Tue | Oct 17, 2017

EDITORIAL - Act against corruption

Published:Friday | October 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

There is nothing surprising about the Bill Johnson poll, done for this newspaper, which shows that Jamaicans believe they live in an exceedingly corrupt country where at least 70 per cent of the members of parliament and local government councillors, all but a handful of the police, and half of the civil servants are corrupt.

Indeed, Mr Johnson's findings accord with other surveys, domestic and international, on Jamaica, including the latest Transparency International (TI) global Corruption Perception Index, in which 80 per cent of Jamaicans argued that the Government was being run in the interests of a handful of large entities, and nearly half of the country had lost faith in the integrity of the judiciary.

But there was something significant in that TI survey which is not addressed in the Johnson poll. Despite the grave perception of corruption, less than 10 per cent of Jamaicans indicated that they had actually participated in acts of corruption, which was substantially below the global average.

While the wide differential between the perception of corruption and the reported participation in such acts may be interpreted as a positive, an assumption that things may not be as bad as Jamaicans suppose they are can, perhaps, also be seen as a measure of another critical negative - the deep deficit of trust in the society. And low trust levels are a barrier to societal cooperation, which hinders economic development, including economic growth.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in the latest Global Competitiveness Report, the absence of transparency in government decision-making and perception of unfairness in these decisions are deemed to be among the problematic factors in doing business in Jamaica.

People do not believe that the economic playing field is level, in which case they stay away from enterprise, are tentative in their engagement, or engage in corruption. Corruption and its perception come with a price: the additional cost of doing business and a cynicism that saps creativity. The society pays in stagnation, slow growth, and fewer jobs.

That TI report had another relevant find: A quarter of Jamaicans believe that they could make a difference in the fight against corruption, which, again, was on the high side for countries which, like Jamaica, reported high levels of involvement in corruption, or a perception thereof. Which brings us back to the Bill Johnson findings: What is Jamaica, the society, going to do about it then?

MAKE VOICES HEARD

First, Jamaicans, through civil-society organisations, must make their voices heard against the reality and perception of corruption. They must insist on openness and transparency and the good behaviour of those who lead and from the institutions through which they govern. So the law for the registration of political parties and the reporting of financial donations to them should be passed, but we should press, too, for the fixing of flaws in the legislation.

Jamaicans must push, also, for the acceleration of the reform of a corrupt constabulary, insisting that Carl Williams, the new police chief, publish his reform agenda, including timelines for deliverables. They must ensure, too, that Parliament does not procrastinate on the legislation now before the House for a single anti-corruption agency, with a strengthened investigative arm and independent prosecutor.

We all must speak loudly, cogently and sustainedly against corruption.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.