Careers
Practical Advice for Young Public Officials
By Maria Antonieta Alva Luperdi
I assumed the office of Minister of Economy and Finance of Peru at the age of 34, in October 2019. In some sectors of public opinion, my appointment was controversial, and I presume not just because of my “youth”, but because I was a young woman.

There is a common misconception about young people and how they are not afraid to make mistakes or fail. Of course we are afraid. When you are in a position of enormous responsibility, your mistakes could cost lives. I have called this article ‘practical advice,’ but these are rather ideas taken from my experience that I would like to share with the thousands of young public officials who on a daily basis have to make decisions that impact the lives of millions of people, with little information and often with little time to act.

 

1. Build a team of stars and let them shine

In every endeavour I have been aware of two things: first, I can achieve very little by myself, and second, there will always be people with more experience and knowledge than me about something. To succeed, I would need to work with people passionate about undertaking reforms to improve the lives of others.

An important part of my job was to give these ‘stars’ the conditions that would enable them to shine and not let political turbulence distract them. Thus, I would deal with the politics of it all so that my ‘stars’ could continue to work for the Peruvian people.

 

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Toni Alva (María Antonieta Alva Luperdi) with the Acasus Pakistan Team

 

2. You do not need to reinvent the wheel

It was very important for me to recognize that many people have already tried different things before and had succeeded and failed. I would therefore speak with former finance ministers on a regular basis. Having them close by was critical to understanding what the technical complexities were, but above all, the political resistance and interest groups that could oppose reforms.

 

3. Be sure to have data that supports each of your decisions

Paradoxically, the higher you climb in the hierarchy of public institutions, the further you get from citizen service delivery points. Although rare, the ideal scenario is for a minister to have real-time, systematized information about what happens at citizen service points. However, this does not mean that we should give up on wanting to know what is going on.

 

4. Grandparents should be able to understand every policy you implement

As minister, before every interview I gave, I made sure to invest many hours to find the ‘best’ way to convey ideas, often looking for examples from everyday life. I thought that if I am able to convince my grandparents, then this is the right policy - not because grandparents are dumb, but because the messaging today is often shaped in a manner that alienates audiences from older generations. Tailoring your message to bridge that gap ensures a speech that everyone understands.

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