Since the dawn of democracy in Argentina in 1983, corruption has proved a serious issue, threatening public confidence in politics as well as the economic welfare of the country’s people. Throughout the 1990s, “patronage and partisanship” plagued public administration with politicians pursuing their own “modus operandi” and authority remaining in the hands of the few and fortunate. In a country where almost 40% of the population lived in conditions of poverty during the last six months of 2022, addressing corruption in Argentina is crucial in the fight against poverty.
Corruption and Poverty in Argentina
Today, corruption remains a sizeable problem. According to a Latinobarómeter study from 2017, 35% of Argentines “would tolerate a certain amount of corruption” if it resolved some of the problems in the country. Until recently, corruption was quasi-permissible, with a lack of clear bidding rules leading to infamous cases such as that of former President Cristina Fernández de Kircher, who authorities sentenced to six years for a $1 billion public works fraud case in 2022. Administrative systems have suffered such dysfunction that simple processes like obtaining a birth certificate have required extended periods of waiting.
Corruption and poverty are interlinked, and thus, Argentina’s battle against corruption is congruent with its battle against poverty. Internally, corruption generates governmental inefficiency as corrupt agendas invariably incur a lack of foresight and cooperation to bring what is best for the state and all its people. Internationally, corruption deters private investment as prospective venture capitalists are frightened by high levels of risk. Both of these ultimately damage the economy, and in doing so, impact the most poverty-ridden demographics.
In an interview with the Finance and Development magazine, and initiative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), head of anti-corruption in Argentina, Laura Alfonso, explains how corruption deepens poverty. “People living in poverty are victims of corruption because it generates, along with inefficiency and poor administration of the state, low-quality public services and infrastructure investment, which directly affects the quality of life of these people.” She says further, “The first victims of corruption are always those most in need. They are also deprived of new employment opportunities, because we all know that corruption is, sadly, a factor that deters quality private investment.”
Successes in Fighting Corruption
Fortunately, former President Mauricio Macri’s government (2015-2019) has bolstered Argentina’s battle against corruption. Argentina’s battle against corruption has had two fronts, legislative and administrative.
In terms of administrative reform, the creation of the Ministry of Modernization in 2015 has made invaluable headway, according to the IMF. An autonomous organism with national outreach, the ministry collaborates closely with government agencies and local authorities to develop transparency and legitimacy. Since its conception, administrative modernization has led to the digitalization of files, making management more transparent and thus reducing corruption.
Data is now available online, meaning the “affidavits of the 45,000 executive branch civil servants” are openly available, according to the IMF. Argentina stands as the only nation that publishes such information openly, with yearly updates. As a result, the government and its officials have had more accountability for vis-à-vis government spending and whether funding is leveraged to reduce poverty.
The ministry has also modernized human resources, with public officials now having a greater opportunity for training and progression as well as more transparency with regard to wages, contracts and the recruitment process, all in a bid to foster more professionalism, according to the Centre for Public Impact.
In terms of legislative progress in Argentina’s battle against corruption, the country made a significant breakthrough in March 2018 when the government brought Law No. 27401 into effect. The law modified the Argentina Criminal Code (ACC) and gave greater power to prosecutors regarding corruption. For instance, the law allows criminal liability for legal persons “even when the individual who had intervened in the alleged crime could not be identified.”
Turning the Tide
The legislative and administrative initiatives the government enacted over the past few years made definitive headway in Argentina’s battle against corruption. In 2016, Argentina climbed from 54th position to 17th in the Global Open Data Index, and since 2015, more than 70% of provinces in Argentina adopted the Federal Commitment for the Modernisation of the State. Argentina now possesses a singular, “centralized website for public sector job opportunities” and citizens have online access to a guide of more than 7,500 government administrative processes.
Importantly, since 2015, the nation’s score on the Corruption Perceptions Index has improved, moving from 32 to 45 in just four years, before a slight decrease to 38 in 2021 and 2022. Though this remains a low score relatively, the country is making quantifiable improvements nonetheless with a moderate level of stability.
A Brighter Future
Argentina still remains a nation divided over corruption. Fissures over corruption are still visible, explaining why despite improvements, the nation still ranks relatively low on the Corruption Perceptions Index. Improvements in corruption nonetheless bring hope to Argentina and other nations suffering similarly that a single political incumbency, aided by unilateral cooperation from regional and national authorities, can achieve marked improvement.
– Gabriel Gathercole