Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Poor and jobless? Find out why

Published:Monday | October 12, 2015 | 10:00 AM
Trevor Munroe

The Don Anderson RJR/TVJ poll, published on October 8, 2015, found that the main problem Jamaicans feel the political parties need to address is unemployment. And rightly so. What our people need to better understand is the connection between corruption, and high unemployment and low income for the majority.

This should not be news to the Government and to parliamentarians, at least to those who do their homework. Ministry Paper #63 2014-2015, laid by the prime minister in Parliament, states: "The economy is now, at best, one-third the size it should have been, it may only be one-tenth of the size it could have been. Violence, crime and corruption are the main causes of poverty in Jamaica ... ."

The Global Competitiveness Report, published September 30, 2015, makes the connection between high unemployment and corruption even clearer. Corruption, it tells us, continues to be among the top five "most problematic factors for doing business in Jamaica". One contributing factor is the darkness surrounding big contributions to political parties, a main element of "lack of transparency in government policymaking", where Jamaica ranks 91st of 140 countries in 2015-2016 - and that's an improvement on the rank of 109 in 2014-15!

Further improvement requires the immediate passage into law and enforcement of the long-postponed campaign finance reform, which would at least ban anonymous donors and require disclosure to the public of any donor contribution of J$1 million or more to a party.

Why should it be that British people, indeed us as Jamaicans, can go on to the UK elections commission website right now and know the identity of every single donor who contributed £7,500 or more to David Cameron's Conservative Party (or to any other party for that matter) and yet we remain in the dark as to who contributed big money to the J$1 billion our two major parties said they spent in the 2011 election?

Are our parliamentarians, and is our Government, saying to us that we are not good enough to know who is paying the piper in Jamaica, but the British, the Americans and 80 per cent of democracies don't have a problem in us knowing who is funding their parties?

To facilitate more investment and create more jobs, we have to do better on transparency. This also means doing better on upholding our procurement rules, thereby treating each and every investor on merit and not on the basis of 'connections' or 'campaign contributions'.

Take a look at another reason why 85 of 140 countries are ahead of us in terms of competitiveness. One word: 'favouritism'. Jamaica ranks 102nd of 140 countries in terms of 'favouritism in decisions of government officials'. We need to know who is giving big money and likely to be the big favourite and take that into acount in how we vote.

One consequence of favourites getting contracts is bad infrastructure. On this point, read what the Government's own new national security policy has to say:

"The direction of public-works contracts into the hands of political affiliates has also been particularly damaging ... [and] resulted in unnecessarily expensive or poor-quality infrastructure. For example, a contract to build a road might provide an opportunity to reward political affiliates, and shoddy construction would ensure that the road surface would crumble, which would allow the issuing of another contract to resurface the road." (p.20) "This," our national security policy continues, "is one of the reasons why Jamaica has simultaneously one of the most dense road networks in the world, and one of the worst road networks in the world." It is also one of the reasons why we need transparency in campaign finance by October, no later.

• Professor Trevor Munroe is chairman of National Integrity Action, a lobby for governance best practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and trevormunroe@yahoo.com.