Villanueva programme approved
5 May 2018
Prime Minister César Villanueva and his cabinet won a resounding vote of confidence on 3 May, supported by the Fujimorista party, Fuerza Popular (FP). Those who opposed came mainly from the left-wing benches of the Frente Amplio and Nuevo Perú. The motion of confidence was approved by 94 members of Congress, opposed by 19, with two abstentions.
The Peruvian constitution stipulates that a new government must present its plans to Congress for a vote of confidence within 30 days of taking office.
In essence, Villanueva’s speech was an appeal to unity following the bruising conflicts between the Congress and the executive which had led to former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s resignation in March. In practice, the speech was confirmation of an understanding (some would call it a pact) between President Martín Vizcarra and the FP majority in Congress. Villanueva appealed to Congress to be what he called a “strategic ally” for the government.
Since taking office, the Vizcarra administration has maintained its initially high level of support (of around 50%), and the relationship with the leadership of FP has remained close. This suggests that the new president will enjoy something of a honeymoon over the next few months, with FP supporting its main policy initiatives. The leadership of FP appears chastened by the fall in the opinion polls ratings of Keiko Fujimori arising from her uncompromising hostility to Kuczynski and his programme of government.
Villanueva’s speech to Congress covered many points but highlighted five main areas of policy:
A boost to investment. The new government promised to continue with policies designed to encourage investment, not least in sectors like mining and hydrocarbons. Villanueva blamed the low level of investment for the slowdown in Peru’s growth rate in recent years, but argued that investment had to be accompanied by what he called “responsibility”. He also stressed the need for Peru to enhance its international competitiveness. For his part, Alberto Quintanilla from Nuevo Perú, said that the approach outlined by the prime minister was just “continuity” of the same economic model.
Political reforms. Villanueva promised that Peru would reinstate its second chamber, scrapped by President Alberto Fujimori in 1993. He said that new steps would be taken to democratise the workings of political parties, particular in the election of their leaders, and that parties would be made to declare fully their sources of their funding. Parties would be made “to reflect equity” in their choice of men and women as candidates for elective office. Whether meaningful changes to the political and electoral systems will be approved will depend on whether they are supported by the FP bloc in Congress.
Reconstruction. New measures are to be introduced to accelerate reconstruction following last year’s devastating flooding in the north of the country. The prime minister wants to short-cut procedures for contracting construction work.
Poverty and social welfare. Villanueva promised that faster growth would help reduce poverty to 18% by 2021, compared with 21.7% last year (see below). He promised to reduce levels of anaemia among children under 3 years old, and to improve the system of health provision by (amongst other things) restructuring the Comprehensive Health System (SIS).