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The Social Policy Responses of the Chilean State to the Earthquake and Tsunami of 2010

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This paper examines the capacity of the Chilean state to respond to the social impact of the 2010 earthquake and tsunami. Decades of neoliberal policy have left Chile with a skeletal state, which administers social policy through targeting and a significant extent of outsourcing through public-private partnerships, which lack coordination. The reconstruction effort of the Chilean state largely responded to the emergency through these same principles. While official reports on the reconstruction effort show a state that is complying with its specified goals, evidence from qualitative fieldwork undertaken in the city of Constitución illustrates the extent to which this method proved to be highly inadequate in the context of a natural disaster. We conclude by arguing that Chile should establish a social policy structure for natural disasters that allows for a rapid response to a social emergency based on universal or near universal allocation criteria.