Background paper on Latvia

Latvia’s political system has been functioning in a relatively inclusive and democratic way for about the last two decades. However, corruption has been a continuous concern. In the allocation of public resources such as public procurement contracts, public jobs and social services, fairness and impartiality are observed but not uniformly adhered to. Public agencies differ in their perceived degree of capture v. impartiality. The separation between the public and private sphere is the adopted principle but deviations from it are frequent (even if nowadays often hidden). Hence, within the distinction between the limited access order and open access order, Latvia fits as a borderline case.
However, along several parameters, Latvia has experienced gradual long-term improvements. Its anti-corruption legislation is well developed. Administrative corruption remains a problem but on a considerably lesser scale than in the end of the 1990’s when solid surveys began. Corruption-related investigations and prosecutions of influential people in power positions have shown that no group is entirely above the law. Occasional expressions of the public outrage against corrupt politics are strong enough to serve as at least a modest restraint on the political elites and the grip of captors of political decision-making eased in 2010-2013.
Among the factors which hold back Latvia from becoming a governance regime of the open access order, seem to be the rigid ethic division in the political competition, widespread sense of relative personal economic deprivation and high level of informal economy, the deficit of general interpersonal trust and related difficulties to overcome collective-action problems. Moreover surveys reveal mixed public attitudes towards corruption with both condemnation and tolerance common.

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