Transformation Index BTI 2012: Regional Findings Latin America and the Caribbean -  - ebook

Transformation Index BTI 2012: Regional Findings Latin America and the Caribbean ebook

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Der politische und wirtschaftliche Entwicklungsstand eines Landes ist messbar: Im internationalen Vergleich lassen sich die Leistungen politischer Entscheidungsträger und die daraus resultierenden Transformationsprozesse gegenüberstellen. Den Entwicklungsstand in 128 Entwicklungs- und Transformationsländern dokumentiert die Bertelsmann Stiftung alle zwei Jahre in ihrem Transformationsindex: Anhand ausführlicher Ländergutachten beleuchtet der Index die Wirkung von Reformstrategien auf dem Weg zu rechtsstaatlicher Demokratie und sozialer Marktwirtschaft. Er gibt damit Akteuren in Politik, Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft und Wissenschaft wichtige Hinweise und Impulse für ihre Arbeit. Der Untersuchungszeitraum des "Transformationsindex BTI 2012" reicht vom Frühjahr 2009 bis zum Frühjahr 2011. Die sieben ergänzenden Materialbände "Regional Findings" beinhalten die ausführlichen englischsprachigen Regionalüberblicke und Langfassungen der Länderberichte zu den sieben untersuchten Regionen: Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa; Lateinamerika und Karibik; West- und Zentralafrika; Naher Osten und Nordafrika; Östliches und südliches Afrika; Postsowjetisches Eurasien; Asien und Ozeanien. The peaceful transition of authoritarian regimes towards democracy and a market economy poses enormous challenges for citizens and politicians alike. Around the world, under widely differing conditions and with varying degrees of success, reform-oriented groups are struggling to democratize their countries and to strengthen the market economy. Good governance is the decisive factor for the success or failure of any transition process. The Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index is published every two years. The global ranking measures and compares transition processes worldwide on the basis of detailed country reports. Comparing systematically the status of democracy and market economy on an international basis, the BTI also provides comprehensive data on the quality of political management.

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Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de.
© 2012 E-Book-Ausgabe (EPUB)
© E-Book Edition 2012 Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, Gütersloh
Responsible: Matthias JägerProduction editor: Christiane RaffelCover illustration: Getty Images; kopfstand GbR, Bielefeld
ISBN : 978-3-86793-447-3
www.bertelsmann-stiftung.org/publications

www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/verlag

Table of Contents
Title Page
Copyright Page
BTI 2012 | Regional Findings
BTI 2012 | Argentina Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Bolivia Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Brazil Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Chile Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Colombia Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Costa Rica Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Cuba Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Dominican Republic Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Ecuador Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | El Salvador Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Guatemala Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Haiti Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Honduras Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Jamaica Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Mexico Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Nicaragua Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Panama Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Paraguay Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Peru Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Uruguay Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Venezuela Country Report
Executive Summary
History and Characteristics of Transformation
Transformation Status
Transformation Management
Strategic Outlook
BTI 2012 | Regional Findings
Latin America and the Caribbean
By Peter Thiery1
An overview of development and transformation in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
This report presents the regional findings of the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) 2012 for Latin America and the Caribbean. More on the BTI at http://www.bti-project.org.
Overall, Latin America’s progress toward transformation between 2009 and 2011 should be seen in a positive light. Nevertheless, core problems either remain unsolved or have intensified. While most governments have systematically and successfully confronted the emerging economic crisis, and political transformation has, on average, hardly suffered any setbacks, the persistently high levels of social inequality, the fixation on exports of raw materials and the erosion of stateness make for a cloudier future. The brief flare-up of global economic crisis and the noticeable slump in growth in 2009 did not leave any lasting traces on power politics, which is why, by and large, the divergent development paths did not change. Moderate strategies - whether more conservative in nature, as in Colombia, or social-democratic, as under Lula in Brazil - continued apace alongside the more radical strategies in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. One exception is Honduras, where the clash between these opposing tendencies led to a coup against President Zelaya and the restoration of the "old" order. As such, drastic breaks were only experienced in two countries, which suffered the greatest losses in the Transformation Index in the period under review: Haiti after the earthquake and Cuba, whose existing socioeconomic model of development appears to have failed.
At first glance, the data in the BTI 2012 appear to show little change in the areas of political transformation, economic transformation and transformation management. Whereas political development shifts between stability and stagnation, economic development shows slight improvement overall, considering firstly the crisis conditions and secondly the separate reversals in Cuba and Haiti. Not much else has changed in transformation management: successful management performance continues to exist side by side with development that experiences ups and downs or transformation strategies that are not geared toward a democratic rule of law or a market economy, as in Venezuela. At second glance, positive trends are certainly identifiable in places such as El Salvador or Paraguay, but it remains to be seen whether they will last.
Despite the slightly positive transformation of recent years, fundamental development problems remain. These include, above all, the ongoing and unaltered major social inequality that has built up over many decades and the lack of interest shown by broad segments of the elites in combating the situation. This continues to restrict opportunities for large sections of the population and has occasionally led to radical political shifts in some countries in recent years. Secondly, the elites have not yet sufficiently understood the need to change political course and to implement targeted structural policies that would build upon the successful growth achieved by the raw materials boom. The relative stagnation of the region’s economic model, Chile, is an expression of indecisive management, at the very least, in these two areas. Thirdly, development of the rule of law has been stagnating for years in almost all the countries in the region, which encourages informal arrangements and exacerbates imbalances of political and economic power. Finally, the problem of organized crime continues to escalate with no sign of abatement. Mexico and Guatemala are merely the most obvious examples of the erosion of the state monopoly on the use of force that characterizes the majority of Latin American states and that continues to undermine what is already a fragile social structure.

