Thursday, March 1, 2012

Day 6: Department of Planning and group meetings

The groups spent the morning finishing their rounds of meetings in Bogota, visiting such sites as the Ministry of Defense and the National Planning Department. Around lunchtime, everyone gathered for a meeting at the Department of Evaluation of Public Policies.

The department is responsible for helping to prepare Colombia's National Development Plan, which is based on programs put forth every four years by candidates running for national office. (According to our host, Colombians vote on programs in national elections, rather than candidates themselves. The candidate who puts forth the program that gets selected is the one who runs it.) The department also monitors numerous indicators for the National Development Plan to assess its progress, output and outcomes.

Dorado's diagrams of the current and previous plans.
Under former president Uribe, our host said, the National Development Plan looked like a house with three pillars: security, investment and social cohesion. The roof held up by the pillars was the communitarian state. Uribe's strategy was the winning Colombia's war would attract investment and build trust in government institutions. Essentially, decreasing security problems would boost GDP and reduce poverty. Under President Santos, the NDP looks like a wheel with three spokes: socioeconomic growth, social equality, and security and justice.

Unlike Uribe, Santos puts particular focus on justice as a part of the administration's security efforts. He also acknowledges that foreign investment is just a small part of national growth, and narrowing the income gap requires improving the quality of education. All three parts of the wheel must be promoted simultaneously in order for the plan to progress. Although the two plans contain many of the same components, Santos's plan acknowledges developments in Colombian society.

- Lindsay

Dispatch from the social policy team

The morning began especially early with a last-minute meeting with the appointed government representative of Colombian Afro-descendents. He explained how he works as an advocate for Afro-descendant issues trying to get money to Colombia to support programs and projects addressing these issues.

We had the opportunity to meet with two of the former Ministry of Health's assistants who were integral in shaping some of the more recent health reforms. They offered insight into the thought process for some of these policies and gave an economist's perspective of the health care system.

Our next meeting was with the Monitoring and Evaluation team at the Department of National Planning. The team explained step-by-step how they monitored the progress of various policies and their policy evaluation techniques. They offered ongoing examples of monitoring and evaluation projects, including one dealing with Familias en Accion. When asked about how they monitor outcomes of policies by different ethnic groups, it became clear that this wasn't information that there was  lot of effort in pursuing. According to some employees, Afro-descendants are not considered a minority in Colombia, and the needs of Afro-descendants are similar to mestizos and white Colombians, unlike indigenous populations.

- Ine

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