In a previous post, I indicated two particularities of the link between institutional trust and corruption in post-communist countries.
I would like now to mention a third one. It is more general and, though not a direct cause of corruption, it could be part of the self-reinforcing mechanism on which corruption thrives: the problem of simultaneity.
As Elster et al (1998) have shown, transition countries with unconsolidated democracies must focus their efforts on three simultaneous tasks: building their economy, building functional democratic institutions and solving their national identity problems (ethnic conflicts, rights to minorities, etc).
One important consequence of not doing ‘one thing at a time’ is that legislation is often ill designed and incomplete, failing to incorporate goals from all three areas. The case of environmental regulations in Romania is instructive in this respect. Here are three examples:
– For many high-impact environmental projects carried out by private investors, experts elaborating the reports are employed directly by the investors themselves, because environmental authorities lack either the prerogatives, or the funds to do so. This has raised suspicions about the neutrality of these assessments, as well as about the division of responsibilities between the government and private companies.
– EU environmental law is excessively transposed into domestic law by regulations which can be easily amended by administrative procedures (resolutions, emergency ordinances etc). One visible effect of this is the rising influence of lobby groups trying to keep this provisional system in place.
– For major environmental projects with trans-border impact, ethnic divergences can be used to fuel a rhetoric hiding risks and deficiencies of such projects. This would be the case of the Roşia Montană mining project, to which Hungary has officially opposed, and to which all environmental ministers from the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania refused to issue the environmental permit.
Your thoughts and suggestions are welcome, as well as your personal experiences about social capital and post-communist countries.