Report Nº: 197211/06/2024


Delays in the distribution of foodstuffs are causing intense controversy. This is not an isolated case, since the distribution of goods by the national government is a common practice. The solution is to eliminate the intervention of federal officials in areas that are the responsibility of the provinces and their municipalities.

A crisis occurred in the Secretariat of Childhood, Adolescence and Family of the Ministry of Human Capital. Among other reasons, there was a stockpile of food purchased by the federal government to be distributed throughout the country that was not distributed and was about to expire. It is paradoxical that in the context of a strong fiscal adjustment and with more than 40% of poverty, public resources are spent on food that cannot be distributed. This is yet another proof that what is needed is not fiscal adjustment but State ordering.

The delivery modality is typical of a disaster area, as is currently happening, for example, in the Gaza Strip. It consists of buying food centrally and stockpiling it in two warehouses (one in Greater Buenos Aires and the other in Tucumán) and then distributing it in trucks throughout the interior of the country. In the political discourse, this practice is euphemistically called “descend to the territory”. The reality is that it is one of the worst practices of clientelism: making the poor identify, through physical contact, the political identity of the person who feeds them. 

It is pertinent to explore how widespread this management modality is. Taking the 2023 budget execution in what are federal aids to the provinces, municipalities and civil society organizations, it is observed that:

  • The Ministry of Social Development instrumented 75% through money transfers while the remaining 25% was with direct purchase and delivery of goods.
  • The Ministry of Health implemented 66% through money transfers while the remaining 33% was with direct purchase and delivery of goods.
  • The Ministry of Education implemented them in 70% through money transfers while the remaining 30% was with direct purchase and delivery of goods. 

These data show that the national government’s modality of buying goods to distribute them among the provinces, municipalities and social organizations (among which there are prestigious NGOs and countless pickets’ cooperatives) is a widespread and deep-rooted practice. In the three national ministries that are most involved in provincial and municipal functions, between 25% and 33% of national aid is channeled through the centralized purchase of goods (food, medicines, vaccines, books, etc.) and distributed among NGOs, health centers and schools that depend on the provinces and their municipalities.

In a federal organization, the provinces with their municipalities are responsible for social functions. National programs that intrude into provincial and municipal functions collide with this organization. This is not a mere institutional deviation, but one of the main causes that explain the excesses of national spending and the low quality of public management. It is humiliating that the provinces and municipalities accept that the national State sets up a bureaucracy to distribute food, medicines, vaccines and books in their territories. It does not contribute to improve social services and allows national officials to deploy clientelistic practices. On top of this, there is always a latent scandal due to logistical failures or corruption in procurement.

A comprehensive reorganization of the State is needed, guided by the reconfiguration of the federal regime. On the one hand, the unification of national, provincial and municipal taxes and the replacement of co-participation by a rule of fiscal co-responsibility, i.e., that each province with its municipalities appropriates the taxes generated in its territory. On the other hand, the provinces and their municipalities should be fully responsible and accountable to their inhabitants for the results of their management. It is essential to eliminate national programs that interfere with provincial and municipal functions. This means, plain and simple, to banish the practice of national officials of “descending to the territory”.

The crisis is an opportunity. To take advantage of it, the army must finish distributing the stockpiled food and immediately the warehouses and the Secretariat of Childhood must be closed. Simultaneously, the focus must be put on simplifying and improving the management of family allowances and advancing the transformations of the May Pact.


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