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The Tools of Institutional Change under Post-Neoliberalism: Rafael Correa's Ecuador

  • FRANCISCO SÁNCHEZ and JOHN POLGA-HECIMOVICH
Abstract

How have governments in Latin America been able to counteract two decades of neoliberalism and pursue post-neoliberal developmental reforms, and what tools have they used to do so? We argue that post-neoliberal projects are possible through the use of three necessary conditions in a context of economic bonanza: (1) extensive use of the legal-constitutional framework to facilitate interventionism; (2) an increase in the centrality of public planning agencies to design those policies; and (3) growth of the bureaucracy to implement the policies. Through a case study of Rafael Correa's Ecuador, we show how a constituent assembly, empowerment of the state planning agency, and an increase in the size of the public administration allowed the president to combat neoliberalism and pursue his ambitious Buen Vivir (Good Living) plan. This simple framework offers important clues for understanding post-liberalism and the return of the state in Ecuador and beyond.

¿Cómo han podido gobiernos de América Latina contrarrestar dos décadas de neoliberalismo y adoptar reformas desarrollistas post-neoliberales, y qué herramientas han usado para logarlo? Sostenemos que los proyectos post-neoliberales son posibles gracias a tres condiciones necesarias en un contexto de bonanza económica: (1) el uso extensivo del marco legal-constitucional para facilitar el intervencionismo; (2) un incremento en la centralidad de las agencias de planeación pública para diseñar estas políticas; y (3) el crecimiento de la burocracia para implementar las políticas. A través del caso de estudio del Ecuador de Rafael Correa, mostramos cómo una asamblea constituyente, junto al empoderamiento de la agencia de planificación estatal y un incremento en el tamaño de la administración pública, han permitido al presidente combatir el neoliberalismo y perseguir su ambicioso plan del Buen Vivir. Este simple marco ofrece pistas importantes para el entendimiento del post-liberalismo y el retorno del Estado en Ecuador y otras partes.

Como os governos da América Latina foram capazes de neutralizar duas décadas de neoliberalismo e buscar reformas de desenvolvimento pós-neoliberais? E de quais ferramentas eles se utilizaram para tal? Argumentamos que projetos pós-neoliberais são possíveis através do uso de três condições necessárias num contexto de bonança econômica: (1) uso extenso de um quadro legal e constitucional que facilite o intervencionismo; (2) um aumento na centralidade de agências de planejamento público para que se criem essas políticas; (3) Aumento da burocracia para implementar estas políticas. Através de um estudo de caso do Equador de Rafael Correa, demonstramos como a assembléia constitucional, o empoderamento da agência de planejamento do Estado e o aumento no tamanho da administração pública permitiram que o presidente combatesse o neoliberalismo e avançasse seu ambicioso plano Buen Vivir (Bom Viver). Esse quadro simples mostra indícios importantes no entendimento do pós-neoliberalismo e o retorno do Estado no Equador e além.

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The authors would like to thank Iván Llamazares Valduvieco, Manuel Alcántara Sáez, Felipe Burbano de Lara, and Santiago Basabe-Serrano for their comments and criticism. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not represent the views of or endorsement by the US Naval Academy, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or the US government. All errors are, as always, our own.

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20 Streeck and Thelen (eds.), Beyond Continuity.

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24 Becker, Marc, ‘The Stormy Relations between Rafael Correa and Social Movements in Ecuador’, Latin American Perspectives, 40: 3 (2013), pp. 4362; Conaghan, ‘Surveil and Sanction’; Moira Birss, ‘“Buen Vivir” for Whom?’, The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), Report on the Americas, 26 Jan. 2017.

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26 Sánchez, Francisco, ¿Democracia no lograda o democracia malograda? Un análisis del sistema político del Ecuador: 1979–2002 (Quito: FLACSO, 2008); Acosta, Andrés Mejía, Informal Coalitions and Policymaking in Latin America (New York: Routledge, 2009).

27 Acosta, Andrés Mejía and Polga-Hecimovich, John, ‘Coalition Erosion and Presidential Instability in Ecuador’, Latin American Politics and Society, 53: 2 (2011), pp. 87111; Francisco Sánchez, ¿Democracia no lograda o democracia malograda?

