Transitions to Good Governance
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Transitions to Good Governance

Creating Virtuous Circles of Anti-corruption

Edited by Alina Mungiu-Pippidi and Michael Johnston

Why have so few countries managed to leave systematic corruption behind, while in many others modernization is still a mere façade? How do we escape the trap of corruption, to reach a governance system based on ethical universalism? In this unique book, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi and Michael Johnston lead a team of eminent researchers on an illuminating path towards deconstructing the few virtuous circles in contemporary governance. The book combines a solid theoretical framework with quantitative evidence and case studies from around the world. While extracting lessons to be learned from the success cases covered, Transitions to Good Governance avoids being prescriptive and successfully contributes to the understanding of virtuous circles in contemporary good governance.
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Chapter 5: The world’s smallest virtuous circle: Estonia

Valts Kalniņš

Abstract

As in all transition countries, corruption has been and remains a concern for Estonia. Still, on the on hand the country is an obvious top achiever in comparison with the rest of the post-communist area. On the other hand, the 2000s has been a stable period, with levels of corruption almost unchanged and representing a certain plateau in development. The Estonian governance regime operates mostly in line with the principle of ethical universalism. Reportedly, all key elements of the state are subject to quite high formal standards of transparency. Correct functioning of the public procurement system is the rule, and violations, although common, are more of an exception. Estonia appears to have a high level of equity of access to its education and healthcare systems. The search for the causes of Estonia’s success often focuses on cultural factors. The high general level of interpersonal trust in Estonian society is an unusual cultural feature of a post-Soviet society. In addition, civil society and a free media represent high normative constraints for corruption and particularism. It has been argued that at the beginning of the 1990s Estonia experienced the most radical replacement of the political elite compared with Latvia and Lithuania, where the old nomenklatura networks managed to perpetuate to a much larger extent. In contrast, the new Estonian elite was willing and ready for thorough reforms of the judiciary and public administration.

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