February 27, 2007

The Government's Problem With Recruiting People

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There is an interesting short discussion in the comments section of my February 19th post. The topic was the government's problem with recruiting people. Although, the post was about the importance of remittances in Bolivia's GDP, I had mentioned my concern about the implication that this increase in remittances might be related to an increase in emigration from Bolivia. That is, Bolivians who left Bolivia and are making a living overseas are sending more money to their families, either because they have better jobs or there are more Bolivians emigrating. I am guessing there are more Bolivians leaving Bolivia.

The 'brain drain' phenomenon and what that means for the current government in terms of recruiting professionals is a serious concern and limits the capacity of government to administer the affairs of the country. This is mainly due to a lack of professionals working in the government. In that post, I also said that the government was aware of this problem and was currently searching for capable people to fill posts. Galloglas, in that comment section, commented that one of the problems of the current government was hiring people based on ideology, rather than competence. I agreed, and here is why.

The Morales government has been using a policy to recruit people based on the particular person being identified with the values and political track of the government and the party. In fact, one had to be a MAS supporter in order to take up a post in the government. One major way in which posts were filled, were by recommendation of some union, worker's organization, or one of the organizations MAS calls its 'bases'. This mechanism had been later formalized by allowing these organizations to issue 'political avouchments' to people who wanted to work in government. Let's keep in mind that in Bolivia, working in the government is one of the few ways in which people can get a job. Public service is a very contested place of work. Specially, in the urban areas.

Well, it turns out that some people, specially in La Paz, had made out of this a neat and efficient little market. Some MAS people were selling these pieces of paper. I don't know what were the prices, but it has become an embarrassment for MAS and Morales. Now, since the party's politics on recruiting will not change, MAS wants to create a data bank instead. This DB will contain all the names proposed by the 'bases' and when the government needs some people, it will just go to the database, look for the person it needs and voila.

I think, if MAS and the government continue recruiting people in this manner, they will still have the same problem. The recruitment is politicized and linked to MAS' ideology. He or she who does not belong to MAS or is backed by an organization will have no chance to get hired. It invites patrimonialism and clientilism; two traditions in Latin American politics.

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