Policy Series: Are There Better Solutions? (IV)

There are many possible ways to improve the quality of the policy-making institutions and process to improve mining policies and reduce failed policies. In fact, all politicians are well aware of these possible solutions, but they lack political will and courage to implement them for long-term benefits. Moreover, because this clientalistic political structure is increasingly entrenched, a good principled person talks about moral principles and patriotic deeds, but acts in favor of parochial interests.   Therefore, for a ‘win-win’ result, policymakers need to look beyond the short-term horizon; investors should avoid supporting ‘corrupt’ opportunities; and the public (esp., media) must maintain the pressure both on politicians and investors. Thus requires politicians to improve the quality of policy-making processes in order to increase trust among all stakeholders. Here are four possible measures to accomplish that.

The Rule of Law [1]

Politicians, parties, factions, businesses, and the public need to adhere to the rule of law principle. In particular, policymakers, especially, high-ranking politicians, must follow the law, regulations, and standards that are the rules of the game approved by them and their predecessors. Although the rule of law principle does exist and is reflected in the contemporary politics of Mongolia, there are numerous deficiencies. In regards to constitutionalism, rulings of the Constitutional Court were obeyed up to 2000. Since then politicians, especially parliament members and cabinet members began disregarding Constitutional Court decisions. The parliament and its appointed cabinets have override the Constitutional Court decisions on power-sharing between the legislature and executive bodies, electoral procedures, and appointments of politically-affiliated officials to non-political bureaucratic and judiciary posts. Judicial independence is still questionable. There is sufficient evidence to illustrate political and business influences over the judiciary and law enforcement organizations. For example, political parties and factions assert their influence over the judiciary, especially the procurator’s office, and over the anti-corruption agency through the presidential office. They also exert influence over the police, marshal service, intelligence, and taxation via the prime minister and cabinet. Finally, because politicians for various reasons do not show respect for the law and rules, the legal culture is still not respected by politicians and political parties. Attitudes like ‘the Mongolian law is for three days’ or ‘түгжилдэх’ (to renege/to cheat) are popular in society. Therefore, all policy-makers, shapers, and takers should adhere to the rule of law principle. This would certainly have strong implications for improving the mining policymaking process.

The Institutionalization of the Legislature

Parliament must improve its policy-making and revising process. It needs to build up and empower its own non-partisan bureaucracy, especially the standing committees, in order to advance institutional interests (i.e., public interests) rather than parochial, factional, and private interests. It needs to increase incentives to conduct a thorough examination of existing policies rather than encouraging proposing new legislation. It needs to strengthen the accountability of parliament members. What’s the current legislative picture? First, it is overwhelmingly represented by business interests in comparison to the parliaments of 1992 and 1996.[2] Second, all parliament members are entitled to introduce a draft bill or changes to the existing legislation. This provides immense opportunities to change any policies and increases the workload for the parliament and staffers. Third, the law-passing process is the easiest because there are very few veto players. With the presence of 39 (out of 76) members, any legislative initiative can be discussed in the general session and passed by only 20 votes. Incomprehensively, members can vote (push voting buttons) on behalf of other absent members. Finally, there are strong monetary incentives for the law initiation. A member can get up to 20 million tugrugs for initiating the bill (i.e., funding for experts and staff).[3] Therefore, the parliament should constrain today’s fractionalized, decentralized policy-changing behavior, but should create incentives for proper institutionalization of the legislature.[4]

The institutionalization of political parties. This is another important step to improve policies, including for mining. Today the most powerful political institutions in Mongolian politics are the political parties, especially the two dominant ones. Because they are dominating the political landscape, both parties provide opportunities and protection for politicians, bureaucrats, businesses, and civil society activists. At the same time, these parties are the training ground for future political leaders and bureaucrats. However Mongolian political parties have increasingly become clientalistic and based on patron-client networks, rather than issue-oriented platforms and/or ideologies. In other words, they are weakly institutionalized, although there are some difference between the MPP and DP.  “Party’s weak institutionalization is not the only cause of political corruption, but it is certainly one of the causes of party corruption” (Pelizzo, 2006, p. 180). If the political parties are clientalistic and corrupted, then the parliament and government bureaucracies are gradually becoming clientalistic. Although well intentioned laws on political parties were passed by the parliament, it is not adequate until senior leaders of political parties dedicate the will and courage to enforce the official laws as well as parties’ own internal regulations and discipline.

Insulation and Professionalization of the Bureaucracy

Politicians need to not only agree on, but also commit to the insulation and professionalization of the bureaucracy. Unless public servants are insulated from political and business interests, policies are unlikely to be implemented and enforced thoroughly and properly. In theory, public servants are supposed to serve as gatekeepers against parochial, short-term interests by adhering to long-term developmental policies. In reality, this would not be the case if political parties, factions, and interests groups competed for the public offices to protect their own interests, to increase their benefits, and to marginalize their opponents. “Adopting any ideal public service laws and practices in the world” is not helpful, as Spiller (et al) argues, “if patronage involving positions in the bureaucracy remains an important currency used by politicians to reward their partisan base”(Spiller, Stein, & Tommasi, 2008, p. 28). The current regulatory framework for public service and conflict of interests are ideal if politicians, parties, and factions just uphold it. Because party officials and senior bureaucrats are not following these public service laws, regulations, and standards, the current political structure encourages unaccountable, opportunistic, and cozying behaviour by politicians, bureaucrats, and businesses. This also encourages individuals and public servants to seek political party affiliation, and in turn, discredits the merit-based professional public service. Since this is an overall challenge for the public service, the mining sector is also affected. Without insulating public servants from political and business interests and influences, it would be difficult to expect proper implementation and enforcement of mining policies at the national and provincial levels.

[1] The rule of law includes the constitutionalism, independent judiciary, and pertaining legal culture. The most important feature of the rule of law is that politicians must be binded by the laws, rules, and regulations (Fukuyama, 2010).

[2] For total net assets and wealth of the Mongolian parliament members, see “The Wealth of Parliament Redux: What’s It Worth?” November 11, 2013, available at: http://themongolist.com

[3] Interview with parliamentary staffers, December 20, 2014.

[4] I borrow the notion of institutionalization as elaborated by Samuel Huntington. The institutionalization is defined as the process by which organizations and procedures acquire value and stability. The level of institutionalization of a political system can be defined by the adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence of its organizations and procedures. The level of institutionalization therefore can be measured by its adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence. For more on institutionalization, see (Huntington, 1968).

About mendee

Jargalsaikhan Mendee is a Deputy Director of the Institute for Defense Studies of Mongolia. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of British Columbia, and MAs in International Relations from the US Naval Postgraduate School and in Asia-Pacific Policy Studies from the Institute of Asian Research of the University of British Columbia.
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