To say I opened a copy of Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Anticorruption, Transparency and Integrity in Latin America, the Inter-American Development Bank’s latestadvice to Latin American and Caribbean governments on fighting corruption, with low expectations would be an overstatement. What specific, detailed, actionable and therefore useful measures could a report directed at 45 governments contain? Particularly given the diversity of the region’s governments, which range from prosperous, thriving middle-income democracies to desperately poor, repressive authoritarian regimes. I thus assumed the report would follow the tiresome formula of so many previous attempts to spur developing nations to take meaningful steps to curb corruptions: a hodgepodge of obvious but vague generalizations wrapped around pleas for greater political will.
My subterranean expectations were only lowered given its institutional sponsor. Like the other regional development banks and the World Bank, the IDB exists to loan money and therefore strives to stay on the good side of the region’s governments to ensure they will continue to borrow. In reports past from other development banks that consideration has often ruled out even the hint of politically controversial measures or criticism levelled at any government’s faltering anticorruption efforts.
The third strike against the report is its authors. A distinguished collection of mostly Latin American “names” in the anticorruption field, all are busy experts whose main job is delivering high-profile lectures, authoring academic papers, and advising private sector entities and governments. Devoting time and effort to an IDB publication that neither burnishes one’s academic credentials nor services clients was probably not high on their list of priorities. Most likely, I thought, they were asked to bless a precooked series of bromides assembled by interns and junior staff.
Boy, were my expectations off base. Rather than a strike out, the report is a home run. Or at least a stand-up triple. Continue reading