Chile: Tackling social changes

When Chile became the first South American country to join the OECD in 2010, the event was greeted as a seal on years of progress, not to mention hard work. Still, challenges remain, including in the fight against poverty, as Minister of Planning Felipe Kast explains in this interview with the OECD Observer.

OECD Observer: Chile has recently experienced a slight uptick in poverty, perhaps as a result of the economic crisis. How do you plan to deal with this?

Minister Felipe Kast: We started reducing poverty very strongly since 1990, and poverty rates dropped from almost 40% to 13% in 2006. Then from 2006 to 2009, they went up slightly to 15%, which is very bad news obviously. It was partly because of the crisis, of course, but also because our policies were not very well monitored. That’s something we should change in the future. We have increased our social spending a lot, but without the results we really expected, so most of our reduction in poverty was due to growth and employment. We need to make sure that our social spending is also having the impact we expected from the beginning.

Chile has decided to transform the Ministry of Planning into a Ministry of Social Development. Could you tell us some of the reasons behind this change?

Actually, it’s related to the previous point. We wanted to change the way we design our policies. Now we have each ministry dealing with its own problem, and no one is looking at the big picture, and no one is really monitoring the impact of each of these social problems. Therefore, if we really want to give a medicine that has an impact on the patient, we need to have a Ministry of Social Development dealing with the whole picture and making sure that poverty reduction is a fact, no matter what is going on outside of the country.

You are currently visiting the OECD. How do you feel we could help you with these challenges?

Well, Chile is very proud to be part of the OECD, we’re very happy about it. I’m here to get some feedback about what we’re doing, and we are trying to get some help with indicators. We’re trying to develop new ways of measuring social mobility, we’re trying to measure cohesion, we’re trying to measure different things that we need to monitor in order to make sure that growth translates into a better quality of life. I’m having very good meetings and am thankful to be here.

Visit Chile’s Ministry of Planning, Mideplan,

The interview was conducted by Ricardo Tejada. It can be viewed at or

©OECD Observer No 281, October 2010

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