Political transformation

Latin America’s political transformation continues to vary, ranging from successful consolidation, to the fragility of defective and highly defective democracies, to isolated cases of authoritarian regression. The strengthening of democracy in Uruguay exists alongside the coup in Honduras, the further entrenchment of autocracy in Venezuela and the collapse of Haiti. This development is defined by four key factors: a high level of social inequality, which is increasingly expressed in political resentment and occasionally provokes populist experiments; the weakness of the rule of law, which encourages the de-institutionalization of political processes; fluctuations in the quality of the party system, which is often unable to cope with vested interests; and, above all, an increasingly fragile stateness, which in some countries has also come under mounting pressure from organized crime.
Although Latin America should still be considered a democratic region, the quality of its democracy has not improved in recent years. Instead, the BTI data suggest a slightly backward trend. For example, the average score has dropped from 7.02 in BTI 2008, through 6.97 (BTI 2010) to 6.83 points now. Nevertheless, this decline is primarily due to Haiti (for BTI 2012) and Venezuela (which was classified as an autocracy for the first time in the BTI 2010). Having said that, the average scores conceal a situation in the various countries that is as complex as it is diverse and that should be cause for concern. The majority of the region’s countries remain defective or even highly defective democracies with a greater or lesser potential for instability, as was demonstrated by the case of Honduras in 2009. Overall, Latin America gives an impression of democratic stagnation, even if this impression obscures very divergent developments, and any progress is canceled out by setbacks.
Table 1: State of political transformation
Table 1 shows that little has changed in the fundamental classification of Latin American countries. A slight increase in scores - including in the area of the state’s monopoly on the use of force – has brought Colombia, with an average score of 6.05 points, into the group of defective democracies. Haiti, by contrast, is now classified not merely as a failing state but also as an autocracy, after the earthquake and the fraudulent 2010 elections. This decline for Haiti also reflects the fact that the 2010 elections played a decisive role in the BTI 2012 survey results. While Michel Martelly did, ultimately, win a clear majority of the presidential vote in March 2011, this reasonably free and fair run-off election took place after the end of the survey period. Haiti’s current classification as a failing state reflects the state’s inability to assure its monopoly on the use of force, as well as the total collapse of its administrative structures. Furthermore, because the BTI autocracies category involves a cap on scores for effective governance and the stability of democratic institutions, Haiti has the second lowest score for political transformation in Latin America, with 3.67 points to Cuba’s 3.42.
Six additional states have undergone significant changes since the BTI’s 2010 edition, with negative trends clearly outweighing positive ones. Bolivia is the only state to register a noticeable improvement (+ 0.35 points). Here, political elites were able to avert an escalation of conflict that was threatening to split the country and to redirect the conflict of interests back into the proper, institutional channels. However, this was no more than a corrective to the drop in democratic quality that Bolivia suffered a few years earlier. Serious deficiencies in the rule of law and uncertainty about how latent conflicts will develop continue to be factors casting doubts over the development of democracy in the country.
The quality of democracy has declined over the period under review in the five remaining countries - Argentina (-0.35 points), Guatemala (-0.30), Mexico (-0.30), Ecuador (-0.20) and Panama (-0. 20) - for various reasons and starting from very different situations. Essentially, two general patterns that are representative of Latin America as a whole can be observed driving the ups and downs that characterize defective democracies. In Argentina, Ecuador and Panama, the decline in the quality of democracy is largely due to the respective ruling presidents’ overweening pursuit of power and the resultant undermining of democratic institutions. Meanwhile, political developments in Guatemala and Mexico are eclipsed by deficiencies in stateness, which are linked to the extreme violence of the drug cartels and organized crime. In both cases, the process of state disintegration threatens to undo the gains in democratization achieved during the previous decade.
With the inclusion of Haiti, the group of autocracies in the region now numbers three states, although this should not be taken as indicative of a general authoritarian regression in Latin America as a whole. Haiti should, instead, be seen as a special case, standing as it does on the boundary between a failing state, a highly defective democracy and authoritarian regression. By way of illustration: in the 1990s, the country became a democracy under spectacular conditions, increasingly deteriorated into autocracy under President Aristide, then struggled back to (a highly defective) democracy after Aristide was deposed. Furthermore, even before the earthquake, the country was only able to survive with international help, while UN troops provided at least a minimum of state monopoly on the use of force. There is as yet no sign of any rapid change under President Martelly.
In Venezuela, on the other hand, the authoritarian regime under President Chávez has become further entrenched. Venezuela is classified as an (electoral) autocracy;2 in other words, although it enjoys what continue to be reasonably free and fair elections, the almost complete erosion of checks and balances mean that it is under de facto authoritarian rule, with continuous attacks on political and civil freedoms. In addition, the state monopoly on the use of force is increasingly under threat from the creation of pro-government militias that form a competing parallel structure. These developments seriously overshadow the future of democracy in Venezuela in the period following the next presidential elections in October 2012.
