Government at a Glance: Latin America and the Caribbean 2024

Strengthening citizen participation, public management and integrity to build trust and support the green transition in Latin America and the Caribbean


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 Trust and satisfaction with public services

Trust in public institutions and satisfaction with public services are important outcomes of the quality of public governance. They reflect people’s perceptions of government competence in designing and delivering policies and services, as well as expectations about the behaviour of public institutions and public officials. Satisfaction with public services and trust in public institutions – while not necessary outcomes of democratic governance – can enhance effective governance by fostering participation in public life, compliance with policies, and social cohesion.

A majority of Colombians are satisfied with the education system, while satisfaction with the health and the judiciary systems lags behind the LAC average. An estimated 63% of Colombians are satisfied with the education system, a lower share than the LAC (66%) and OECD (67%) averages. The healthcare system has a satisfaction rate of 41%, which is below the LAC average by 12 percentage points (p.p.) and the OECD average by 27 p.p. Only 28% of Colombians are satisfied with the judiciary system, a share that is lower than the LAC average by 10 p.p.

Figure 1. Satisfaction with public services, 2022

 Good governance for inclusiveness and sustainability

In an age of multiple crises, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean need to pursue good governance practices that foster inclusiveness and sustainability, crucial for promoting prosperity and democratic resilience. Key actions include building on democratic strengths, such as enhancing stakeholder engagement in decision making and promoting representation and inclusion in public workforce. Additionally, efforts should focus on reinforcing key competences to deliver inclusive and sustainable growth, including budgeting and public procurement approaches that support the green transition. Safeguarding against threats to democratic values demands that effective public integrity rules and robust regulation against undue influence be maintained.

Budget management practices, such as green budgeting, can help face the climate crisis and achieve environmental goals. Green budgeting mechanisms include institutional arrangements to assess the environmental impacts of budgetary and fiscal policies, methods for evaluating their consistency, mechanisms to enhance transparency and accountability, and an enabling environment for green budgeting. Only a few countries in LAC have adopted green budgeting mechanisms and their implementation could be made more effective.

Colombia performs close to the LAC average in green budgeting, with a score of 0.36 on a 0-1 scale, compared to 0.39 (LAC) and 0.49 (OECD). Colombia's strongest dimension is institutional arrangements, scoring 0.19 out of a maximum of 0.25. There is room for improvement in methods and tools (0.05), accountability and transparency (0.07), and enabling environment (0.06).

Figure 2. OECD Green Budgeting Index, 2022

Public procurement – the purchase of goods, services and works by governments and state-owned enterprises – averaged 17.4% of total government expenditure in Latin America and the Caribbean countries in 2021. Public administrations are increasingly adopting public procurement as a strategic policy instrument to promote social objectives, for example to strengthen sustainability and environmental responsibility, by favouring green procurement and responsible business conduct, and inclusiveness, by incentivising the participation of different individuals and business groups as suppliers.

Colombia has developed a strategy at the central level of government to promote green public procurement and pursue the participation of SMEs in public procurement processes. Some procurement agencies have developed internal strategies to promote responsible business practices. In comparison, 14 LAC countries have a central government strategy to promote the participation of SMEs in public procurement, with 9 countries having a central government strategy for green public procurement and 7 for responsible business conduct.

Figure 3. Strategic public procurement at the central level to pursue sustainability and inclusiveness, 2022

Meaningful engagement with stakeholders in decision making helps to improve the design and public acceptance of public policies and services. The OECD's Regulatory Policy and Governance Index (iREG) assesses stakeholder engagement in the development of subordinate regulations (those approved by the head of government, ministries or the cabinet). This index measures countries’ performance in systematically involving stakeholders in public decision making, the use of tools, the transparency of their consultations, and their oversight and quality control. Between 2019 and 2022, 8 out of 11 surveyed LAC countries (73%) improved their iREG score on stakeholder engagement.

Colombia performs in line with the LAC average on the iREG index for stakeholder engagement for developing subordinate regulations. With an overall score of 2.02, on a 0-4 scale, Colombia is above the LAC average (1.85) and slightly below the OECD average (2.14). Colombia achieves its highest scores for systematic adoption (0.73 out of a maximum score of 1), followed by methodology (0.61). There is room for improvement on stakeholder engagement transparency (0.36) and oversight and quality control (0.31).

