Institutional innovation and experimentalism

Image: Eugenio Barboza


A proposal to rebuild the federal planning system

After a long and stormy period of authoritarian intentions, denial of rights and other attacks on the Federal Constitution, especially the dismantling of the State, organizations and federal public policies, the Bolsonaro government, Guedes and co., came to an end in Brazil. Unfortunately, however, the failure of this misgovernment was not just electoral. At the end of this dark period, as a direct consequence of the attempt to destroy State apparatuses and institutions, immense political-institutional weakening and a near collapse of economic and social living conditions for huge population groups and regions of the country can be seen.

Thus, in the face of this scenario of scorched earth, insane challenges arise for the newly elected Lula government. To face them, practically everything, at the state level, will need to go through either deep and fast processes of recreation/reconstruction, or equally deep and fast processes of innovation and institutional experimentalism.

Among these, I refer here to the – increasingly imperative – need to give political centrality and institutional capacity to the governmental strategic planning function, without which the very process of governing will be at risk in the future Lula administration (2023-2026). Although the planning function is included in the institutional arrangements of what came to be called the center of government, we highlight here that political centrality and state planning capacity surpass the concept of center or nucleus of government, basically for two reasons.

But first, a quick explanation about the context of the emergence and development of the idea of ​​a center of government. It can be said to have emerged in the 1990s, a moment of wide dissemination of neoliberalism as an ideology for the minimal State and as a mantra of the market economy around the world. However, given its meager results in economic and social terms in virtually all countries that applied it (especially those on the capitalist periphery), members and ideologues from central countries – notably those of the OECD – sought to justify the neoliberal failure by pointing to the supposed inefficiency of the State as cause.

In this way, they invented the idea of ​​a center of government as a magic solution, in the mistaken belief that only by rationalizing public spending and reducing state action to the minimum possible, the free market economic system would regain protagonism and command global recovery. It is not surprising, therefore, that for the realization of this ideal, the organizations and public functions responsible for government accounts (such as central banks in currency management and national treasuries in debt management) and for the bureaucratic controls of the State (internal control of procedures and external control of accounts) had to be even more empowered, composing the decision-making core of government centers.

In this institutional design, the planning and management instances would clearly be subaltern or subsidiary. With that, instead of attacking the causes of the problems, clearly arising from the neoliberal economic model that produces a dysfunctional financialization regime of income and wealth, the exorbitant increase in concentration and economic and social inequalities, the already almost irreversible process of planetary environmental collapse and the crisis of representative democracies with the delegitimization of politics, the architects of the idea of ​​a center of government sought rhetorical palliatives with little or no empirical foundation to, again in world history, accuse the State – its size and functions – of being inefficient and ineffective, a scarecrow at which everyone should throw their stones.

In this way, returning then to the two reasons suggested, the first of them derives precisely from what was said above. It is that, contrary to the idea of ​​activism present in the tradition and theories of government planning, the idea of ​​the center of government implicitly has a static or accommodative view of the governing process. The main reason for this is that, having conceptually developed over the past two decades from OECD studies and proposals, the idea of ​​the center of government refers not so much to the necessary transformations in the central arrangement of the executive power, responsible for coordination and execution of public policies, etc., but above all a set of management procedures that, applied rationally (efficiently and effectively) in the interaction between certain bodies considered essential to that center of government, would increase the capacity and quality of the process to govern, both from the point of view of political dialogue and the coordination of public policies.

Of course, although this is no small thing, it says almost nothing about the necessary transformations in the structure and modus operandi of government, such that greater capacity for government from the political or governability point of view, and greater capacity for achievement from the point of view of of the development project underlying the election of a given political grouping. Hence the static or accommodative character that the idea of ​​a center of government brings with it.

Instead of being conceived as a dynamic or malleable institutional arrangement to the needs of the country's current situation and the size of the transforming ambition of the political project that won the elections, the center of government, as it has been defended by recent Brazilian governments and by self-interested bodies such as the TCU, the CGU, the STN, the SOF and the OECD itself, among others, represents yet another managerial fad and a formal arrangement for additional empowerment of these organizations, with little capacity in fact to increase the capacity of government in the face of the world of complex problems of today.

In turn, the second of the reasons why planning surpasses the notion of center of government is that, historically, it was the strategic governmental planning function that, endowed with political centrality and institutional capacity, in Brazil and elsewhere, was in fact able to promote transformations in the structure of the State, in the range of public policies, in the methods and techniques of government, in short, in the dimensions of governability and governance, such that, with political boldness and a vision of the future (incidentally, two attributes absent from the idea of ​​a center of government) , it was possible to promote structural changes (quantitative and qualitative) both in the process of governing itself and, more importantly, in the economic, territorial parameters and social conditions of huge segments of the population.

In other words: while the vision of the center of government is endowed with a static nature and attached to the dimensions of short/medium term and the economic efficiency of government acts, the vision of strategic planning is associated with an intrinsic/non-delegable function of government that it is theoretically and historically dynamic, focused on the process of building state capacities for the economic, territorial and social transformation of the country, confusing itself with an inescapable part of the governing process itself.

As a result, we understand planning as a daily and dynamic process of conducting government; it cannot be confused with documents, books and plans, although these, if well prepared, help as a necessary part of the documentary record, as well as in internal and external communication to the government, etc. First of all, planning is the art of good politics. Therefore, planning is a technopolitical process – continuous, collective and cumulative – through which political projects arising from society are given concrete form, channeled by groups that legitimately and democratically dispute the conduct of government actions.