Finally, Cuba represents the last "classic" autocracy on the American continent. No democratization trends worthy of note were discernible during the period under review. In fact, under Raúl Castro, the regime has attempted to stabilize Cuba’s authoritarian system in the face of growing economic and social problems and to strengthen consensus among the Communist elites. Isolated easing of restrictions, such as the release (and exile) of political prisoners or permitting greater freedom of discussion in restricted forums, has had little impact so far on the overall picture. Nevertheless, economic reforms introduced in late 2010 show that a fundamental change has begun in Cuba under the more pragmatic government of Raúl Castro. That being said, the economic reforms are modeled primarily on the examples of states such as China and Vietnam, rather than on a comprehensive opening up of politics and the economy.
The group of democracies still numbers 18 countries, including ten defective and three highly defective democracies (see Table 1). Even if the coup in Honduras has raised concerns about possible knock-on effects and further authoritarian reaction elsewhere, political developments tend to suggest a degree of stabilization or stagnation. For some of the democracies, the primary threat appears to be less a recourse to force as a means of quelling domestic conflict than a further erosion of the state, the clearest example of which can be seen in Guatemala.
During the period under observation, twelve presidential elections and four parliamentary elections took place throughout the region; by and large, these were free and fair and proceeded without any major unrest. The relative normality of these elections is an indication of how firmly consolidated electoral democracy has become in Latin America. This is all the more noteworthy considering the fact that in countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador the respective presidents, Morales and Correa, are implementing controversial policies.
In four countries, the elections also resulted in a political turnaround, which was accepted without resistance by the political forces that were voted out of office - with the exception of Honduras. In El Salvador, President Funes heads the country’s first moderate left-wing government, whereas the elections in Chile and Panama resulted in a swing to the right.
The greatest turmoil was undoubtedly experienced in Honduras in 2009. Here, the political elites - both the government and the opposition - had long been operating at the edges of constitutional legality, occasionally slipping over the line. The escalation of the political conflict was triggered by the sitting president, Zelaya, who attempted to interfere in the political process by dubious means. The then-opposition responded with maneuvers that, although constitutionally legal, were politically questionable. This development culminated in the coup against President Zelaya in July 2009: military forces summarily expelled the sitting president from the country. The transitional government responded to the subsequent unrest with highly repressive measures, and the situation did not calm down again until the scheduled elections were carried out as planned. The winner, President Lobo, is a member of the old elite who has since attempted to smooth out the antagonisms that were thrown up during the previous events. The subsequent return of deposed president Zelaya shows that President Lobo has managed, at least temporarily, to restore some measure of harmony. Nevertheless, there remain doubts about the commitment of the old political elites to the rule of law and democracy in Honduras.
Like Honduras, the majority of the region’s countries remain defective democracies prone to fluctuating regimes, primarily due to the instability of the rule of law and the attitude of the political elites towards democratic institutions. A view of the medium-term development since the 2006 Transformation Index (see Figure 1) shows that - excluding a few significant exceptions - the individual democracies have essentially remained at the same level. In a (very) few cases, this indicates stability, but in the remainder it is a result of deadlock or stagnation. Accordingly, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Chile are stable democracies where democracy is substantively strong and is underscored by considerable support, even if Chile’s political system, with its rigidly established party landscape, is not always representative. Brazil and Jamaica follow some way behind, closer to the group of defective democracies in many ways, particularly due to persistent problems with the rule of law. While Brazil has improved slightly thanks to some strengthening of the justice system and increased anti-corruption activity, Jamaica has suffered substantially in its democratic credibility. This is principally due to the growth of organized crime and the ensuing weakening of stateness and the rule of law.
Figure 1: Political transformation - BTI 2006 and BTI 2012
In contrast, the remaining 13 defective and highly defective democracies remain more or less in a state of suboptimal democratic development, also referred to as "low-level equilibrium." These countries are dominated by stagnation, some have only modest democratic substance and in others there is creeping regression. Only Paraguay, under the governments of Duarte (to 2008) and Lugo, has shown an upward trend over time; this is mainly due to the more wholehearted approach to fighting corruption and the greater opportunities to participate in the political process under President Lugo. The absence of further progress, on the other hand, is attributable to a political constellation that is similar to that in other countries in the region: the Colorado Party that Lugo defeated at the ballot box had been in power for 61 years. It had even managed to win elections and remain in government for almost 20 years after the Stroessner dictatorship ended. Lugo is therefore confronted with firmly entrenched elites in politics, society and in the apparatus of state that impede, water down or even block reform. This means that Paraguay could also fall into the "democracy trap" that has provoked populist and radical "solutions" in countries such as Venezuela or Ecuador: when reformist movements are prevented from successfully putting their plans into practice, they lose support and almost certainly future elections, which sounds the death knell for the reforms and leads to a re-establishment of the low-level equilibrium.
