Economy, Globe, Latin America, Politiks

Political decentralisation v. inequality in Peru

Economic growth in the face of increased ancestral problems. This is Peru’s reality. It is a country with a high level of inequality, with a very successful GDP.


Descentralización política 9Ramón Alabau


In a recent intervention the South American president Ollanta Humala declared that “Peru is a very unequal country”.

Conscious of one of the biggest problems facing the Peruvian population, the country’s leader indicated that the centralist system dominating the state has negative repercussions in the economic and social inequalities.

Despite the growth that the Andean state is experiencing, the National Institute of Statistics and Information Technology (INEI), confirms that in the last 20 years inequality has increased by 179%. This has converted the country, run by President Humala, into the most unequal place on the planet.

Ollanta Humala
Ollanta Humala

Peru runs on a centralist system, which prioritises Lima in political and economic decisions and to a large extent excludes the rest of the regions is the reason for a multitude of protests led by indigenous people, farmers, miners and other inhabitants of the interior territories. They all criticise the loss of their territories in favour of the extractive industries, political marginalisation which they experience from the capital and the inequalities between the rich and poor.

As a reflection of this denounced discrimination, a study by the organisation Save the Children shows how poverty has a bigger effect on rural areas with 61% of the population living in poverty as opposed to 20% in urban areas.

Despite the president qualifying the centralist system as “an obese state” and as “sedentary” and having shown himself to be against certain characteristics defining the system, in many protests he has been accused of being a “traitor” as he has not followed through with his propositions and promises.

Descentralización política 2There have been different studies and projects done to show the benefits which the population would gain from the decentralisation of power.

The Prisma spoke to Dr.Annabel Pinker, a British anthropologist of the Institute for the Study of the Americas of the University of London.

Pinker has produced some studies on the ambiguous policies which have been emerging in in Ecuador and Peru, and with other experts, she has examined the effects  of political decentralisation in the region surrounding Cusco, Peru.

Descentralización política 8What problems do they face in terms of implementing decentralised powers?

The regulations are very complex. For example, many things still need to be worked out, such as trying to establish the jurisdiction of the new regional governments and the limits of the local government’s autonomy under the process of decentralisation. This means that there is a lot of political and legal uncertainty. However, we have found that these uncertainties have encouraged the practice of experimentalism and creativity in local politics.

What influence have politics had on the current state of Peru?

Without a doubt, Fujimore’s rise to power in 1990 has had a big influence. His neoliberal policies have resulted in the privatisation of resources and the fragmentation of political parties and social movements.

It could be said that privatization has contributed in a certain way to increase the national wealth, but it has also decreased the ability of people to resist sacrifizing welfare policies.


What criticisms or improvements would you make to the current policies?

In spite of the fact that the annual GDP is impressive, the inequality between the rich and the poor continues to be very apparent. Work needs to be done to stop the discrimination that the indigenous populations suffer. Political spaces need to be opened up to the demands and needs of the country’s citizens.

Would a completely decentralised state end the economic imbalance which exists between the city and the rural areas?

In the Cusco region certain positive experiences can be seen through the processes of decentralisation. For example, the participatory budget (where the townspeople choose and prioritise public work) opens the door to active participation from the local population in their community politics.

Peru Peru has a problem with miner’s concessions and the conflicts derived from these. How much is this a cause of influence from the state, and how much is it influence from local powers?

In the village of Ollantaytambo, near Cusco, I used to deal with local controversies related to the elaboration of an engineering study to avoid confrontation.

They are now trying to do the job on a local level, the municipality is now managing it and it has the support of the majority of the community.

This shows that decentralisation can have positive in terms of treating problems in the local area.

Peru and 4Seeing what has happened in many countries in Europe with the economic crisis, don’t you think that this could be repeated in Peru and Ecuador?

The great dependence on petroleum is notable and also that it could mean economic instability when the reserves diminish. In fact, we have already seen many conflicts that have originated from the exploitation and pillaging of natural resources. What is needed is a more even distribution of the benefits. Furthermore, a heavy investment in renewable resources is required to guarantee the development of the community and of the environment in a sustainable way. We have seen that in Latin America there are a large number of innovative local initiatives which are proposing new forms of social and economic organisations to ensure a sustainable future.


(Translated by Frances Singer –


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