Turning words into deeds?
Who can be surprised at the number of persons who have said to me, "Dem not going pass no campaign finance law, and even if dem pass it, dem not going enforce it; it not going make a difference." The Jamaican people are highly sceptical after decades of much talk and little action.
Many recall the 2011 manifestos of the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
The PNP's very first sentence: "The PNP is opposed to all forms of corruption ... and will continue to be resolute in the implementation of measures to effectively deal with this very serious issue."
The JLP's very first section: "governance and anti-corruption ... . We commit to realising the development of Jamaica, where ... corruption is eliminated."
Our people would wish, but doubt, that these lofty words be turned into decisive action because they believe that corruption, more than any other reason, including mismanagement by successive governments, and the International Monetary Fund, is the main reason for continuing hardship (Don Anderson RJR/TVJ poll December 2014).
The Government's own 'new national security policy', laid in Parliament by the prime minister in 2015, declares that corruption of elected and public officials is a number-one clear and present danger to Jamaica's national security and economic prosperity. The United Nations' sustainable development goals, on which the nations of the world, including Jamaica, signed off on last week, acknowledged that sustainable development is not likely unless corruption is more effectively dealt with.
Yet here in Jamaica, fewer than five per cent believe that the authorities are providing strong leadership against corruption (Don Anderson poll commissioned by National Integrity Action, December 2014). The World Bank Institute is pretty much in agreement. On 'control of corruption', the World Bank Institute scored Jamaica, in 2014, -0.39 on a scale of +2.5 to -2.5, worse than in 2011 and 2012.
The politicians, the parliamentarians on both sides and the Government, most of all, now have an opportunity to begin reversing this slide: Pass in October the long-debated and agreed campaign-finance law, as well as establish the long-promised single anti-corruption integrity commission with powers to prosecute the corrupt.
No one should doubt that this would be just a start in reversing a situation where levels of trust in the Parliament have fallen from 45.9 to 31.9 (on a scale of 0 to 100) between 2012 and 2014; in political parties, from 40.1 to 28.1; in elections, from 49.6 to 37.2 in the same period (Political Culture of Democracy in Jamaica and the Americas, 2014, Latin American Public Opinion Project - LAPOP).
No democracy whose per-capita GDP has grown by less than one per cent per annum for 40 years, which displays the second-highest level of income inequality in the entire Western Hemisphere; where almost 40 per cent of the youth are unemployed and whose government rests on 28 per cent support of the electorate can long remain stable.
The persons of integrity in the leadership of both parties and on both sides of the parliamentary aisle had better stand up more forcefully to the self-seekers on both sides if Jamaica is to begin to reverse the growing distrust of authority and increasing turn to lawlessness.
They and us, the citizens, should not only insist that anti-corruption legislation be passed and enforced. Additionally, in good faith, even before such legislation is gazetted, the parties should act in its spirit:
- Despatch monthly and weekly, when the election date is announced, reports to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica of donations to the party and donors.
- Reject all anonymous, 'paper bag' donations and contributions from illegal organisations, drug dealers, money launderers, and lotto scammers.
- Publicly disclose identities of all donors of more than $1 million each.
- Reject contributions from foreign governments and companies.