In the past decade, there have been various different attempts to remedy the dilemma of low-level equilibrium, marked by a weakness within formal institutions, an inclination to focus on short-term strategies and measures, and a tendency to frame politics as a zero-sum conflict. The most notable attempts to seek a way out of this dilemma were the radical reforms driven by populism as pioneered by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and then later by Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador, Zelaya in Honduras and Ortega in Nicaragua. However, in striving to overcome deadlock, the reformers damaged political institutions in general and the rule of law in particular.
With the exception of Bolivia, where in the period under review for the BTI 2012 there has been a pronounced return to the official institutional channels as a means of solving conflicts, these countries have also suffered the most serious fall in the quality of democracy since 2006. The deep political divisions in these countries, which are exacerbated further by the actors concerned, make it unlikely that democratic institutions will stabilize in the foreseeable future. As the public arena is the principal stage for political clashes, freedom of the press is under considerable pressure.
Similar findings also apply to Argentina, where democratic advances commensurate with the state’s socioeconomic development were hindered by the conflicts between the different factions of the political elite. This means that necessary reforms, especially in the area of the rule of law, are either not attempted in the first place or are subsequently diluted or distorted. As such, politics since the end of the Alfonsin era in 1989 has remained focused less on institutions and more on personalities. Since the deep systemic crisis of 2001-2002, the Peronist governments of Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (since 2007) have continued to promote this growing informalization of politics. The political strategies of both the government and opposition are primarily aimed at maintaining or undermining political power and - as in the countries mentioned above - at polarizing public opinion and reigning in or instrumentalizing the mass media. These trends have intensified sharply recently, as was particularly apparent in the elections of October 2011, when the continuation of the Kirchner era was on the line after the death of the de facto ruler Néstor Kirchner.
Mexico’s successive democratic losses since BTI 2006 are a case apart, particularly in the period under review for the BTI 2012. The rapid expansion of organized crime since President Calderón took office in 2006 increasingly threatens not just stateness but also civil rights and the rule of law. The sheer scale of violence and the state’s apparent impotence have, unsurprisingly, raised concerns that Mexico may already be a failing state. Given the divergent situation in the various federal states and the fact that government structures continue to function in areas such as economic and social policy, these fears may (still) be exaggerated; accordingly, the BTI Mexico still considers Mexico to be a half-way functioning state. However, this discussion also obscures the fact that the quality of democracy in Mexico was already on shaky ground because of widespread corruption and clientelism.
This development can also be traced back to factors that apply in similar measure to other countries - especially in Central America, where decay like that seen in Mexico is already on the rise. In addition to the breeding ground for organized criminality created by the combination of poverty and social inequality, these factors include the specific course of democratization and, above all, the role of the state apparatus (which was already corrupt) in this process. The threatened destabilization of the system of public patronage, which has long upheld a comprehensive system of clientelism, has resulted in what might be called an increased feudalization of the state. This dynamic has promoted the development of "parallel worlds" that increasingly elude all state control and now compete with the state itself. This is even truer of Guatemala than of Mexico.
The negative trends outlined here are certainly worrying in some cases, especially Mexico and Central America, even if they tend to become lost among the more positive trends. Figure 2 shows the development trends for the core democratic components in the 18 Latin American democracies, together with their overall status over time. Apart from the minor overall change, the graph keenly illustrates the critical issues for Latin America’s democratic development.
The most important of these is the stagnation of the rule of law at a low level. Put simply, this means that political actors are unwilling to play by the constitutional rules. Accordingly, it is rather sobering to consider that reforms of the rule of law only succeed in those countries that already have a functioning rule of law. Secondly, this corresponds to a successive loss of institutional stability or, in other words: the commitment of the elites to democratic institutions. Finally, democracy’s political and cultural underpinning (political and social integration) also proves to be relatively weak: fragile party systems and interest groups, wavering public support for democracy and a generally weak civil society.
Figure 2: State of political transformation of the 18 democracies in Latin America, overall and by criteria

