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by Admin User - Tuesday, 27 September 2016, 8:18 PM
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State capture is a type of systemic political corruption in which private interests significantly influence a state’s decision-making processes to their own advantage through unobvious channels, that may not be illegal.

The influence may be through a range of state institutions, including the legislature, executive, ministries and the judiciary. It is thus similar to regulatory capture but differs through the wider variety of bodies through which it may be exercised and because, unlike regulatory capture, the influence is never overt.

Another distinguishing factor from corruption is while in case of corruption the outcome (of policy or regulatory decision) is not certain, in case of captured state the outcome of the decision is known and is to very high probability to be beneficial for captors of the state. Also in case of corruption (even rampant) there is plurality and competition of ‘corruptors’ to influence the outcome of the policy or distribution of resources. In case of captured state, those deciding are usually more in a position of agents to the principals (captors) who function either in monopolistic or oligopolistic (non-competitive) fashion.

State Capture explained by Joel Hellman, Governance Specialist in the Europe and Central Asia Vice Presidency of the World Bank:

Defining State Capture as the efforts of a small number of firms (or such groups as the military, ethnic groups and kleptocratic politicians)  to shape the rules of the game to their advantage through illicit, non-transparent provision of private gains to public officials, he noted that examples of such behaviour include the private purchase of legislative votes, executive decrees, court decisions and illicit political party funding..  This concept links the problem of corruption with vested economic, social and political interests – which   in turn form key obstacles to economic reform

The unbundling of the concept of corruption is important – in order to recognize that different forms of corruption have different causes, costs and consequences. Using empirical data to measure and compare state capture across countries, it is possible to develop a systematic understanding of the origins and persistence of state capture and to quantify the private gains and the social costs of state capture.

Citing the BEEPS (Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey ) data, which was gathered in a survey of over 3,600 firms in transition countries conducted by the World Bank and the EBRD, Mr. Hellman noted that :

–    on average, in high-capture countries – about 1/3 of firm’s profit margins are diverted through bribery
–    overall, that bribery does not pay – that firms with a low propensity to bribe have higher sales and investments than those that do
–    but that in countries with high state capture, – a limited number of firms engaging in such behavior (which tend to be foreign multinationals with local subsidiaries) gain substantially in terms of more secure property rights but at a high social cost
–    moreover, transnational restraints – like America’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or OECD’s Convention – have little impact on State capture

He concluded by noting that while the  pace of economic reform in countries in transition does have an impact on the degree of state capture in a country – with those countries with advanced stages of reform having a lower degree of state capture, the degree of political reform – civil liberties, access to information, press freedom – was a more potent explanation.  He further concluded that collective action was important – highlighting the role that the business community can play in helping reduce state capture.

Steven Haber, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution), highlighted the similarities between the phenomenon of state capture in Eastern Europe and “crony capitalism” – which he argued represent a case of vertical political integration.

At the heart of the problem is the commitment problem – that any government with the power to enforce property rights also has the power to abrogate such rights for their own purposes.  In very few countries is there “limited government”, where systems of checks and balances help restrain arbitrary actions by government. Elsewhere there are just two alternatives:

–    “stationary bandits” (such as Mobuto in Zaire) whose only restraint is that they cannot tax tomorrow what they steal today
–    crony capitalism – or state capture – where businesses need the protection of  their property rights (and seek the creation of entitlements – such as protective tariffs or exemption to  excise taxes) , where governments need revenues and  where the third parties (the military, labor unions, political party cronies) provide enforcement.
–    This coalition, or unholy alliance, then creates rents and divides these between them.

While this system is better than anarchy, and more efficient that stationary bandits, it has negative consequences for income distribution, leads to an inefficient allocation of resources, and is bad for democratic development.

Mr Haber then outlined the political/economic history of Mexico for the past 200 years, showing that – until recently – it was a good example of State Capture. It was not until the economic crisis of the 1980s, which necessitated economic reforms, were the coalitions broken, allowing meaningful political reforms.

Luis  Moreno Ocampo, former Public Prosecutor of Argentina and head of Transparency Internal, Argentina, noted that, given the widespread nature of corruption and State Capture, on the one hand, and the weakening of the nation state in the face of globalization, on the other, the State alone cannot solve the problem.

Rather, he argued, global networks of    champions of reform – or “saints” as he called them – need to be developed, supported and encouraged, as do in-country coalitions to undertake collective actions. In addition, there needs to be appropriate incentives for the “honest but sinful” and systems of control of the “demons”.

Elena Panfilova, head of Transparency International in Russia, provided an on-the-ground perspective of State Capture in Russia. She noted  that the slow pace of reforms, an inefficient public service, the relative absence of small + medium sized businesses and the too-speedy privatizations all contributed to a situation of “cumulative State Capture”.

The problem, she argued, was not so much “State Capture” by business, but rather the fusion of state + business by the elite, with former bureaucrats running businesses and business leaders holding political office.

The solution, she argued, involved “getting on with it” – introducing notions of conflict of interest, codes of conduct and transparency, even when such notions are not understtod by most people.

Donals Bowser, formerly of TI and now an independent consultant, concurred with Elena’s diagnosis – that the business/political elites, or clans, where self-perpetuating and that the mafia rose in power because, in the terms of earlier discussions, it had the power to enforce contracts.

In conclusion,  there was widespread agreement on the conceptual notion and framework of state capture; it had wide manifestations – from eastern and Central Europe today, to Mexico over the period 1800-2000, even to Florida and the example of the sugar industry, where firms have essentially bought government protection.

It was further agreed that this recognition brings to the fore the issue of the political roots of corruption and that the State alone is powerless to remedy the situation. Rather, national coalitions like the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition and international networks like the International Chamber of Commerce and the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption, need to be developed and supported, .

It is recognized that more work is required to more fully develop the parameters of national action programs to curb State Capture – each country is different and will require a different set of actions.

And finally, it is recommended that Ministers tomorrow, and the international community today, endorse  the notion that issues of  State Capture, political reform and collective action, be firmly placed on the international agenda for curbing corruption.