Regional government budgets were to be reduced by over US$880,000. The decreases were announced just days before the newly-elected governors were to assume office. The decreases were then scuttled after an outcry by the affected governors.
On July 9, Chile’s Budget Management (Dipres) announced budget reductions for 13 of the 15 regional governments totaling more than US$880,000. At the same time, there was a budget increase for the Interior Government Service run by the presidential delegates of over US$1 million.
This budget change was announced just days before the elected regional governors were set to assume office and it received an angry response.
The elected governor for the Antofagasta region, Ricardo Díaz, spoke to Radio Biobío and said this decision came without warning and that the government had acted arbitrarily and “with no room for dialogue.”
Claudio Orrego, elected Governor for the Metropolitan Region, told Radio Biobío that “this government has proved with its last-minute measures that it simply does not believe in a decentralization process.”
Los Lagos Governor Patricio Vallespín, who is also the spokesperson for the Regional Governors Association, told Radio Cooperativa, “we believe that this is a terrible decision by the government. We think that this is an attack on decentralization and regional government.”
Regional governors vs. Presidential delegates
Presidential delegates (who used to be called regional supervisors) are chosen by the president to represent the government in the different regions of the country; whereas the regional governors are elected by the public to represent them before other institutions from the state.
This is where the conflict lies. Regional governors are supposed to represent their region’s territorial interests before other State organs, usually located and more focused on the situation at the Capital and overlooking or pushing back needs from other regions. This means that the regional government is, at its core, made to reinforce decentralization.
On the other hand, presidential delegates represent the central government in the periphery, but they also hold power in certain key situations, such as law enforcement and assuring public order. Therefore, they can go over the figure of the regional governor to enforce policies or measures that are not made especially for their particular region, or taking account of their needs.
There has also been a bill pending since last year, known as the ‘Short Decentralization Bill’ that would define more clearly the roles of regional governor and presidential delegate, in case of any conflicts of power. This, added to the reduction and increase in their respective budgets, caused an obvious bad reaction among the regional authorities.
After a hail of criticism from governors – and just four days after the budget cuts were announced – the Minister of Finance, Rodrigo Cerda, announced that, after further consideration, the government had decided to restore the budgets to their previous levels.
Javiera is from Santiago de Chile, she is studying journalism at Universidad de Chile, since 2017 and doing her internship at Chile Today.