Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira
Minister of Federal Administration and State Reform, Brazil
Sequencing Reform, Pay Reform, Civil Service Recruitment
getting the news out/managing expectations, reform sequencing, merit pay, decentralization, capacity building
Tue Sep 21 2010
Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira places his own public management reform of the 1990s in the context of past civil service reforms carried out during the presidency of Getúlio Vargas in the 1930s and later on under the military regime in the 1960s. Upon being appointed as Minister of Federal Administration and Reform, he articulated his ideas in a white paper on reform of the state apparatus (Plano Diretor) influenced by the British experience in managerial reform. To coordinate implementation, Bresser-Pereira built a reform team by recruiting his former students and the public managers (gestores) trained in the then-neglected competitive public service career. The former minister’s approach to reform focuses on deemphasizing procedure in favor of accountability for outcomes, and on definition of goals to be pursued freely by managers as opposed to close supervision and auditing at each step. He draws a distinction between the strategic core of the state tasked with policy-making, and the state agencies tasked with regulation and execution of specific activities, which would benefit greatly from adoption of a managerial model and greater autonomy. To strengthen the strategic core of the state, Bresser-Pereira reformed the entrance system for careers in public service by holding regular public examinations open to university graduates. To further improve efficiency, he advocated for tenure flexibilization in civil service and for reduction of services provided directly by the state. In his vision, the nonprofit sector (social organizations) would be primarily responsible for a significant portion of service provision under renewable government contracts, as illustrated in the cases of healthcare and higher education. As these controversial measures ignited public opinion, managerial reform was successfully put on the agenda. The main sources of opposition were the lower bureaucracy, professors and university employees, members of the Partido Dos Trabalhadores (PT), administrative lawyers and the judiciary. Bresser-Pereira’s approach to overcoming resistance was to encourage debate in several fora and garner the support of state governments, municipalities, the majority of congress and the media. The former minister highlights two important achievements: winning the hearts and minds of the higher bureaucracy, and successful passage of an amendment that enshrined the principles of the reform in the Constitution. After his tenure, he advocated for increasing the budgetary power of the reform initiative by placing it under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Planning. However, in the face of limited political will of the relevant ministers, the program was effectively lowered to the status of secretary without increasing its operational capabilities. Nonetheless, the principles of the reform have been adopted throughout Brazil at different levels, most notably in the state of Minas Gerais.
At the time of this interview, Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira was serving as president for the Centro de Economía Política (Center for Political Economics) and editor of the Brazilian Journal of Political Economy. After training as a lawyer at the University of São Paulo, Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira received his master’s degree in business administration from Michigan State University and joined the faculty of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation. After serving as vice-president of the Pão de Açúcar Group for almost twenty years, he became president of the São Paulo state bank under its first democratically-elected administration, later serving as chief of staff of the governor. Bresser-Pereira served as finance minister of Brazil at the end of the José Sarney administration. During Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s first term, he was minister of federal administration and state reform. Following Cardoso’s reelection, he became minister of science and technology.