Economic transformation

Overall, Latin America has successfully weathered the global challenges posed by the financial crises in the industrial nations, continuing on its relatively stable course of development. The majority of the countries in Latin America were able to counteract the crisis with flexible economic policy measures and post significant growth in 2010. In the greater part of the countries, these successes are also based on reasonably solid basic economic institutions that, despite the vulnerability of weaker states (especially those in Central America and the Caribbean), offer economic actors relatively dependable operating frameworks.
Although this development is strikingly positive when compared to earlier crises, it does not obscure the fact that Latin America continues to have fundamental structural problems. Foremost among these remains the high level of social inequality, which has not changed significantly in the period under review or, indeed, over the last decade. Instead, it seems to have become even further entrenched, permeating society right through to tax policy and social welfare structures, which generally appear regressive. Secondly, the ongoing boom in raw materials means that there is little incentive to alter the currently profitable growth model and realign it for greater value creation and productivity. This means that Latin America is at risk of falling even further behind Asia; only Brazil, which enjoys robust domestic demand as well as relatively advanced research and development policies, has been able to hold its own. Thirdly, in some states, development toward a market economy has been obstructed by a combination of weakness in the rule of law, corruption, and an informal sector that has been thoroughly penetrated by organized crime. Finally, although populist state interventionism - such as that pioneered by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela - has lost some of its appeal, it continues to find supporters looking for a political alternative, particularly given the deep social inequality and the distorted opinion and decision-making processes in the defective democracies. In addition to Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador, developments in Peru are marked by this dilemma.
Admittedly, these structural problems are hidden by economic growth. Despite certain setbacks in 2009, apparent in the 1.9 percent fall in GDP on average for all the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the region posted significant growth again in 2010 (6.0 %). The strongest gains were in Paraguay (9.7 %), Uruguay (9.0 %), Peru (8.6 %), Argentina (8.4 %) and Brazil (7.7 %). Notable exceptions include Haiti since the earthquake (2010: – 7.0 %), Venezuela (2009: -3.3 %, 2010: – 1.6 %) and Jamaica (2009: -2.7 %, 2010: 0.0 %). There are also clear regional differences in the rates of recovery from the crisis: South American countries posted strong growth (Cono Sur and Andean Region: 6.6 %), whereas the economies in Central America (3.5 %) and the Caribbean (0.3 %), which are more closely oriented to the U.S. market, show conspicuously weaker recovery trends.
Correspondingly, the individual BTI scores for economic performance have changed little since BTI 2010: while Bolivia was the only country to improve, Haiti and six other countries recorded slight losses (Argentina, El Salvador, Jamaica, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela). Furthermore, the average score for Latin America has been falling since BTI 2008, an indication that the region’s structural problems are increasingly hindering economic growth.
The structural factors mentioned above – social inequality, a boom in exports, state weaknesses and economic policy strategies – combine with economic growth to create an overall picture that shifts between stability and stagnation. In line with this, the overall level of development of the market economy has hardly changed when measured as the average regional score (from 6.35 in the BTI 2010 to 6.27 points now). This slight downward trend is mainly due to the socioeconomic collapse of Haiti (-0.75 points) and structural problems in Cuba (-0.57). Elsewhere, progress and setbacks in the region largely balance each other out, from a purely statistical perspective. This should be considered in the context of the fact that there were no major political upheavals during the period under review and therefore no significant changes to the political order. The only exceptions are Honduras (+0.32 points), where Lobo’s government corrected President Zelaya’s left-wing populist economic policies and brought the score back to its BTI 2008 level, and El Salvador, where the Funes government focused on building up a more comprehensive welfare regime. Otherwise, both the moderate and the more strongly populist left-wing governments have continued or entrenched their existing economic policies. As such, only a few countries exhibit striking changes: Peru (+0.39 points), Jamaica (-0.36) and Argentina (-0.25).
Table 2: State of economic transformation
Looking at the individual countries, it is clear that the state of economic transformation continues to vary strongly, which also reflects a certain inertia in institutional change or a blocking of reform. Experience has shown that this can only be overcome if there is substantial political consensus, as in Uruguay, or if windows of opportunity are seized, as was the case with the social programs in Brazil under Lula.3
The BTI criteria can be used to divide the countries into four groups. The group of developed market economies still only consists of three countries: Uruguay, Chile and Costa Rica. Uruguay has continued on its course of positive transformation in recent years and surpassed Chile as the top performer in Latin America. The moderate left-wing governments of President Tabaré Vazquez and his successor José Mujica have not simply benefited from favorable conditions; they have consistently focused on expanding the economic order and welfare regime and set new standards in the field of sustainability. Nevertheless, due to its small size, the dependence of its economy on its large neighbors Brazil and Argentina, its exposure to international markets, and a high rate of dollarization, Uruguay is still structurally vulnerable and always susceptible to external crises. Like Uruguay, Chile and – to a lesser extent – Costa Rica are robust on an institutional level, but neither was able to realize further gains during this survey period. In Chile, the most serious impediments to development are still severe inequality and deficiencies in the education sector, whereas in Costa Rica, it is institutional deficiencies linked to the continuing legacy of a strong public sector that hold the country back.
