The Paraguayan governors lead the decentralisation process

Andy Rivas

International Adviser


Nowadays, the Republic of Paraguay has one of the highest growth rates in the world (in 2010 growth rates were 14.5%, just behind Qatar and Singapore), as a result of an increased liberalization of its economy and a strong foreign direct investment. Paraguay is the largest American exporter of electrical power, the fourth soy exporter and the eighth beef exporter in the world. It also has Itaipú, the second largest hydroelectric dam in the world, capable of supplying the electricity consumption of the planet for two days. For all these reasons, Paraguay is a hidden marvel, faced with the huge challenges arising from the great leap taken in the last 8 years. 

Paraguay is a unitary State with a stake in decentralisation to try to find the fast and dynamic answers that their central and departmental government is unable to provide.  It is a National State whose democracy has reached a consolidation phase, but its unitarism and its strong centralisation are the main obstacle to making a new qualitative leap in terms of economy and human development. In this respect, it is worth noting the exemplary efforts carried out by the current President of the Congress, who has promoted a series of reforms unheard of in modern Paraguayan democracy.

The 17 Paraguayan departments represent the political first division of the country.   Its highest ranking authority, elected by direct vote, is the Governor. The National Constitution of 1992 recognizes political, administrative and regulatory autonomy of the regions to manage their interests as well as autarchy in the collection and investment of their resources.  But in reality, decentralisation exists mainly on paper, it is shameful and it has not even achieved a tiny fraction of what other Governorates in Latin America have achieved in terms of centralisation. 

The foundation of the 1992 constituents, the majority from the interior of the country, was to have a representative of the central government in all areas: health, education, culture, public works and security.  This figure was supposed to allow a direct contact with the citizens, to detect and cater for their real needs, in order to meet the needs of the Paraguayan people through its governors.  

Nevertheless, the reality is far different from what was intended with the reform of 1992.  In the national expenditure budget, the Nation’s Ministry of Finance has the greatest influence and prevalence since the beginning. This limits the Governors’ potential to introduce or focus on their requirements. It can only be done in the National Congress. In 2014, The Governors of the Paraguayan Republic have achieved a budget increase of approximately 12% over the previous year. This is mainly due to the personal work and responsible action carried out by the Governors of Paraguay, who seek to strengthen modern democracy with a responsible and executable decentralization. 

Some of the Governors of the Paraguayan Departments have taken exemplary actions to modernise their administrations, to add dynamism to their management and to deliver an economic development in a way that it will enhance human capital development. Their battle to promote decentralization has been heard in parliamentary debates and it has been brought before the President of the Republic. They have achieved initial progress in the decentralisation process, but the government officials who don’t adapt to the new times in the Latin American state administrative bodies have been hindering the necessary development. Amongst these Paraguayan governors who have won plaudits from the citizens and international recognition, the following are to be found: Pedro González, Governor of Amambay; Rodolfo Friedmann Goernor of Guaira; Blas Lanzoni, Governor of the Central Department; Justo Zacarías, Governor of Alto Paraná; Carlos María López, Governor of Cordillera; Derlis Maidana, Governor of Misiones and Luis Gneiting, Governor of Itapúa.

The challenge is huge, and the Paraguayan governors need to prove that they can rise to the occasion arising from the consolidation of Paraguayan democracy. 



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