Didi Kuo is the Associate Director for Research and Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. She is a scholar of comparative politics, with a focus on democratization, corruption and clientelism, political parties and institutions, and political reform. Her recent work examines changes to party organization, and the impact these changes have on the ability of governments to address challenges posed by global capitalism. She is the author of Clientelism, Capitalism, and Democracy: the rise of programmatic politics in the United States and Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2018), which examines the role of business against clientelism and the development of modern political parties in the nineteenth-century.
Isabela Mares is Professor of Political Science at Yale University. Isabela Mares has written extensively on a range of topics in comparative politics and political economy, including democratization, clientelism and corruption, taxation and fiscal capacity development, social policy reforms in both developed and developing countries. She is the author of The Politics of Social Risk: Business and Welfare State Development (New York: Cambridge University Press), Taxation, Wage Bargaining and Unemployment (New York: Cambridge University Press); From Open Secrets to Secret Voting: The adoption of electoral reforms protecting voter autonomy (New York: Cambridge University Press) and Conditionality and Coercion: Electoral clientelism in Eastern Europe, co-authored with Lauren Young (forthcoming, Oxford University Press). She is currently completing a book entitled Democratization after Democratization, which examines the adoption of electoral reforms limiting electoral irregularities in the Western World. Her work has received numerous awards, including the Gregory Luebbert Award for best book in Comparative Politics of APSA, the Willam Riker Award for best book in Political Economy of APSA and the Gregory Luebbert Award for best paper in comparative politics at APSA, among others.
The third step to ensure further alignment between the government and the public interest is to avoid the concentration of power in just a few hands. When discretionary decisions can be taken by a single person or a small group without any scrutiny, corruption is more likely to occur. For this reason, meaningful political opposition and strong institutional checks and balances are often cited in the academic literature as important deterrents of corruption and pillars of good governance.
The voices of both civil society and journalists shine a spotlight on the corrupt, which can in turn trigger action by law enforcement. For civil society and the media to be able to perform this function, they require access to relevant government data. Access to information laws are an important piece of the puzzle. It is worth emphasising, however, that access to information goes beyond simply publishing large amounts of data. Information needs to be reliable, accessible and of good quality for it to be useful to those seeking to evaluate policy outcomes to detect potential favouritism cases, clientelism or other forms of corruption.
Corruption is a phenomenon involving many different aspects, and it is therefore hard to give a precise and comprehensive definition. However, at the core of most definitions of corruption is the idea that a corrupt act implies the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Classic examples include bribery, clientelism, and embezzlement. Other, often more subtle and sometimes even legal examples of corruption include lobbying and patronage.
As we can see, there is substantial cross-country heterogeneity, and patterns again show differences with respect to general corruption perception. In Greece and Italy, for example, around 90% of survey respondents consider that political parties are very corrupt. This ranks them among the top-ten countries with the highest perception of political corruption.
The visualization shows the cross-country relationship between corruption and accountability. Here, corruption is measured as the share of people who admit having paid bribes in the past 12 months (as per the estimates from the Global Corruption Barometer), and accountability is measured by the Accountability Transparency Index developed by Williams (2015)9 (this index is constructed from a number of underlying indicators which gather information about the extent of free media, fiscal transparency, and political constraints).
Despite a weaker presence in both rural and border regions, the state is largely present throughout the country thanks to administrative institutions, officeholders and the basic administration of justice. The principle of a civil service career path was introduced by law in 1991 and reinforced by law in 2008 and 2012, but the laws are not always observed. The quality of state administration is still compromised by a high degree of political clientelism, insufficient human capital and corruption, which clearly hampers effective tax collection despite a series of laws passed over the last 10 to 12 years to broaden the tax base and improve tax collection. The Abinader administration has introduced a series of reforms to streamline and professionalize the administration, as well as to reduce corruption, clientelism and bloated and inefficient parts of the administration. It has closed down 77 state institutions that were inoperative or duplicating state functions. While the quality of basic services such as water and sanitation is much worse in rural areas and among poor barrios in the cities, the large majority of the population (85% and 84%, respectively) have access to these services. Communication and transport suffer from the same rural-urban inequalities as cellular, and Internet coverage is much better developed along the main transport routes and major cities than in rural areas. The larger cities, especially Santo Domingo, face huge transportation challenges connected to traffic jams and a transportation grid that has not kept up with urban growth.
Freedom of opinion and the press are constitutionally guaranteed and generally respected. Freedom of information legislation is in place (Law 200/04) but is only selectively effective. Investigative journalism is still rare but gaining broader attention and impact on political life, in particular through exposés of high-end corruption. Formal restrictions on freedom of opinion in the 1962 Law 6132, such as penalization of defamation and insults with prison sentences and cascade liability for the publication of insults, were declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Tribunal in 2016. Media companies are mostly privately owned and pluralistic, though ownership is highly concentrated. There are more than 40 broadcast television stations, some 300 radio stations, four national and a large number of local newspapers, the vast majority of them operated by private owners. The structure of the mass media provides for a relative plurality of opinions; however, self-censorship among journalists is not uncommon. The written press is also reluctant to interfere with the economic interests of its owners or economic elites.
Property rights and the regulation of the acquisition of property are defined by law (108/05, in effect since 2007), and protected in the constitution (Article 51). Considerable problems with the implementation of laws persist due to corruption, inefficient administration of justice and political intervention. There are also significant variations in the implementation of laws regulating property rights within the country, in particular between rural and urban areas, but also along socioeconomic divides between rich and poor. Also, regulations on the use of property are treated unequally along the same dimensions and lack effectiveness both in cities (regulations regarding construction) and in rural areas. Large enterprises, national as well as foreign in some cases, face fewer problems than local small businesses.
Abinader (as his predecessor) has made the fight against corruption, bloated inefficient bureaucracy and government excess spending a cornerstone to his presidency. It is too early to assess whether these priorities will be followed through or only used to go after political enemies, but the selection of Miriam Germán Brito and Yeni Berenice as General and Assistant General prosecutors should at the very least secure necessary internal reforms into the ministry of justice after their predecessor Jean Alain Rodríguez had used the ministry to hire personal acolytes. Early signals indicate that the general prosecutor office is looking seriously into cases of corruption under the Medina administration. A more independent justice sector and prosecutor office were key campaign promises that President Abinader consistently has backed since taking power. It is safe to say that anti-corruption is back on the agenda, and the reform efforts here will be closely watched by a civil society that has less and less tolerance for corruption.
On average, political leadership in Congress and the presidency appear as relatively closed institutions insulated from civil society. Since 2010, civil society has gradually strengthened its position as a partial agenda setter when effectively monitoring and protesting controversial decisions made by various administrations, but it is only to a limited degree active in policy implementation and performance monitoring. An important exception is the case of election monitoring, above all by the NGO Participación Ciudadana (PC), partially corruption monitoring by Adocco (Alianza dominicana contra la corrupción), and also monitoring regarding the treatment of Dominican-Haitians and Haitian migrants (OBMICA). The latter has had little success in influencing decision-making, but more so in monitoring and documenting the situation. Civil society has not been actively tapped or invited to take part in decision-making or implementation of the COVID-19 response, which has been driven more by a technocratic expert team and implemented by the government or state-private partnerships. 2b1af7f3a8