The group of countries with a functioning market economy includes Brazil, Peru, Panama and El Salvador, although of these four states, Brazil has almost joined the ranks of countries with a developed market economy. Over the years, Brazil has continued to advance in small steps on its upward path. It now has a stable economic order and it has tackled the issue of social discrepancies through targeted social policies. The country also benefits from a strong domestic market, which has resulted in the formation of a new middle class and has further reduced social inequality over the medium term. While Panama was not able to realize further progress, Peru and El Salvador advanced into this group in very different ways. In Peru, García’s government rigorously continued along the course of macroeconomic stability and the development of a liberal market economy, although in doing so it neglected to provide any further social safety net. Although the considerable economic growth further reduced poverty and led to a marginally higher development status, it also exacerbated social inequality. Conversely, the Funes government in El Salvador managed to strengthen welfare elements, even if the economy was affected by the crisis due to its close ties to the U.S. economy.
The majority of the countries in Latin American are in the third group of market economies with greater or lesser functional deficiencies. This includes eleven countries with very different political frameworks and institutions of varying quality. The group covers liberal market economies such as Colombia and Honduras, as well as countries like Ecuador and Bolivia, where the governments of Correa and Morales focus on a stronger role of the state and restrict the role of private property but who, in fact, operate a mixed economy due to the existing economic and power structures. In Guatemala, which can only offer an inadequate institutional framework to economic actors because of the weakness of the state, and Ecuador, where deficiencies in the economic order result in deficiencies in economic performance, the foundation of the market economy already appears precarious. It is worth noting that the stronger market economies in this group - Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Jamaica - all suffered a decline in the functional operability of their market economies. Overall, the countries in this group are not able to implement economic development that will benefit large sections of the population, nor are they able to guarantee stable conditions, with the exception of Mexico and Colombia. This has resulted in the expansion of the informal sector, which in some countries has been thoroughly penetrated by organized crime.
For varying reasons, Venezuela, Cuba and Haiti are the most poorly functioning economic systems in the region; the latter two, in particular, have suffered a major decline in the functional operability of their market economies during the period under review. In Venezuela, the continuation of state-centered economic policies put in place by the Chávez government has placed further pressure on the private economic sector, specifically aimed at further polarizing the nation’s politics. Venezuela is also the only country to post negative growth rates, due in part to the falling price of oil in 2009 and 2010. Venezuela’s fundamental dilemma is that, on the one hand, no government since 1958 has pursued policies aimed at making productive use of the state’s substantial oil production profits and, on the other, neither this government nor the fragmented opposition is any exception.
In Cuba, the problems with state finances and the social system - which up until now was the country’s biggest asset in the Transformation Index - have led to a downward trend that has already resulted in fundamental reforms of economic policy under Raúl Castro’s government. Cuba was hit especially hard by the global financial crisis, which has proved to be the last straw for an already overburdened system, laying bare its structural weaknesses. Cuba’s relegation can be attributed to the fact that its lavish welfare state has reached its limits and cannot continue in its present form. In September 2010, Raúl Castro’s government enacted reforms that suggest the introduction of "market socialism" like in China and Vietnam. The first steps included announcing the dismissal of 500,000 civil servants, greater freedom for private enterprise in the agricultural and services sectors and the de facto authorization of small businesses in order to absorb the economic and social consequences of these far-reaching lay-offs. However, these initiatives are still at a very early stage.
Aside from the short-term trends influenced by crisis management in 2009 and 2010, a comparison with the BTI 2006 shows how the Latin American market economies have developed over the medium term. Apart from a few exceptions, this comparison shows (see Figure 3) that almost all the countries remain stuck in their established order, with a slight positive trend overall. Only in Venezuela is there a clear downward trend, and Uruguay, Peru and Paraguay all enjoyed a distinct upswing.
Figure 3: Economic transformation - BTI 2006 and BTI 2012
By way of contrast, Figure 4 shows the strengths and weaknesses of market economies in Latin America. Critical issues include stagnating socioeconomic development and – despite slight improvements - social welfare and the sustainability of the economic systems. On the other hand, positive features include a certain culture of stability that ensures relatively low rates of inflation and fairly sound national budgets in almost every country. Taking a long-term view, after the experiences of the debt crises and the "lost decade" of the 1980s, this is a remarkable achievement for Latin America.
Figure 4: State of economic transformation, overall and by criteria

