SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

Peru 2015 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Paola Bustamante Suárez, Minister of Development and Social Inclusion, on improving the welfare of Peruvians and how the private sector is helping in this regard.

 Paola Bustamante Suárez
BIOGRAPHY
Paola Bustamante Suárez is a lawyer by profession with a degree from Universidad San Martín de Porres and a MPA from Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Madrid. She also holds a doctorate in Political Science from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. She has extensive work experience in advisory and high-level management in the public sector and in international negotiations, as well as in the design and implementation of social programs and projects. As a public servant, she began working as Minister of Women and Human Development in 1997. She has also served as Vice-Minister of Promotion of Employment and Vice-Minister of micro and small enterprises at the Ministry of Work and Employment Promotion.

What were the core factors behind the establishment of the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion?

We focus on five main areas; child nutrition, early child development, integral child and teenager development, economic inclusion, and protection of senior citizens. Effectively, these pillars cover the entire cycle of life. One of the keys of our success resides on the synergies between ministries to make sure we efficiently impact on people's lives, making sure all parties contribute to achieving this nationwide goal. One clear example of this is school meals, which we changed toward a more approachable strategy based on providing improved food to all public schools based on what is currently in the market, rather than what had been determined as the staple for such meals. The program is Qali Warma and reaches more than three million children nationwide. We started from the rural parts of the country, expanding to the main cities. We expect to reach 3.6 million children in the near future, which would mean all public school pupils in Peru. At the same time, our government has managed to reduce extreme poverty; when we took office extreme poverty was at 6.3% of the population, but by 2014 had dropped to 4.3%. According to the World Bank, when a country reaches 3% of extreme poverty, it is considered to be eradicated. We have in place two programs to combat extreme poverty; “Together," based on conditioned monetary transfers, and “Pension 65," targeting retired people in extreme poverty. We transfer $61.95 and $76.82, respectively, every two months. In general terms, in 2011, when we assumed office, poverty rates were at 27.8%, while today it has declined to 22.7%. Furthermore, chronic malnutrition among children was at 19.5% in 2011, whereas it now stands at 14.6% and our goal is to further reduce this figure to 10%. We also consider it essential for all Peruvian households to have the basic amenities of water, drainage, electricity, energy, and telephony. We have improved indicators in these fields, too; the national average access to these services was at 60.5% of Peruvian households, whereas now we are at 66.3%.

What does the Ministry do to make sure people moving out of extreme poverty have economic opportunities beyond social assistance?

Another of the programs we have in place to fight poverty is Haku Wiñay, which is based in the generation of economic opportunities. For example, families in extreme poverty are given a piece of land to enable self-sufficiency. We also provide them with training on farming and irrigation techniques, how to use fertilizer, and more, so they can become efficient at producing agricultural goods, creating a production surplus for sale. This enables families to first have regular income and subsequently, a permanent one. This is a crucial element to ensure that families rise out of poverty sustainably.

What role does the private sector play in the Ministry's efforts to close social gaps?

All economic sectors play an important role in our efforts to reduce poverty and promote social integration. For example, the private sector plays a key role in the Qali Warma program. We buy food in the market and this program has an annual impact in the national economy equal to $430 million. We also have the Cuna Mas project, addressing children up to three years of age, which sources food from the private sector. These two programs have a huge impact on the national economy in terms of enabling greater production by local producers for an annual amount of around $123 million. We have also boosted the purchase of healthy food, opening an entire new market in the country. This is a great opportunity for the private sector, including foreign investment. The private sector and foreign investment also have an opportunity in terms of contributing to closing social gaps in society; sanitation, drinking water, electrical energy, and so on are all areas that can be invested in. We need to highlight this as Peru has a very varied geography and we need to reach rural areas. The private sector also plays a key role in the financial integration process.