Artículos en Inglés
Miguel Ángel Simán – Coordinator of “Plan País”
Translated/Edited: Alexandra Salume.
Who is Miguel Ángel Simán?
I like to think of myself as a proud Salvadoran and a person passionate about public service. We come from a family whose parents taught us to love our country, serving especially those who need it the most.
Describe your journey as a businessman.
My journey as a businessman started alongside my career as a public servant. Since I was a kid, I was taught the value of work and I grew up observing the evolution of family business projects. When I was young, I got involved in trade union institutions and think tanks. Immediately after I graduated from college, I assumed responsibilities in “Grupo Simán” businesses.
Not long after, I was assigned the presidency of the Social Investment Fund and then became presidential commissioner for la Inversión Pública (1999-2004). In 2005, I was named El Salvador’s director for the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE). Currently, I am coordinating the team for the proposed government plan, named “Plan País”.
Why were you elected for the elaboration of “Plan País”?
I was shocked when the presidential candidate, Norman Quijano, asked me for help. Although we did not know each other too well, his openness and enthusiasm motivated me when, along with his team, we started defining the criteria through which the plan could be defined, in accordance with the path our country truly deserves.
What are the top challenges of developing such a plan?
The top challenges which I can identify are three: the first one is the political dogmatism which exists in the national atmosphere and inhibits the objectivity of the country’s problems in search of honest solutions. Political principles are those that helpfully guide and serve as reference, but dogmatism restraints thought.
Social resentment is the second challenge. When in conversation and discussion with people of different ages, social and economic stratum of the country, we find prejudice that originates from the resentment stemming from past experiences. Many leaders have been contaminated with these feelings and that can only hinders true progress.
We identified the last challenge during the revision of the government plans and in studies about the country’s development, which talk about modernizing ports and airports, better road infrastructure, quality health care system, and other goals. It is not just in what we will do for our country, but in how and who will execute the projects in the abandoned areas that are our detailed focuses.
What is the difference between “Plan País” and “Diálogo de País”?
I cannot compare these since I am not knowledgable of the interior process from which “Diálogo de País” has evolved. I have two personal impressions. The first is that the “Diálogo de País” is simply a consultation, which implicates that they already have a plan and they are am only seeking advice from the citizens. We, on the other hand, want to listen to the population so that it is they who orient the solutions to the overwhelming problems.
Another aspect that seems different is that there exists an ideologic dogmatism which will restrain my counterpart in “Diálogo de País” as far as the possible solution alternatives. We, on the contrary, are conscious that “Plan País” must transcend outside just the members of ARENA so as not to limit ourselves to what is thought only within the party.
Has the fact that you come from a civil society organization such as the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES) facilitated your work in “Plan País”?
What has really helped me is the knowledge of the country’s problems and our reality. It is something I have acquired throughout my career as a businessman and a public servant and during my participation in various civil institutions. I’ve been involved with charity movements, associations, partnerships with international universities, and think tanks such as FUSADES.
What do you think about the results of the latest polls that put the candidate Norman Quijano in the lead for the elections of 2014?
I have always believed that the polls are photographs of the moment. I have not seen the latest figures, given that I have been fully working on the plan, but we are optimistic about the outlook for 2014. When we meet with people, we notice a great interest in supporting this effort and the candidates.
One focus of those most committed to the current government is transparency, how has “Plan País” planned to work on that?
One of the five strategic priorities we have set for this plan is institutional strengthening and transparency. René Portillo Cuadra, Norman Quijano and myself just signed a commitment to reinforce those aspects. This event took place before the National Foundation for Development (FUNDE), representing the international Chapter of Transparency in El Salvador, and the National Democratic Coalition, led by Dr. Jose Domingo Méndez. They will serve as observers and auditors to ensure that Norman and René fulfill the commitments made for the wellbeing of institutions and their transparency.
Have you considered the issue of transparency regarding personal financial accounts of the candidates?
Both candidates voluntarily established that they would, at the time formally register as candidates in the election process, immediately submit their statement of probity, to account for all assets that they own, which is not required by law, but they have offered this good faith gesture as a type of personal commitment for transparency.
What if Norman Quijano does not become president?
We, as “Plan País”, are not a political movement, but a group of citizens willing to provide solutions. Whether they win or not, there will not be a continuation of the team who has worked on the plan, only to explain and clarify aspects in relation to it.
We support the democratic route Norman Quijano presents as a way to move the country forward sustainably. We seek an approach in which the citizen is the center of everything, quite contrary to the current situation in which the state is the center of everything and seems to forget that its duty is to serve the people. This situation lends itself to homage and corruption.
What guarantee is there that your plan will be fulfilled?
There is no warranty and we are aware of that. The only thing I guarantee is that if we do not participate in such initiatives and develop a plan, citizens are less likely to contribute.
We anticipate that by August the plan must be completed and published in September, when the electoral campaign formally begins. By then, we will have fulfilled our obligation; the candidate Norman Quijano has agreed to take on this plan as his own at the time of governing.
This document is presented as a guide, but there will be adjustments and changes along the way depending on context, without losing the final course or perspective.
How will the government plan being prepared be fulfilled in case Norman Quijano becomes president? Would you accept a position in the cabinet?
First, this server has not come looking for a position, and secondly, the candidate Norman Quijano has not offered anyone a position. That, to me, would seem irresponsible, for I have come as a citizen to contribute from my experience to this “Plan de País”. I have moral tranquility of having served my country from the positions in which I have found myself and I think there are different ways in which we can help.
Such decisions should be taken at another time and circumstances. For now, the important thing is to help.
What is the role of the young people in “Plan País” and what is your message to them?
In each forum or social consultation meeting, we have ensured the presence of young people in order to receive their input. The youth sector from ARENA, students from schools we visited, university students and other institutions which have given us input to help these young people.
We are aware that young people have now found in social networking a space to express themselves. But what worries me personally is that they stay there and do not take the reins of political spaces and institutions. Young people must let go of the fear of getting involved. Many of them think that politics are corrupt and my answer is that it is the people who are corrupt and if we complain about it, we should take the decision to fill those spaces to combat such corruption.
Finally we will perform dynamics we call “tiro al plato”. I will give you a word and you must answer me with another word or phrase.
Norman Quijano: next president of El Salvador.
Private company: real engine of the economy and generator of employment opportunities.
Sanchez Cerén: the FMLN candidate
Mauricio Funes: antagonism
Young Person: commitment
“Plan País”: guide
Tony Saca: former president of El Salvador
2014: decisive year for El Salvador
FUSADES: intellectual heritage of Salvadorans