Transformation management

On average transformation management in Latin America remains unchanged. With an almost unaltered average of 5.49 points, indicating mediocre management, the region remains in second place behind East Central and Southeast Europe (6.25 points) in terms of transformation management. In this comparison with other regions, it should be emphasized that the BTI awards points equally to transformation management toward a socially just market economy and to transformation management toward democracy under the rule of law; as such, the relative lack of autocracies in the region improves its overall score. Nonetheless the average score obscures the at-times considerable changes at the national level compared with the BTI 2010. Significant improvements were observable in Bolivia (+0.50 points), El Salvador (+0.49), Honduras (+0.41), Costa Rica (+0.32) and Paraguay (+0.24).
Along with Haiti (-1.38), the main losers are Mexico (-0.36) and Argentina (-0.30) and, to a lesser extent, Chile. Chile, the top performer out of 128 countries in the BTI 2008, has since dropped to fifth place in management ranking and within Latin America has been overtaken by Brazil. It is also striking that Paraguay is trending very positively for the second time in a row, while Argentina remains fixed in a downward trend.
The quality of transformation management is as diverse as the political and economic transformation, ranging from "very good" to "failed" (or complete refusal: Venezuela) (see Table 3). The leading group still comprises Uruguay, Brazil and Chile. All three countries distinguish themselves with high marks in all four management criteria, indicating effective management of transformation processes, despite isolated weaknesses in the use of resources. In Uruguay, particularly, the governments of Vázquez and Mujica succeeded in improving the efficient use of resources (including anti-corruption measures). All three countries received maximum scores in the "international cooperation" category. Despite its slightly poorer management performance - which is not related to the change in government from Concertación to the right-leaning Coalición por el Cambio, but rather involves weaknesses throughout the political elite - Chile, along with Uruguay and Brazil, can still point to very good transformation management.
Table 3: Quality of transformation management
The second group includes countries whose management may be regarded as relatively successful in terms of stabilization and strengthening of democracy and a market economy, but which nonetheless exhibit significant weaknesses. Within this group with "good" transformation management there is little movement to report. It should be noted that Costa Rica (6.95 points) and El Salvador (6.79) are closer to the top three performers than the rest of the group, led by Paraguay (6.21) — both countries remain the only other candidates for "very good" management.
In El Salvador, management under the center-left government of Funes has greatly improved on the political steering of previous conservative governments. Through its social policies, the government is not only making the appropriate mitigation of free market regulatory policy a top priority, but was also able to achieve a relatively solid consensus for this approach and so better incorporate civil society in policy development and implementation.
In Costa Rica, the governments under President Arias, and since 2010 under President Chinchilla stepped up the battle against corruption and - as part of the implementation of the free trade agreement between Central American and the United States - expanded international cooperation. In so doing, the government further solidified the country’s relatively high capacity for transformation.
The other countries in this group show significantly greater weaknesses, particularly in the area of effective use of resources and capacity for consensus building. With the exception of Paraguay these countries have barely progressed at all. There the Lugo government, despite challenges from the opposition, succeeded in better involving civil society and emphasizing the fight against corruption and state reform. Due to the country’s particular political conditions, especially the old elite’s capacity for blocking reform, it is uncertain if this improved management will endure.
In the third group are those countries defined by mediocre management. Without exception they include countries that have undergone major crises in recent history, the after-effects of which are still being felt, and in which there is a very high level of political conflict. This group includes Ecuador and Bolivia, two countries whose governments pursue goals, particularly economic goals, that are incompatible with the principles of a market economy. But Bolivia can point to a remarkable improvement in management performance. This is essentially due to specific learning processes on the part of the political elite as a whole and in particular results from the less polarizing political strategy that the Morales government has pursued following the introduction of the new constitution and its overwhelming electoral victory in 2009. This allowed it to move on from a phase marked by significant conflict and concentrate on the coordination and implementation of its policy objectives, including a greater willingness for international cooperation. Ecuador can point to no such learning processes, with President Correa still struggling to consolidate his development strategy and - in the face of an obstructive opposition - using similar tactics to those employed by Morales in previous years.
Along with Bolivia and El Salvador, Honduras is another clear winner in terms of management performance. This improvement can be solely accredited to the government that has been in power since 2010 under President Lobo, who has at least succeeded in returning calm to the political situation after acute polarization under President Zelaya, the consequent coup and controversial transitional government under Micheletti. However there is little cause for optimism: Lobo has merely corrected some of Zelaya’s misguided measures; there is no strong consensus for development of the country and there is still a lingering sense that the old elite might ignore the constitution if their interests are endangered.
Apart from Haiti, Mexico and Argentina exhibited the greatest drop in management performance. In Mexico the Calderón government is not even close to controlling escalating violence arising from its policy of militarizing the conflict. This policy failure is accompanied by a lack of control over antidemocratic forces and further undermines the country’s international credibility.
In Argentina, which saw significantly improved management following the crisis of 2001-2002, particularly under the government of Néstor Kirchner, is now experiencing a decline in management under his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. This is paradoxically linked to the fact that until his death in November 2010, Néstor Kirchner continued to represent the center of political power and so contributed to the informalization of politics, ultimately concerned with the retention and exercise of power by all available means. Non-transparent administration and consequent inefficiency in resource usage, as well as a lack of consensus among the elite about appropriate reforms to strengthen institutions, all affect Argentina’s management scores. Arriving with a promise to strengthen the country’s democratic institutions, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has definitively failed to achieve this goal. On the contrary, the political elite in both government and opposition exploit these institutions for their own ends - a trend that intensified in the run-up to the October 2011 presidential elections.
Apart from Haiti, which has effectively had no political management since the earthquake, Cuba and Venezuela remain the poorest-performing Latin American countries in management ranking. Nonetheless the trend towards pragmatism that followed Raúl Castro’s takeover of government responsibilities has further intensified. The reform of the economy that began in 2010 points to clearer strategic priorities and a more thorough strategy of policy implementation. On the international level, too, Cuba is pursuing a more pragmatic approach, increasingly aligning itself with China and so complementing its close relations with Venezuela. Venezuela, on the other hand, remains in last position due to the Chávez government’s policies, which run counter to the democratic rule of law and the market economy.
The changes and trends of recent years are even more apparent in comparison with the results from the BTI 2006. It should first be noted that there is more movement to be seen in the quality of transformation management than in political and economic transformation (see Table 5). Uruguay and Venezuela may continue to represent the top and bottom of the group, but Paraguay is the winner over time, while Peru, El Salvador, Cuba and Ecuador can all point to significantly improved management. With Ecuador and Cuba, especially, it should be emphasized that in BTI’s conception, management is overwhelmingly oriented towards normative goals. Both countries continue to score poorly, but a change in trend emerges over the years.
Figure 5: State of transformation management - BTI 2006 and BTI 2012
Finally Figure 6 shows that the slight upward trend in transformation management since the BTI 2006 has now slowed down considerably. However, the individual management profiles show differing trends. While steering capacity and use of resources have strengthened somewhat, international cooperation has dropped to a similar extent. Behind this drop are, on the one hand, changing frameworks for international cooperation in the more left-wing populist countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, on the other hand strategic deficits and loss in credibility, particularly in Mexico and Jamaica. However a trend reversal is apparent in consensus-building, which is scored lower for the first time in the BTI 2012. This score is not simply due to the polarized conflict situations prevalent in some countries as already outlined, but can also be traced to the increased difficulty in integrating antidemocratic forces. Only in one country does this concern the military (Honduras); elsewhere, organized crime now represents the greater problem.
Figure 6: State of transformation management, overall and by criteria

