According to information from the Senior Public Management, based on data from the Budget Directorate (DIPRES), Chile has a staff of 453,154 public officials who work in various centralized, decentralized and decentralized services. This represents 11.9% of total employment in the country, below the OECD average of 21% and around the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. Of this total, 36.7 per cent of civil servants work in the Metropolitan Region and 63.3 per cent in the rest of the regions.
Of these, in the 345 municipalities 52,868 workers work as staff and contractors, not counting officials who do so as fees financed by external programs or with municipal financing, which in its totality exceeds 57,000 workers.
On the other hand, the civil servants who work in the 16 regional governments of Chile do not exceed 2,003 people, which is equivalent to 0.44% of the total public sector workers in the country. This first approximation makes it clear that most public officials work in centralized, decentralized institutions and municipalities.
As a result, with the meagre 0.44 per cent of civil servants working in regional governments, progress in decentralization, political, fiscal and administrative matters at the regional level is difficult.
This is very important to note given that, at present, regional governments perform three essential functions, two of which have been performed since the beginning of the century. The first relates to planning regional development and, the second, to financing projects for that purpose. With the new law on the transfer of competences, a third function appears, which is related to the capacity to formulate programmes and the coordination of decentralized public services.
As a result of the fact that the largest number of public servants are not in regional governments, their capacity to formulate and control the resources transferred to public services is reduced. Therefore, and given that the percentage of public employment in relation to total employment in Chile is below the OECD average, this indicates that it is necessary to strengthen regional governments in their different functions.
Given the current institutional context in Chile, it is essential to strengthen with human resources the coordination capacity of regional governments with decentralized public services. Or what we might call the coordination capacity of the government of the region with the government in the region. As I have said in other columns, it is too important for regional governments to have human resources that guarantee the ability to coordinate decentralized public services, which have a large volume of public investment in regions. For example, of the total of 100 pesos that are invested in a region, between 85 to 90 come from funds from decentralized institutions between 10 to 15 pesos come from the regional government and between 0 to 2 pesos from municipal funds.
Currently, the regional government is not the institution that coordinates the decentralized public services that invest in regions between 85 and 90% of public resources, but the central government does so through its respective regional presidential delegate. At present, the law is not sufficiently clear in establishing that coordination with this type of services is part of the attributions and competences of regional governors, without a programming agreement or other specific planning instrument that links the region with a ministry.
In short, the difficulty seems to be in how to guarantee, through human resources and legislative tools, the capacity of regional governments to coordinate decentralized public services in the territory. After finding this consensus, human capital must be strengthened and formal and legal coordination mechanisms established in favor of one or another level of government, whether regional or national in the territory. Once this substantive discussion has been dissipated and regional capacities developed, progress can be made much more solidly in transferring competences or even all decentralized public services to regional governments.