28 Patiño, Ricardo, ‘Diferencias entre el socialismo del siglo XX y el socialismo del siglo XXI. La democracia participativa y el nuevo sujeto revolucionario’, in Secretaría Nacional de Planificación y Desarrollo (National Secretariat of Planning and Development, SENPLADES), Los nuevos retos de América Latina: Socialismo y sumak kawsay (Quito: SENPLADES, 2010), p. 135.

29 Friant, Martín Calisto and Langmore, John, ‘The Buen Vivir: A Policy to Survive the Anthropocene?’, Global Policy, 6: 1 (2015), pp. 6471; Cubillo-Guevara, Ana Patrica, ‘Genealogía inmediata de los discursos del buen vivir en Ecuador (1992–2016)’, América Latina Hoy, 75 (2017), pp. 125–44.

30 Alberto Acosta, ‘El buen vivir en el camino del post-desarrollo. Una lectura desde la Constitución de Montecristi’, Policy Paper 9, Fundación Friedrich Ebert (Friedrich Ebert Foundation, FES) and Institución Latinoamericano de Investigaciones Sociales (Latin American Institute of Social Investigations, ILDIS), Oct. 2010, pp. 7–8.

31 René Ramírez Gallegos, ‘Socialismo del sumak kawsay o biosocialismo republicano’, in SENPLADES, Los nuevos retos de América Latina: Socialismo y sumak kawsay, p. 61.

32 Fander Falconí, ‘Discurso pronunciado en la presentación del libro “Modo de desarrollo, organización territorial y cambio constituyente en el Ecuador” de Ana María Larrea Maldonado’, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (Latin American Social Sciences Institute, FLACSO), Quito, 2012.

33 Nor is the rhetoric of buen vivir necessarily consistent with action. The Ecuadorean government's ostensible emphasis on ecology and environmentalism, as well as the Correa regime's efforts to promote medium- and large-scale mining, belies its extractivist economic model based primarily on the exportation of crude oil, and the way the government's actions diverged from its rhetoric of buen vivir.

34 Poulantzas, Nicos, Hegemonía y dominación en el Estado moderno (Buenos Aires: Cuadernos de Pasado y Presente, 1973).

35 Gereffi, Gary, ‘Repesando la teoría del desarrollo: una visión desde el Asia Oriental y Latinoamérica’, in Echeverría, Julio (ed.), Flexibilidad y nuevos modelos productivos (Quito: Nariz del Diablo, 1994), p. 83.

36 Salgado, Germánico, Del desarrollo al espejismo: el tránsito de la economía ecuatoriana en los años 60 y 70 (Quito: Universidad Andina, 1995); Moncayo, Patricio, La planificación estatal en el interjuego entre desarrollo y democracia (Quito: FLACSO, 2017).

37 Presidential Decree No. 16, published on 4 June 2013, establishes strict control of the structure and activities of all social organisations while limiting their political participation.

38 de la Torre, Carlos. ‘El tecnopopulismo de Rafael Correa: ¿Es compatible el carisma con la tecnocracia?’, Latin American Research Review, 48: 1 (2013), pp. 2443.

39 Nolte and Schilling-Vacaflor (eds.), New Constitutionalism in Latin America.

40 The Comparative Constitutions Project finds Ecuador's 2008 Constitution the ninth longest in the world, with the third-highest number of constitutional rights, the twenty-second-weakest legislative powers and the second-highest number of executive powers.

41 The word ‘planning’ appears 37 times in the 2008 Constitution, compared to seven in the 1998 Constitution.

42 Article 261 of the 1998 Constitution says, ‘The Ecuadorean Central Bank, legal entity of public law with technical and administrative autonomy, possesses functions to establish, control, and apply monetary, financial, credit, and exchange policies of the state, as a goal, keep watch over monetary stability.’ Source: Gobierno Nacional de la República del Ecuador (National Government of the Republic of Ecuador), Constitución Política de la República del Ecuador (Political Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador).

