Paper: Inter-American Development Bank impacts understanding of Latin America

The Inter-American Development Bank’s efforts to improve understanding of the domestic policymaking process in Latin America are having a positive impact, according to an expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The Washington D.C.-based institution is the largest source of development financing for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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“In the early 2000s, the Inter-American Development Bank launched a visionary and influential research agenda that dramatically improved understanding of the policymaking process in Latin America,” said Mark Jones, fellow in political science at the Baker Institute. Jones said it did so by detailing the role key participants in the executive, legislative and judicial branches as well as in other authorities and institutions played in the process. It also detailed how those key players interacted to produce public policy throughout the region in general, and, via the publication of a volume in English and an updated version in Spanish, in eight of Latin America’s most important countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay and Venezuela) in particular, he said.

Jones’ new working paper, “How Much Has the Game Changed? Revisiting Policymaking in Latin America a Decade Later,” was prepared for the Inter-American Development Bank and reviews the degree to which these eight country-level analyses still accurately portray the key players and their role in the policymaking process today. Jones concluded that in a majority of the countries the analysis is still broadly valid and accurately describes the political institutions and participants who are pivotal for the policymaking game, although in some areas the original analysis would benefit from revision and update.

“Together, the two volumes (the original 2008 English edition and the 2010 Spanish translation and minor update) are among the very most influential books on political institutions, politics and policymaking in Latin America,” wrote Jones, who is also the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies, professor of political science and fellow at Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

“The books serve as staples in undergraduate, master’s and doctoral classes across the globe while simultaneously representing some of the most frequently consulted sources by analysts, corporate executives, diplomats, journalists, policymakers, politicians and others when they want to know who the key political players in a country are, what their role in the policymaking process is and how the policymaking process in a country or group of countries functions more generally.”

Jones said that “the overall project was quite unique for its time in that it combined outstanding scholarly research by leading economists and political scientists using cutting-edge methods with a conscious and clear-cut goal of providing valuable insights and information for the broader policy community: domestic, foreign and multilateral.”

Given the importance of these volumes to the global community, Jones said, a “very good case can be made for the need for a revised version of the chapters in the case of all eight countries, revisions that could form the foundation of an updated version of the path-breaking ‘Policymaking in Latin America’ to be published on the 10-year anniversary of the original volume in 2018.”

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.