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Francia Márquez: Vice President and Minister of Equality

Colombia seeks to implement the ministry of women, but faced with the risk of increasing bureaucracy and spending, the Andean country decides to transform the role of the vice presidency.

France Marquez

Photo: TW-FranciaMarquezM

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: Francia Márquez: vicepresidenta y ministra de la igualdad

Currently, Colombia is debating the creation of the ministry of equality. This was a proposal from the campaign, and it was even assumed and championed by what is today the vice president of the coffee country, Francia Márquez.

For the Colombian Government, the creation of this new ministry is vital, since it is the most unequal country in Latin America, according to figures from the World Bank 2021. The idea is that this new position focuses on coordinating and implementing policies for the proper integration of the vulnerable population and reducing inequities. Among the communities that will be part of these policies are women, blacks, racial, palenqueros, indigenous people, gypsy, LGBT+, peasants, older adults, etc.

This ministry would be similar to others already created in the world, such as the Ministry of Equality in Spain; the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity in Argentina; the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity in Chile; Ministry of Women in Paraguay; o Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations in Peru; among others.

But, even though several countries have promoted the creation of ministries with budgets for women, gender, gender equality, the protection of communities of diverse sexualities, and the protection of vulnerable communities, there is also Fear of increased spending. Today, Colombia is one of the countries in Latin America with the largest number of ministries.

The South American country has 18 ministries, each with an infrastructure and millionaire budget necessary to operate. Although Colombia does not occupy the first place in the number of ministers in Latin America (Venezuela with 29, according to Panampost), there are fears that public spending will simply increase without results.

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But, the criticisms have not been alien to the proposal. The Colombian opposition assures that this new ministry would represent a greater fiscal expense for a country that intends to carry out new tax reform, with a worrying fiscal gap, with the intention of not endorsing new oil explorations (one of the largest revenues of the GDP). The newspaper El Colombiano estimates that the Ministry of Equality would increase public spending by at least 100,000 million pesos (more than 20 million dollars) annually.

These functions had been performed by the past Vice Presidency with a Department for Women with a budget of 1,147 million pesos (239 thousand dollars). The Medellín-based newspaper calculates that in operating expenses of a new ministry, the operating costs are close to 10 million dollars (expenditure of the Ministry of Culture).

Benefits Of Ministries Focused On Women And Inequality

According to the Inter-American Development Bank, “Women's Ministries have as their main mission the promotion and implementation of cross-cutting gender policies. These government structures have two focuses of action: Coordinate actions within the government; Promote cultural change in coordination with civil society”.

The regional institution specifies that "The Ministries of Women have a fundamental role in building capacities within the Government, in the creation of networks with non-governmental actors, and the generation of evidence on the state of gender gaps and the effectiveness of the implemented programs.

A Solomonic Solution

The most recent ministry was created precisely by former President Iván Duque: the Ministry of Sports. Even though at the time, the president assured that it would simply be to give the department of Coldeportes the ministerial category with the promise of maintaining the same budget, the criticism for a greater fiscal gap did not disappear.

Today history repeats itself with the Ministry of Equality. However, President Gustavo Petro is thinking of a move that guarantees the creation of the ministry at a lower cost than budgeted. Because Francia Márquez herself was the main promoter of implementing this new ministry, the vice-presidency as an independent position may be transformed into a ministerial position that absorbs some other ministry. That whoever is elected as vice president or vice president, performs a ministerial task.

This would not be the first time it has happened in the country. Francia Márquez's predecessor, Martha Lucía Ramírez, being Iván Duque's vice president, assumed the position of chancellor. The assignment, which at the time was proposed as interim, ended up being carried out until the end of the Government. Ramírez (the first female vice president) was also the minister of foreign affairs.

This model is not new either, it is very similar to that of parliamentary systems. In several countries, in which the head of government is elected indirectly after majorities in Congress or Parliament, it happens. We even see that several parliamentarians or congressmen assume ministerial positions. So, they are congressmen who carry out government tasks. Likewise, it could promote the Colombian Government, thus the vice president ceases to be a figure with little influence, traditionally symbolic, diplomatic, and, even, decorative, and begin to have a direct impact on the Government. Not for nothing, you vote for both the president and the vice president.