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 large majority in Guatemala is satisfied with the education and the health systems. Guatemalans are most satisfied with the education system, with 72% of the population being satisfied in 2022, higher than both the LAC (66%) and OECD (67%) averages. The healthcare system has a satisfaction rate of 59%, which exceeds the LAC average by 6 percentage points (p.p.) but is 9 p.p. below the OECD average of 68%. Satisfaction with the judiciary system is at 48%, notably higher 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 processes, such as gender budgeting, can also help promote measures to close gender gaps. The OECD Gender Budgeting Index measures how countries perform on five dimensions of gender budgeting mechanisms: institutional and strategic framework to assess the gender impact of budgetary and fiscal policies; methods and tools used to implement gender budgeting; mechanisms to enhance transparency and accountability; the enabling environment for the effective and consistent implementation of the gender budgeting framework; and the impact of gender budgeting on policy development and allocation decisions. Of the 13 surveyed LAC countries, 10 practice gender budgeting (77%), compared to 61% of OECD countries.

Guatemala is close to the LAC average in the Gender Budgeting Index. It scores 0.49, on a 0 to 1 scale, slightly above the LAC average (0.47) and at the same value as the OECD average (0.49). Guatemala's strongest dimension is strategic framework (0.13). There is room for improvement across the other dimensions of the index, in particular on accountability and transparency (0.07).

Figure 2. OECD Gender 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.

In Guatemala, some procurement agencies have developed internal strategies to promote green public procurement. The country does not have any strategies to promote responsible business conduct, nor to pursue the participation of SMEs in public procurement processes. In comparison, 14 LAC countries have a central government strategy to promote the participation of SMEs in public procurement, 9 countries 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

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.

Guatemala has policies in place for the inclusion of young professionals in the public workforce at the central level. Guatemala lacks both targets and policies for people with disabilities and indigenous populations. In comparison, among the surveyed LAC countries, 10 out of 15 have targets for people with disabilities and 4 countries have targets for young professionals and for indigenous people.

Figure 4. 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, Guatemala had a fiscal deficit of 1.7% of GDP, smaller than the average across LAC countries (3.4%), and a decrease from 2.2% in 2019. Government revenue represented 12.7% of Guatemala’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 increased from 11.2% in 2019 in Guatemala.

Figure 5. 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.

Guatemala is among the LAC countries with the lowest government debt. In 2022, Guatemala’s government debt amounted to 29.2% of its GDP, well below the LAC average of 66.3%. Its debt level has increased from 26.4% of GDP in 2019.

Figure 6. 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 Guatemala amounted to 6% of total employment, below the LAC average of 12%, and lower than the OECD average of 21%. The share of public employment in Guatemala has remained steady between 2011 and 2022.

Figure 7. 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 Guatemala is above the LAC average. Women hold 57.9% of senior management positions in Guatemala, considerably higher than the LAC average of 43.4%. At middle management level, women hold 47.5% of posts, also above the LAC average of 42.3%.

Figure 8. 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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