enactment, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera chose to favor this pension policy supported, according to surveys, by more than 80% of the Chilean population.

The agenda for overcoming decadence is complex and demanding. It must seek to restore and sustain the lost macroeconomic and relative price balances; provide a strong push to policies that make the economy systemically competitive; generate initiatives that promote social cohesion in the fight against poverty and inequality and promote the integration of our countries to the world.

It is evident that such a challenge calls for a consistent broad-spectrum public policy program that does not admit being replaced by a set of announcements of measures that without that program is, at best, a list of good intentions.

However, the design of such public policy program is only part of what is needed, considering that it is more important the availability of solid political support to minimize the uncertainty that generates greater and more damaging consequences than economic policy errors themselves.

In representative democracy, the agreements are materialized in the legislative headquarters, after a wide public deliberation that allows to obtain plural consensus in front of the citizens.

Now, it must be clear from the outset that the guiding criterion of any agreement must adhere to a constitutional order, the basis of the democratic state of law of the liberal modern states.

Not only because adherence to the law is what allows the peaceful resolution of disputes in a society, but also because the positive association between the strength of institutions and economic results has been demonstrated. This causal relationship allows us to understand why institutions are more relevant than the wealth obtained from natural resources, to explain the economic performance of a country.

Examples of such causal relations are the difference between the two Koreas and, in our Latin America, between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Uruguay with good practices in its public policies, an unrestricted respect for the laws and a culture of commitment among political actors allows us to understand why it was possible that in ten years have reduced poverty by twenty percentage points.

Having these evidences in view is that the essential institutional agreements carry a double requirement. The political force to which the popular vote assigned the role of opposition has to engage in the exercise of responsibility that the challenge demands. Similarly, the political force that is in the government must assume that it does not have the right to incorporate issues from the personal agendas of its leaders, however influential they may be.

Everyone, the ruling party in each country and the opposition, must demonstrate with their actions that we are not willing as a society to get used to the sterile confrontation that, in addition to stunning, irritates the citizen and blocks the construction of a common future.

All, the ruling party and the opposition, have the opportunity to demonstrate, as in the inaugural moment of democracy, that good politics is capable of prevailing over the conservative forces of the habits and customs that contributed to the backwardness and decline of our society.


etiquetas: English

Carlos Mendoza Autor

Redactor. Política y Economía. Estudiante de Economía en la UCLA, Venezuela.

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