Political Institutions and Policy Outcomes in Colombia: The Effects of the 1991 Constitution

Feb 2006
The 1991 Colombian Constitution strengthened the checks and balances of the political system by enhancing the role of Congress and the Constitutional Court, while somewhat limiting the powers of the President (who nonetheless remains extremely powerful even by Latin American standards). As a consequence of the larger number of relevant players, and the removal of barriers that restricted political participation, the political system has gained in terms of representation. However, political transaction costs have increased, making cooperation harder to achieve. The authors show that this has been typically the case in fiscal policy, where the use of rigid rules, the constitutionalization of some policies, and a reduction in legislative success rates-due to the presence of a more divided and fragmented Congress-have limited the adaptability and flexibility of policies. In contrast, in other areas of policy that were formally delegated to the technocracy, policies have been more adaptable to economic shocks, delivering better outcomes.