43 Correa, Rafael, Ecuador: de banana republic a la no república (Bogotá: Random House, 2009), p. 40.

44 Constitución de la República del Ecuador, Art. 74.

45 Ibid., Art. 327.

46 Ecuador signed the EU-Andean Trade Agreement with the European Union in July 2014, after four years of negotiations. Pro-FTA factions within the divided Ecuadorean government insisted that the agreement was not a cookie-cutter FTA, but an agreement for ‘national development’. (‘Ecuador tendrá con UE un acuerdo comercial “mejor” que el de Colombia y Perú’, El Comercio, 16 Jan. 2014.). The country was also a signatory of a preferential trade agreement with the United States until 2013.

47 John Polga-Hecimovich, ‘Bureaucratic Circumvention: Explaining Policy Delegation Strategies and Implementation Success in Low Capacity Bureaucracies, with Evidence from Latin America’, PhD thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 2015.

48 Conaghan, ‘Surveil and Sanction’.

49 Sánchez, Francisco and de la Fuente, Jorge Resina, ‘Los que “no se representan ni a ellos mismos”: medios de comunicación y oposición partidista en el Ecuador’, Cuadernos Constitucionales de la Cátedra Fadrique Furió Ceriol, 76–77 (2013).

50 Basabe-Serrano, Santiago and Llanos-Escobar, Santiago, ‘La corte suprema en el período democrático (1979–2013): entre la inestabilidad institucional y la influencia partidista’, América Latina Hoy, 67 (2014), pp. 1563.

51 Fischer, Frank, Technocracy and the Politics of Expertise (London: Sage, 1990).

52 de la Torre, Carlos, ‘Technocratic Populism in Ecuador’, Journal of Democracy, 24: 3 (2013), pp. 3346.

53 Hey, Jeanne A. K. and Klak, Thomas, ‘From Protectionism Towards Neoliberalism: Ecuador Across Four Administrations (1981–1996)’, Studies in Comparative International Development, 34: 3 (1999), p. 78.

54 Congreso Nacional de Ecuador, ‘Ley 50, Ley de Modernización del Estado’, in Registro Oficial No. 349, 1993, Art. 41. Only education and public health were expressly prohibited from being privatised; however, Ecuador's Constitutional Court (then called the Tribunal Constitucional) declared many of these articles unconstitutional.

55 Constitución de la República del Ecuador, Art. 280.

56 Prada-Trigo, José, ‘Governance and Territorial Development in Ecuador: The Plan Nacional del Buen Vivir in Zaruma, Piñas and Portovelo’, Journal of Latin American Studies, 49: 2 (2017), pp. 299326.

57 Evans, Peter and Rauch, James, ‘Bureaucracy and Growth: A Cross-National Analysis of the Effects of “Weberian” State Structures on Economic Growth’, American Sociological Review, 64: 5 (1999), pp. 748–65.

58 Andrade, Pablo, Política de industrialización selectiva y nuevo modelo de desarrollo (Quito: Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Corporación Editora Nacional, 2016).

59 Basabe-Serrano, Santiago, Polga-Hecimovich, John and Acosta, Andrés Mejía, ‘Unilateral, Against All Odds: Portfolio Allocation in Ecuador (1979–2015)’, in Camerlo, M. and Martínez-Gallardo, C. (eds.), Government Formation and Minister Turnover in Presidential Cabinets: Comparative Analysis in the Americas (London: Routledge, 2018), pp. 182206.

60 SENPLADES, Rendición de Cuentas 2016.

61 Iacoviello, Mercedes, ‘Análisis comparativo por subsistemas’, in Echebarría, K. (ed.), Informe sobre la situación del servicio civil en América Latina (Washington DC: Inter-American Development Bank, 2006); ‘Diagnóstico institucional del servicio civil en América Latina: Ecuador’, (Washington DC: Inter-American Development Bank, 2014). A more conservative estimate from the Ecuadorean Confederation of Public Servants (CONASEP) places the increase at about 28 per cent between 2007 and 2015, from 467,000 to 600,000 public servants in total.

62 Carolina Enríquez, ‘El Gobierno defiende el incremento de servidores públicos en cinco sectores’, in El Comercio, 13 Sep. 2015.

