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Improved coordination for poverty reduction, Paraguay
President Fernando Lugo’s government assumed office in August 2008 after 60 years of one-party regime. The new government faced a country with widespread and extreme poverty, which made it unlikely to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals. To make things worse, the new Government was established when the international financial crisis started spreading across countries and regions. The Government responded to these challenges by, inter alia, enacting the Economic Recovery Plan (Anti-Crisis), and encouraging interagency coordination of programmes to combat poverty.
In the face of the global economic crisis, the poverty reduction programmes, implemented under the Anti-Crisis Plan, have been successful in reducing poverty by 2.8 percent between 2008 and 2009, with a further 1.2 percent reduction between 2009 and 2010. Other important MDG results include the reduction of economic barriers to access to health. The number of people in the poorest quintile that fell ill and did not access health services for economic reasons fell from 24.2 percent to 13.9 percent; at the same time, institutional births increased, reaching 93.3 percent and exceeding the national target.
In order to achieve these results, the government succeeded in up-scaling the coverage of the conditional cash transfer programmes, increasing the number of beneficiary families from 13,000 to 98,000. Medical consultations were made free of charge and 500 Family Healthcare Units were established, half of which in rural areas, thus doubling the number of consultations in poor areas. Around 20 percent of the beneficiary families have been assisted by the Program for Promotion of Food Production.
The ambition of the government is to bring these results to the next level and be able to provide universal social safety net coverage within ten years.
There are three four critical success factors of the Paraguayan experience.
Firstly, the Ministry of Finance established the Social Economy Unit to promote greater coordination between the main social protection programmes, including the conditional cash transfer, the free health care, the adult illiteracy, the food production and the rural roads programmes. The objectives of these ‘emblematic’ programmes were better defined and an institutional mechanism was established in 80 of the poorest districts of the country to ensure greater coordination of planning and implementation of such programmes.
Secondly, common indicators and monitoring and evaluation tools have been developed to better target beneficiaries, as well as to evaluate, and account for results. These include the geographic priority index, the index of quality of life, a household questionnaire, and common identifiers (number of identity card) for heads of households. Building on such initiatives, the Government is currently in the process of building a Single Registry System of beneficiaris. According to this system, all anti-poverty programmes will use common beneficiary information (first name, surname, gender, national identification number, place of residency), and programmes involving transfers will include measurement instruments (a quality of life Index).
Thirdly, in order to improve monitoring of progress and evaluation of results, a System for Government Administration (SIGOB) has been established. This system strengthens the evaluation capacity of the institutions whose mandate includes the ‘emblematic’ programmes. This include, primarily, the Ministry of Finance, which monitors budget execution of such programmes through a ‘Budget for Results’ system.
Lastly, a Social Programmes Fund, established in 2010, has provided additional resources for the ‘emblematic’ programmes and has improved the decision-making mechanism for results-based budget allocation. The Finance Ministry manages the Fund, which is financed by national revenues, loans, and donations.
Supporting the capacity building process
Significant investments have been made to coordinate planning with budgeting and to create a culture of results. To that end, the Ministry of Finance established the Social Economy Unit, with the mandate of improving the quality of public spending, through better design and evaluation of social programmes, particularly those fighting poverty, creating jobs, and developing agriculture. The Unit collaborates with other departments within the Ministry of Finance, as well as with other ministries and institutions, to build their capacities to design and evaluate programmesand budgets, and to integrate the gender perspective the design of such programmes. A Paraguayan Evaluation Network has also been created, which, by 2011, had evaluated most ‘emblematic’ programmes at least once.
Under the Presidency of the Republic, the Social Cabinet’s Technical Unit has also been strengthened through Presidential decrees and by training and the hiring of experts. The Social Cabinet’s Technical Unit coordinates and monitors ‘emblematic’ programmes. Both the Social Cabinet’s Technical Unit and the Social Economic Unit coordinate the use of common tools to improve programmes’ targeting, efficiency, and transparency of management and resource allocation.
Development partners’ support
Paraguay has learned from the experiences of other Latin American countries and has progressively developed a social protection network, with institutional improvements to support it. It has also heeded the results of studies and evaluations from within the country, and used such results to inform new planning cycles.
South-South cooperation has been the most important mechanism that the Government has used to develop capacity. Specifically, this has included seminars and quality training of officials in the various skills required for the approach’s successful implementation. The support and technical assistance provided by international organizations and banks have also been pivotal.
Find out more
Please contact Verónica Serafini Geoghegan
Coordinadora de la Unidad de Economía Social del Ministerio de Hacienda
Phone: + 595 21 200692
Year of publication:2011
Collection:LenCD "Capacity: Results"
Themes and sectors:Economic development
Themes and sectors:Public administration
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