Ambitious rule of law reforms or principal-agents approaches to anti-corruption have not worked. Policy should attack corruption where it has a high negative impact and policies are feasible given the 'political settlement' describing the relative power of the interests involved in the corruption.
This panel invites contributions addressing two types of weaknesses in anti-corruption policy. Some approaches have focused on ambitious policies to strengthen the rule of law or property rights. A second set driven by microeconomic principal-agent models sought to change behaviour with changes in incentives like better pay structures for bureaucrats, better monitoring and stricter punishments. Neither approach delivered satisfactory results. They ignored critically important corruption interdependencies between individual calculations at the micro-level and political, social and cultural structures at the meso and macro-level. Conventional approaches also glossed over differences between sectors and the heterogeneity of firms and public agencies within and across countries. More critically, they ignored characteristics of the 'political settlements', and the norms, cultures and behaviours related to different social orders. Our proposition is that in countries whose levels of development and political settlements do not yet allow effective collective enforcement of formal rules, policy should sequentially attack corruption at critical points where anti-corruption is both feasible and has a high impact. These critical points can be identified using a variety of methodological approaches and the panel invites contributions across disciplines. Over time this type of anti-corruption strategy is more likely to create conditions for structural transformation and the spread of productive capabilities. This will help the creation of a broad-based economy with more power centres likely to enforce formal rules in their own interest. This approach can eventually make possible more ambitious anti-corruption strategies targeting higher-level institutional characteristics like the rule of law or transparency and accountability.