Figure 4. iREG on stakeholder engagement in developing subordinate regulations, 2022

A diverse public sector workforce is essential for promoting representation and inclusion of underrepresented and vulnerable groups. It strengthens government performance by driving innovation and contributing to tailored public services to meet the community's needs. Governments can use policies and targets to recruit and retain under-represented groups in the workforce.

Colombia has set specific targets for the whole central government for the inclusion of people with disabilities and young professionals in the public workforce; and has policies but not targets in place for indigenous people. Among the surveyed LAC countries, 10 out of 15 have targets for people with disabilities, 4 countries have targets for young professionals and for indigenous people.

Figure 5. Policies and targets to improve the representation of specific groups in the central/federal administration, 2022

 Use and management of public resources

To make meaningful progress toward inclusive and sustainable growth, governments need to manage their existing resources strategically. From a fiscal perspective, this entails balancing how much the government spends and collects. From a human resource perspective, it means strengthening the capacity and skills of public employees and creating a public workforce and elected public officials who represent all the people they serve

Public finances in the LAC region show modest positive signs, after a stark deterioration in 2020. This downturn was due to emergency measures taken to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, along with measures to support businesses and people to manage its impacts. Fiscal balances - the difference between a government’s revenues and its expenditures in a year - had broadly recovered to pre-COVID levels by 2022 across Latin America and the Caribbean. However, economic recovery remains fragile.

In 2022, Colombia had a fiscal deficit of 6.2% of GDP, larger than the average across LAC countries (3.4%), and an increase from 3.5% in 2019. Government revenue represented 27.9% of Colombia’s GDP in 2022, compared to 31.5% on average in LAC countries and 39.7% in OECD countries. This ratio of revenue relative to GDP has decreased from 29.4% in 2019.

Figure 6. General government fiscal balance as a percentage of GDP, 2007 - 2022

Government debt can be used to finance both current expenditure and investments but comes at a cost in the form of interest payments. Debt as a share of GDP increased during the COVID-19 pandemic in the LAC region due to increased expenditure and loss of tax revenues, and in 2022 still remained 2 p.p. above its 2019 level.

In 2022, Colombia's government debt amounted to 60.4% of its GDP, below the LAC average of 66.3%. The country’s debt level has increased from 52.4% of GDP in 2019.

Figure 7. General government gross debt as a percentage of GDP, 2019 and 2022

Public employees are at the forefront of policy design and formulation and the delivery of public services. The share of public employment varies significantly across the LAC region, ranging from under 5% of total employment to over 20%.

In 2022, public employment in Colombia amounted to 4% of total employment, well below the LAC average of 12% and the OECD average of 21%. Public employment in Colombia has remained steady between 2011 and 2022.

Figure 8. Public employment as a percentage of total employment, 2011, 2018 and 2022

Equal representation of women and men in the public sector is a benchmark for measuring progress towards gender equality, diversity and better representation. In 2021, more than half of the employees in the public sector in LAC countries were women (51.5%), with wide differences among countries. However, women are often under-represented in managerial positions in the region, in 2022, on average women held 43% of senior management positions, with large differences among countries.

The share of women in senior and middle management roles in the public sector in Colombia is above the LAC average. Women account for 48.2% of public employment, close to the LAC average, and hold 41.9% of senior management positions in Colombia, slightly lower than the LAC average of 43.4%. At middle management level, women hold 62.7% of posts, well above the LAC average of 42.3%.

Figure 9. Share of women by position in central/federal public administration, 2022

 Figure notes

Data on public finance and economics are from the IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO) database (October 2023), which is based on the Government Finance Statistics Manual (GFSM) and were extracted on 3 November 2023. For the OECD averages, data were based on the System of National Accounts (SNA) and were extracted from the Government at a Glance online database representing the last available update: 5 January 2024.

Fiscal balance, also referred to as net lending (+) or net borrowing (-) of general government, is calculated as total government revenues minus total government expenditures.

Data on public employment are derived from the International Labour Organization (ILO) ILOSTAT database and were extracted on 17 February 2023. Data are based on the Labour Force Survey. Public sector employment covers employment in the government sector plus employment in publicly owned resident enterprises and companies.

LAC and OECD averages refer to the unweighted average with the exception of public finance indicators.

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