Checks and balances: an assessment of the institutional separation of political powers in Colombia
In this paper, we evaluate the institutional and legal structure of the Colombian government. In particular, we want to assess how a system of institutional checks and balances can be structured to promote the rule of law, preserve property rights, and stimulate economic growth. The 1991 Constitution indeed makes commendable commitments to these objectives. Yet, due to its institutional structure, Colombia is governed in a manner that is both unchecked and unbalanced. The Colombian Constitution is an enormously long document that attempts to reassure all parties that the future will be to their liking. For example, Article 58, which permits uncompensated expropriation for reasons of â€œequityâ€ , might be a substantial deterrent to investment. The nationâ€™s long run economic health may be seriously impaired if peace is bought at the price of widespread concessions with regard to either the process of decision-making about the economy or to the specific content of future government economic policies. One may buy transitory tranquility, which may not translate in to lasting peace, at the price of long-term instability and turmoil. We make recommendations for institutional reform, which aim to mitigate clientelist and populist trends in Colombian politics. To enhance policymaking by reducing the scope for gridlock, we propose measures such as long-term appointments and ballot accountability that eliminate distortions to the voting incentives of both judges and lawmakers. Also, procedures are set forth to limit undue deliberations by the judiciary and to induce institutional status-quo bias. While we support constitutional provisions for the stability of a political process endowed with representativeness, we reject constitutional provisions that attempt to entrench one particular policy outcome. Stationary policy is likely to be both suboptimal and unsustainable in a stochastic and dynamic environment. Keywords; separation of powers, political representativeness, clientelism and gridlock JEL Classification: E61, H11, H77
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