Monday, March 27, 2006

Not much change?

Last Friday the Uruguay economic and finance minister, Danilo Astori, was in town. He presented the details of that country's economic programme to a group of LSE students and finance journalists. Francisco, my supervisor, introduced Astori and hinted at some discussion to come on the nature of the Frente Amplio government and it's centre-left identity.

Although that would have been hard to see in the course of an hour-long talk in which Astori stressed the government's commitment to setting institutions and regulations in place to pay off the country's public debt and to attract inward foreign investment.

In the Q&A session that followed he spent most of the time emphasising these points and the package put in place between the October 2004 election and the March 2005 assumption of power. This prompted me to ask him about the extent to which the Frente Amplio had sought civil society involvement in the development of those policies and the level of internal party debate. To this Astori initially struggled with the term 'civil society' (not promising) before admitting that it wasn't as participatory or collaborative a process as one might expect - electoral victory being the justification by which this highly technocratic project was put into place.

Indeed, I was hard-pressed to identify anything distinctly left-of-centre in his talk. Even the emergency social programmes that he talked about were only temporary and amounted to little more than increases in funds rather than new ways of delivering services.

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