Its large ministries, autonomous agencies, and public corporations made the Dominican government by far the largest employer in the country. By dint of numbers and its location in the capital city, the bureaucracy constituted a major interest group in its own right.
The Dominican Republic's ineffectual civil service laws left government employees subject to wholesale turnovers with virtually every change of government. The system worked more on the basis of patronage--with government positions given out in return for personal and political loyalty and service--than on the basis of merit.
In an effort to protect themselves, government workers had formed unions. However, their activities and effectiveness were generally severely circumscribed by the country's antiquated civil service laws. Some unions, such as those for teachers and employees of the state-run sugar industry, had themselves become highly politicized, usually in a leftist direction. Frequent clashes occurred between these unions and the police.
Dominated by patronage and rife with corruption, the public service was neither efficient nor responsive. Various efforts had been made over the years to reform this vast, cumbersome bureaucracy. Yet politicians often hesitated to tamper with it because the patronage positions provided by the bureaucracy constituted one of the main sources of their power. For the same reason, they resisted the privatization of the many inefficient and cumbersome state-owned enterprises. Political leaders recognized the inefficiencies of these bloated enterprises, but they also appreciated the effectiveness of buying the loyalty of friends, allies, and even political foes, by putting them on the public payroll.
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