Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Trevor Munroe | More hands needed on deck

Published:Sunday | June 25, 2017 | 6:00 AM
Trevor Munroe
Alleged lottery scammers are escorted to a plane for extradition to the United States on April 26. According to a corruption survey, a majority of young people between 10 and 19 in primary and secondary schools see scamming and stealing electricity as unacceptable.
Higher levels of public-sector efficiency, like producing passports in 24 hours, are important steps in the fight against corruption.
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In the last few weeks, with murders averaging nearly six per day and extraordinarily low levels of accountability exposed in high places, even some of the most hard-working and patriotic among our people are beginning to lose hope in Jamaica.

One such lady, with years of social work behind her, among the scores of people recently applying to become members of NIA, called in to say, she 'can't bother anymore ... nobody can help Jamaica'.

This level of frustration and demoralisation is understandable but not fully justifiable. Those of us on the verge of giving up need to remember that when our backs have been against the wall, we, the people, and those good leaders among us have moved Jamaica from a situation in which:

Infant mortality was 99 per 1,000 (1944), to today, 17 per 1,000 live births.

Life expectancy at birth was 53 (1944), to today, more than 74.

Marcus Garvey was sent to the St Catherine District Prison for daring to say that judges who breach the rule of law should be sent to jail to a country in which our freedom of the press puts us in the top 10 per cent of 190-odd countries globally.

 

Number one

 

Bright women like my mother could rise no further in the public service than a postmistress or a pharmacist to where Jamaica is now number one in the world in terms of women occupying management positions.

From which Jamaica had close to the worst electoral administration, with dead people voting, individual citizens casting many ballots, politicians drawing boundaries to suit their party, hundreds of persons being killed because they belong to the 'wrong party', to one in which our electoral administration has become world class, state-of-the-art, despite its deficiencies.

None of these advances would have been possible had the majority of us given up and had our people not come together behind good leaders, and shunned the self-seekers, to demand progress and to leave backwardness behind.

So, too, in today's dark hours, we should be learning like so many of the world's people that the road to sustainable development demands, in the words of the UN Resolution, "combat of bribery and corruption in all its forms". But that road is not Highway 2000; it's The Junction with many twists and turns, landslides, and potholes. Progress requires careful navigation and much determination. But progress there is, though difficult to see.

The recently published 2016 Youth and Corruption Survey tells us that a majority of young people between 10 and 19 in primary and secondary schools see scamming and stealing electricity as unacceptable.

A majority of these young people are willing to report corruption.

In 2006, 36 per cent of Jamaicans reported paying a bribe; in 2014, this was down to 10 per cent, well below the global average.

At long last, civics is being reintroduced in the National Secondary and Primary Curriculum to build civic awareness and responsibility among school youth.

Some public bodies are increasing efficiency, reducing red tape and bureaucracy, and hence the incentive to pay a bribe for a service. For example, a new passport can be had in one day from the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency.

Laws to make it more difficult for money launderers and corrupt business interests to buy politicians and political parties behind closed doors are about to be brought into effect. Similarly, an office is soon to be set up for a special prosecutor to focus on nothing else but bringing the corrupt to justice, whether in high and in low places.

In partnership with the NIA, hundreds of young people are now being trained by organisations like CVSS and Youth Crime Watch in 'Leadership and Civic Responsibility'. The first batch of 150 mainly young people, from five schools and two communities having been trained, graduated on June 19 as Integrity Ambassadors.

The Church, that sleeping giant, is now awakening as ministers' fraternals in St Catherine, St James, Clarendon and, most recently, West Kingston, with the support of NIA have recently staged 10,000 Man and Families marches, mobilising against the corrupt violence producers in their communities.

Each month, more of the corrupt minority of police officers are being charged, convicted, resigning or dismissed to add to the 500 who have been separated from the force over the last five years.

This newspaper and more media are turning their focus on the combat of corruption.

Far more remains to be done. What is needed is more hands on deck and less of the best losing hope and giving up.

- Professor Trevor Munroe is executive director of National Integrity Action. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.