Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Despite a stable macroeconomic regime and generally prudent budget policy, Chile falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 24) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point since 2014.

The economy is open and competitive, but depends strongly on commodity exports rather than industrial activity. A new set of labor reforms seeks to broaden collective bargaining and strengthen women’s representation in labor-union management. A key goal is to address the country’s high degree of inequality.

The unemployment rate has risen to near-five-year highs. The vast majority of workers earn low wages. Labor efficiency is low. Recent tax reforms increased corporate taxes and addressed issues such as evasion, equity, and the promotion of company investments and private savings. A strong reliance on high, flat value-added taxes remains.

A fiscal rule linking spending tightly to revenue estimates has been challenged by declining copper prices and a slowdown in growth.

Social Policies

With wealth determining access to some social resources, Chile falls into the bottom ranks (rank 36) in the area of social policies. Its score in this area has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Persistent gaps between relatively poor-quality public schools and expensive private schools have sparked protests since 2010. Reforms have increased public funding, particularly for vulnerable students, but the system remains divided and in need of improvement.

The income distribution is highly unequal, with the lower-middle class in particular often living precariously on credit. Exclusion often follows ethnic lines, and social mobility is limited. The Bachelet government’s labor, education and tax programs are intended to have pro-inclusionary effects over time.

Health care is split between private and public systems. The public system provides broad coverage, with varying – though improving – quality. Provision of preschool education is improving, but often fails to correspond to parents’ working hours. Concerns over pension system have led to massive protests. A new law supports refugees’ integration into society.

Environmental Policies

Lacking a strong focus on conservation, Chile falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 38) with regard to environmental policies. Its score in this area has improved by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

Environmental institutions have been modernized in recent years, with oversight bodies becoming increasingly effective. However, policy is oriented toward complying with international markets rather than toward sustainability. Industrial interests have considerable influence over policy, but courts have occasionally halted development on environmental grounds.

Chile has signed the Paris agreement on climate change, which may accelerate institutional efforts to protect and preserve natural resources and environmental quality. The country does provide support for existing global environmental regimes, but does not initiate reforms or seek to shape agendas.



Quality of Democracy

Despite generally stable institutions, Chile falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 29) with regard to quality of democracy. Its score on this measure is unchanged since 2014.

A new electoral law has expanded both legislative houses, changed the proportional-representation model and introduced gender quotas for candidate lists. Wide-ranging evidence of corruption in political-party funding has emerged across the political spectrum. New anti-corruption measures have been implemented in response.

Journalists have faced less harassment when covering protests in recent years. While civil rights are generally protected, protests by indigenous groups and students have been strongly repressed. Gender and ethnic discrimination remain concerns, but same-sex unions have been newly accepted, and new electoral and labor laws promote women’s participation.

Courts are strong and independent. Links between political and economic elites reinforce existing patterns of privilege.



Executive Capacity

With a stable but still-modernizing state, Chile falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 16) with regard to executive capacity. Its score in this area has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Specialist units in ministries engage in strategic planning. The government office has sufficient capacities to evaluate line-ministry proposals, and collaborates in their development. Informal coordination plays an important role.

RIAs regularly address fiscal impact, but not environmental or social issues. The government’s frequent consultation with civil society is skewed toward economic interests. Implementation performance is excellent on general budgetary issues, but can be poor in other areas. The current government has scaled back ambitious reforms, but has launched debate on constitutional reform that could make them more feasible.

National standards for services such as education and health care are not met in some poor regions. An ongoing decentralization program giving greater power and funding flexibility to regional governors is intended to address these and other structural weaknesses.

Executive Accountability

With a mixed pattern of strengths and weaknesses, Chile falls into the bottom ranks (rank 36) with regard to executive accountability. Its score in this area has declined by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

Legislators have modest resources, but good formal executive-oversight powers. However, as Chile does not have a parliamentary system, congressional committees’ institutional degree of control is rather low. The Comptroller serves as an independent and influential audit body. No ombuds office exists.

Low education levels combined with a dependence on TV news give a large share of the population a poor understanding of public policy. The oligopolistic media distorts policy discussions.

Presidential candidates’ platforms are more relevant than party agendas, while party leadership controls candidate selection. Numerous think tanks are directly connected to economic interest groups. These group’s policy proposals tend to be plausible but narrowly focused. The civil-society sector has a wide range of capabilities.
Back to Top