Lea Gimenez

Former Minister of Finance of Paraguay

Location: Paraguay

My current role is Strategic Advisor to the Board of BASA Bank. Previously, I served as Finance Minister of Paraguay (the first female to do so), led the National Economic Team (the first female to do so) and established and presided over the Technical Tax Commission of Paraguay. I also led the Excellence Fund for Education of Paraguay and the National Financial Inclusion Strategy Commission. Prior to that, I served as Deputy Minister of Economy (the first female to do so). At the international level, I worked as Division Chief for the Institutions for Development Sector of the Interamerican-Development Bank (the first female to do so) and as an Economist in the Poverty and Macro-Fiscal Global Practices of the World Bank. I obtained a Ph.D. in Economics from Lehigh University where I also served as an adjunct faculty.

Commerce and contracting have been central to much of my professional career, both at the national and international level. During my time at the Ministry of Finance it became very clear that, if Paraguay were to accelerate its economic development, we needed to improve the relationship between the government and the private sector (both local and internationally). The latter necessarily implies building trust and building trust requires a good understanding of the power of collective action and the need to reduce the asymmetry of information that leads to suboptimal outcomes. As a strong believer that citizen engagement, an agile and healthy private sector, and a transparent, proactive and efficient public sector all working together are indispensable for strengthening young democracies, promoting inclusive growth and catalyzing much needed structural reforms, as Deputy Minister of Economy and later as Minister of Finance I placed special emphasis on the design and implementation of policies and tools that focus on increasing fiscal transparency and accountability, facilitate the work of the formal private sector, and promote civic participation in all areas of the public sector but in particular in the processes of the financing and procurement of public goods and services. Regarding public accountability and citizen engagement, I was the first minister in Paraguay to implement official accountability events (“rendición de cuentas”) across the national territory and was actively involved in the implementation of several tools and programs to facilitate access to information and improve transparency, public sector efficiency, and citizen participation. In addition, I promoted the establishment of the first agreement between the Ministry of Finance and the Supreme Court of Electoral Justice of Paraguay that sought greater transparency and accountability regarding the financing of political parties. Regarding Paraguay’s efforts to implement international tax standards, on behalf of the country, I signed the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, making Paraguay the 119th jurisdiction to adopt the world’s leading instrument for boosting transparency, battling cross-border tax evasion, and promoting healthy financial flows. I also led the preparation of an evidence-based comprehensive reform package, the first of its kind in the country’s history. This package included a tax reform aimed at improving the progressivity of the tax system and increasing government revenues. It also sought to promote the exchange of banking and last beneficiary’s information between tax administrations. The package was approved in 2019.

Promoting institutional capacity is perhaps the most powerful means for developing countries to leapfrog into the future and improve productivity, competitiveness, transparency, accountability, and efficiency. At the international level, I served as Division Chief of Innovation in Citizen Services (ICS) at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Leading a team of 74 highly skilled professionals, we worked across 27 different countries (USA and Latin America and the Caribbean) and oversaw a portfolio of development projects aimed at enabling innovation in government structures and public management models that facilitate inclusive economic development, increase investment and productivity, and help boost citizens’ confidence in government. Among many other initiatives, under my leadership, we established the Transparency and Integrity cluster within the IDB and developed the current Sectoral Framework Document for Transparency and Integrity (SFD-TI) that governs the Bank’s work in this area of development that is central to building trust. Over the last two decades, infrastructure has been the main structural engine of growth in Latin America and the Caribbean. The need to address critical structural weaknesses and to strengthen prevention, risk management, and accountability frameworks in the infrastructure sector have been evidenced by recent scandals surrounding infrastructure projects and contracts in the region that have negatively impacted investors’ confidence and have outraged citizens. In response to this scenario, we launched an initiative that seeks to outline Transparency and Integrity Principles in Infrastructure by identifying the institutional, legal, and financial standards for relevant stakeholders working in LAC. The intermediate goal of this project is to avoid future scandals, prevent the loss of scarce resources, and attract private investment to close the investment infrastructure gap. The overarching goal is to ensure that infrastructure investments lead to improvement in the standards of living of the region’s citizens.