Government rejects municipalities' request. Says
re-centralization of health and education funding would be a
ChilNet extract from El Mercurio
13 May 1997
Finance Minister Eduardo
Aninat refused Monday last week's demand from municipal
government leaders that the national government provide nearly
US$169 million in funding for deficits in local health and
educational services or face their re-centralization.
Association (AC) President Gonzalo Duarte charged at the body's
third annual meeting this past weekend in La Serena that federal
government neglect last year forced municipalities to pay an
additional US$140 million out of their own funds to prevent these
services from collapsing. Municipalities on average spent 30
percent of their budgets on education and 35 percent on health to
cover the deficit, Duarte said.
Should the situation recur this
year, he said, municipalities will rebel and return health and
education to the government.
Chilean public education was
passed on to the municipalities in 1982, and they now operate
some 6,000 schools throughout the country. Most health clinics
were localized in 1988.
The association held its third
annual congress last week, attended by some 1,500 mayors and city
council members from around the country.
Duarte, who is also the mayor of
La Florida, said in his closing speech that the municipalities
are in a grave situation because decentralization has proceeded
without sufficient funding. Their total deficits were around
US$530 million in 1996, he said.
The association president said he
would call on the government to create a work group to deal with
10 issues key to complete financing of decentralized services, an
effective decentralization of political power and full municipal
autonomy to restructure local governments. He said the government
should use funds collected from sales tax to fund local services.
Minister Aninat responded that
re-centralizing health, education and other services would run
counter to worldwide trends toward decentralization and under no
circumstances would the government accept this setback. In any
case, such a change would not be possible without passage of a
Government sources say that
Duarte's comments were "off the cuff," and do not
accurately reflect the agreements reached by the association
during the congress. Undersecretary of Education Jaime Perez de
Arce said he found the request to re-centralize services strange
as it has no support in the meeting's official documentation.
The government also questions
Duarte's math. Undersecretary Perez de Arce said Duarte's deficit
figures fail to take into account over US$72 million received by
municipalities in the last quarter of 1996. Also, the minister
said, the association's own figures show that municipal
contributions to education have decreased from 13 percent several
years ago, to 8.7 percent in 1995, contrasting with Duarte's 30
The 1997 national budget allots
almost US$940 million to local education. *