In this sense, it is possible to list seven structuring and concrete dimensions that shape the space and role of governmental strategic planning – and, consequently, that of social participation and public management – ​​in highly complex government processes, aiming at national development . Are they:

(1) Political centrality: implies providing the planning function with a strong strategic content. It is about making the governmental planning function the unifying field of proposals, guidelines, projects, in short, of action strategies, which announce, in their contents, the implicit and explicit potentialities, that is to say, the possible and/or desirable trajectories for the ordered and planned action of the State in pursuit of national development.

(2) Temporality and Directionality: National development planning is, by nature, a short-, medium-, and long-term activity. It is therefore necessary to allow the PPA to organize and operate according to different levels of temporality and strategic direction. Concretely, this is about allowing the time horizons of the various government policies and programs to be freely expressed within the same planning instrument. As a result, all sectoral plans considered robust and correct, from the point of view of policy and the national development strategy, would be automatically incorporated into the plan, regardless of the respective time horizon or the degree of institutional maturation in each case.

The budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and control subfunctions would take into account, for their respective activities, the specificity and temporality of each case. In addition, it is fundamental that, even with different temporalities, coherence between the different instruments is guaranteed, based on a strategic direction, considering common elements or dialogue between them. There must be a single vision, built from various perspectives, that guides the different sectorial plans and guidelines that underlie the different territorial, regional or local plans.

(3) Articulation and coordination: In addition to coherence in the direction of the plans, it is necessary to spend considerable institutional efforts in articulation and coordination tasks also in implementation strategies, at various levels and simultaneously: intra and inter-policies, programs, ministries and bodies; intra and inter-federal instances; intra and interpowers of the Republic, among others.

The work of institutional articulation and general coordination of planning actions and initiatives is necessarily complex because, in any case, it must involve many actors, each with their own package of diverse interests and with different power resources, so that a large part of the The chances of success of government planning today depend, in fact, on the ability of politicians and public managers to satisfactorily carry out this institutional articulation effort at different levels.

(4) Social participation: today, any governmental planning initiative or activity that intends to be effective needs to accept – and even rely on – a certain level of public engagement from the actors directly involved with the issue, whether these are the state bureaucracy, politicians and academics. , are the beneficiaries of the intended action.

In other words, the planning activity must foresee a non-negligible dose of horizontalism in its conception, that is to say, of direct participation and practical involvement of – whenever possible – all the actors belonging to the arena in question. Its involvement should also include monitoring and evaluation activities, in order to ensure participation in all crucial stages of planning and have arrangements that allow for the continuous improvement of public policies in a transparent manner, with active participation, maintaining high levels of of trust and support from social actors to planned actions.

(5) Territorial dimension: introducing the territorial dimension in planning implies considering it an intrinsic element in the design of public policies, considering their specificities, demands and potential, going beyond shelf solutions and over-the-counter offers. Furthermore, it means considering the territory as a platform for the integration of public policies, which converges with the perspective of multisectoral coordination.

Furthermore, it is a strong channel for promoting social participation, given that the territory is a concrete and living element where social relations take place. Moreover, the territory, as a central subject and, at the same time, an object of the development strategy in a multi-scale perspective, is susceptible to the mediations of the different temporalities of planning, given that it requires a long term for the complete realization of the strategy, while it demands the short term for solving urgent demands.

(6) Effective changes in reality: it is necessary that the implementation, management of public policies and the effective delivery of State goods and services to the population are the true criteria for gauging and pursuing the institutional performance (sectoral, territorial and aggregate) of the Brazilian state. Only in this way will it be possible, in fact, to calibrate the planning actions towards the intermediate results (measured by the effectiveness of the governmental action) and the final results (measured by the transforming effectiveness of the action) of national public policies, towards the consolidation of a project integral development for Brazil in the XNUMXst century. What matters are the results of public action, referenced in well-designed policies, adequately financed, monitored and evaluated with the necessary frequency in each case.

(7) Integration between the planning and budgeting instruments and processes: the daily planning exercise and its translation into general, sectoral or territorial plans, needs to be closely linked to the budgetary processes, not only in the elaboration, but also involving dialogue and federative articulation and between the Powers in the discussion of the budget in the National Congress. In recent years, parliament has acquired centrality in the budget process in Brazil, given the weight of impositive amendments (RP 6 and RP 7) and the size of the rapporteur's amendments (RP 9).

It is important to review the budget process so that it allows it to react to planning and management inputs, including recovering the ability to influence parliamentary choices. Likewise, the monitoring and evaluation processes, seeking to ensure the direction and quality of public spending, must influence the allocation process. Finally, the social participation mechanisms must be multiple, reaching, directly and/or indirectly, the budget. Thus, the instruments and processes must be thought of in an integrated way, as part of the same budgetary governance process, governed by the broader planning direction.

Therefore, it is advocated that the central strategic planning body should be located next to the presidential office. It must be an integral unit of the Presidency of the Republic, with a configuration similar to that shown in figure 1 attached.

In these terms, what is presented here gives rise to a committed will to see the government climb higher levels of directionality and global effectiveness. We believe that the moment is opportune, that it is in the period of transition between governments that change projects find a more favorable environment to obtain the consideration of the leaders.

In this way, the very opportunity for changes is reinforced, while at the same time the progressive introduction of improvements in the functioning of the system is facilitated.

Bring on 2023!



Figure 1: Proposed Organizational Structure of the Special Secretariat for Planning and General Coordination within the scope of the Presidency of the Federative Republic of Brazil.

As a counterpart to this restructuring, a Ministry of Public Management and State Reform would be organized, absorbing the attributions of innovation and public management, relations and working conditions in the public sector, technological modernization and digital government, asset management and articulation and support to federation units.

Figure 2: Proposed Organizational Structure of the Ministry of Public Management, Innovation and Modernization of the State.


*José Celso Cardoso Jr., doctor in economics from Unicamp, is a federal public servant at Ipea and current president of Afipea-Sindical.


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