The development history of El Salvador is rich in firsts and lessons learnt. The UN-mediated peace process that put an end to the 12-year civil war in 1992 is a global benchmark. The rapid reform drive that followed, establishing a private sector, export-oriented economic model, helped the country make great economic strides. Social policy innovations like the development of community-managed education institutions have inspired solutions across the developing world. None of these policy experiences was perfect, and some of them failed to fully deliver on expectations. But all are testament to the vision and commitment of those who sought policy solutions to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.

Despite great progress since the end of the civil war – a liberal democracy, macroeconomic stability and a long-term decline in economic inequality and poverty – significant development challenges remain: to accelerate economic growth, create more and better jobs for youth, improve the provision of education and health, and better manage fragile natural resources. In the past, political polarisation and high levels of violence hindered, and sometimes prevented, necessary reforms.

The Multi-dimensional Review of El Salvador: Strategic Priorities for Robust, Inclusive and Sustainable Development identifies four critical areas for policy action in El Salvador. First, enable productive transformation by improving infrastructure and providing public goods that are complementary to investment, e.g. better administration, and a more effective, modern, industrial policy. Second, invest in the education and training of its youth through sustained public expenditure, a better managed and better equipped teacher workforce, and content more relevant to students and the country’s needs. Third, improve the management of water resources, building on the recently adopted General Law on Water Resources, finding solutions locally, at the water basin level, and pricing water resources appropriately to enable investment in water supply and sanitation. Fourth, modernise the state through digitalisation and the institutionalisation of key governmental functions, including support to strategic decision making, human resource management and the open government agenda.

Mobilising expertise from across the OECD, this Multi-dimensional Review combines state-of-the-art analysis with participatory processes to diagnose El Salvador’s main development challenges and offer practicable policy solutions. It was prepared in close collaboration with the Government of El Salvador, with support from the European Union and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It documents a process carried out in extraordinary times, interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and executed as the country experienced far-reaching changes. Throughout the review, policy workshops increased the relevance of recommendations and helped share the results with policy makers at decisive stages in the preparation of reforms, creating spaces for policy dialogue on critical development issues for El Salvador.

The political configuration that emerged from the 2019 presidential elections and the 2021 legislative elections has ushered in a period of intense reform and policy experimentation. It offers an opportunity to resolve long-standing issues and rebuild the foundations of the social contract. The current parliamentary majority grants much latitude for action to the administration, but broad-based support and dialogue on key reforms can ensure they lead to sustainable transformation in the country.

Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir


OECD Development Centre

Álvaro Pereira

OECD Chief Economist a. i.

Romina Boarini


OECD Centre on Well-Being,

Inclusion, Sustainability and

Equal Opportunity (WISE)

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