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Politics and ideas in policymaking: reforming pension systems in comparative perspective.

Politics and ideas in policymaking: reforming pension systems in comparative

perspective. The case of Uruguay and Chile.

Jorge Papadópulos (PhD)

Departamento de Ciencia Política, Universidad ORT, Uruguay

1. Setting the Problem

When pension systems are highly developed, the politics of pension reform constitutes an excellent focal point for the analysis of the political relations among political parties, interest groups and techno-bureaucracies. Highly developed pension systems affect the life of most of the population, both as contributors and beneficiaries. In this systems the theory expects incremental rather than structural reforms. Besides, the older the institution the higher the resistance for change. This paper compares the pension system policy options adopted in Chile and Uruguay under the aegis of the authoritarian regimes installed in both countries in 1973. Both regimes shared similar political features, a common economic rhetoric and similarities at the level of their economic and pension system problems. In spite of this similarities they adopted opposed pension policy reforms.

In Chile the pension system was reformed following a market oriented reform. On the other hand, almost at the same time, the Uruguayan pension system introduced only parametric reform. This paper will show that different policy options are the consequence of the role played by technobureaucrats the policy ideas they have and the political regime’s structure of policy decision making. This paper compares the changing role played by lawyers and economist as policy adviser and policy makers along the recent history of Chile and Uruguay. This comparison highlights how ideas are shaped by institutions and how changing political environments open a window of opportunities for the empowerment of of new policy ideas.

This document shows the effect of specialized social knowledge on pension systems reform. Economical and political structural variables determine policy changes, but between structural variables and policy choice, specialized social knowledge do determine the direction and deepness of a given policy change. Specialized social knowledge articulated by a wide range of social and political networks fight for ideas providing meaning to policies and policy actions making them viable (or not) independently of the economic system or the political regime.

In this paper I will describe the major features of the social security reform in Uruguay and Chile respectively. First, I will describe briefly the main points of both reforms. Then, in order to understand the particularities of pension reform in each case I will consider the political, social and cultural background of both countries under three different levels of analysis: a) the institutional structure; b) their economic policies; c) the role of technocrats and social security ideas.

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