Outlook

As in past survey periods, Latin America’s transformation performance record in the BTI 2012 remains mixed. From a historical perspective, it is worth acknowledging that the region appears to have largely proved successful in turning its back on autocracy in the past 20 years. Moreover, the majority of states in the region have abandoned the problematic economic and social policies of the twentieth century that resulted in crises of inflation and debt, and instead are striving to achieve stable market economies. Nevertheless, it is manifestly evident that, apart from a few exceptions, the pace of transformation appears to have flagged in recent years. If we look past the "usual suspects," Uruguay, Chile and Costa Rica, as well as up-and-coming Brazil, democracy and the market economy rest on somewhat weak foundations in most of the region’s countries, with no decisive or lasting reform on the table. Until they have proven sustainable, the positive examples outlined above, such as El Salvador or Paraguay, will do little to alter this impression.
Of course, we must also take into account what kind of transformation progress may be achievable in a given national context and how quickly this can take place. For example, the functioning democracies of Uruguay, Chile and Costa Rica have demonstrated that societies with well-functioning institutions can successfully propose, negotiate and implement important reforms. The remaining countries, and especially the defective democracies, have shown that the underlying conflicts threaten to overwhelm weak institutions and provoke distrust and short-sighted policies. The weak rule of law in these states remains the biggest obstacle to further transformation. This weakness is expressed in the lack of adherence to universally applicable laws which are superseded by rules in favor of personal relationships or an informal system of rules. Reforming the rule of law would require political actors to possess a basic level of mutual trust - but this trust is virtually impossible when the rule of law is not assured. This paradox is clearly illustrated by Argentina’s repeated failure to enact reforms in the rule of law.
One cause for optimism is the fact that, despite the overall stagnation of transformation management performance in the region, a few states have managed to achieve notable success. The sustainability of these successes will depend largely upon whether reforms are accompanied by a process of learning among social and political elites. In this respect, Latin America’s overall success in weathering the economic turbulence of the global economic crisis might be regarded as an indication that, in comparison to earlier periods, Latin America has taken a step forward here.
BTI 2012 | Argentina Country Report
Key Indicators
Sources: The World Bank, World Development Indicators 2011 | UNDP, Human Development Report 2011. Footnotes: (1) Average annual growth rate. (2) Gender Inequality Index (GII). (3) Percentage of population living on less than $2 a day.

Executive Summary

Near the end of President Cristina Kirchner’s (first) term in office, Argentina’s transformation to constitutional democracy and a sound market economy with social safeguards remains stuck, due to the ongoing zero-sum games of political elites who appear to be incapable of pursuing needed reforms. Although politicians respect the basic rules of electoral democracy, the rule of law and the institutional foundations of the economic system remain weak, and politics remain centered on persons rather than on institutions. In this context, the sudden death of ex-president Néstor Kirchner - the husband and political alter ego of incumbent President Cristina Kirchner, and a presumed candidate for the 2011 presidential elections - marked an important caesura in the political process. Néstor Kirchner was still at the center of Argentina’s government circles and had maintained control over both the power-sustaining networks around the Peronist party and basic economic policies. The typical power struggles rapidly surfaced soon after his death. In sum, Argentina’s political elite itself remains a persistent risk for political and economic transformation, and they do not seem to have learned much from the profound crisis of 2001-2002.

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