63 Both figures are higher than economists’ conventional recommendation of 6 per cent. See María Belén Arroyo, ‘Estado obeso, con la dieta del buen vivir’, Vistazo, 29 Jan. 2015.

64 Ibid. This number is actually a decrease from the 160 ministries and other agencies during Correa's first term in office.

65 National secretariats of Planning and Development, Public Administration, Communication Policy Management, and Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation; and the general secretariats of Water, Risk Management, Good Living, Intelligence, the Presidency, and Presidential Legality. Correa also created the National Secretariat of Management Transparency, the Secretariat of Peoples, Social Movements and Citizen Participation, and the Secretariat of the Migrant, all of which he later eliminated.

66 Basabe-Serrano et al., ‘Unilateral, Against All Odds’.

67 SENPLADES, ‘Reforma democrática del Estado. Rediseño de la función ejecutiva: de las carteras de estado y su modelo de gestión, y de la organización territorial’, SENPLADES, 2007.

68 SENPLADES, ‘6 años Revolución Ciudadana’, SENPLADES, 2013, p. 38.

69 Andrés Mejía Acosta and Karla Meneses, ‘Who benefits? Intergovernmental Transfers, Subnational Politics and Social Spending in Ecuador’, in Regional & Federal Studies (forthcoming).

70 Lora, Eduardo, The State of State Reform in Latin America (Washington DC: Inter-American Development Bank, 2017), p. 17.

71 Zuvanic, Laura and Iacoviello, Mercedes, ‘The Weakest Link: The Bureaucracy and Civil Service Systems in Latin America’, in Scartascini, Carlos, Stein, Ernesto and Tommasi, Mariano (eds.), How Democracy Works: Political Institutions, Actors, and Arenas in Latin American Policymaking (Washington DC: Inter-American Development Bank, 2010), pp. 147–76.

72 Iacoviello, ‘Diagnóstico institucional del servicio civil en América Latina: Ecuador’.

73 Harbers, Imke, ‘Taxation and the Unequal Reach of the State: Mapping State Capacity in Ecuador’, Governance, 28: 3 (2015), pp. 373–91.

74 ‘Ecuador: Opening up Pandora's Box’, Latin America Weekly Report (LAWR), WR-17-34, 21 Aug. 2017.

75 Levitsky and Roberts (eds.), The Resurgence of the Latin American Left.

76 ‘Fitch: Ecuador's Budget Cuts and China Loans Mitigate Oil Risks’, Reuters, 12 Jan. 2015.

77 ‘22 reformas tributarias en casi una década en Ecuador’, El Comercio, 16 Nov. 2016. Available at www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/impuestos-ecuador-economia-sri-terremoto.html (last access 23 July 2018).

78 Pablo Ospina Peralta, ‘Crisis and Economic Trends in Rafael Correa's Ecuador’, La Línea de Fuego, 22 June 2015. Available at https://lalineadefuego.info/2015/06/22/crisis-and-economic-trends-in-rafael-correas-ecuador-by-pablo-ospina-peralta/ (last access 23 July 2018).

79 For example, the Bono de Desarrollo Humano (Human Development Bond, BDH) conditional cash transfer programme, or the Revolución Vial (Highway Revolution) roadway project.

80 Thelen, Kathleen, How Institutions Evolve: The Political Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, the United States, and Japan, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

81 Pierson, Politics in Time; Streeck and Thelen (eds.), Beyond Continuity.

82 Augusto de la Torre and José Hidalgo Pallares, ‘La trampa que asfixia a la economía ecuatoriana’, Corporación de Estudios para el Desarrollo (Corporation of Development Studies, CORDES), March 2017.

83 Wolff, ‘Towards Post-Liberal Democracy in Latin America?’

84 Grugel, Jean and Riggirozzi, Pía, ‘The Return of the State in Argentina’, International Affairs, 83: 1 (2007), pp. 87107.

85 Levitsky and Roberts (eds.), The Resurgence of the Latin American Left.

* The authors would like to thank Iván Llamazares Valduvieco, Manuel Alcántara Sáez, Felipe Burbano de Lara, and Santiago Basabe-Serrano for their comments and criticism. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not represent the views of or endorsement by the US Naval Academy, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or the US government. All errors are, as always, our own.

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