In Guyana, most of the people are aware that the high corruption rate in Guyana is not only affecting their wealth and living standards but also their health and development? The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being (and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity).
Several International agencies have stated that corruption exists where persons in authority abuse the power that is entrusted to them in order to benefit personally. Most Guyanese would customarily believe that such benefits are of a financial nature only, but the reality is the benefits derived from corrupt practices may be of any kind—material, sexual and other favors, opportunities and services.
Once a person has the ability to influence an outcome, and they do so in an unfair manner to bring about some benefit to themselves their family, friends, or associates, then corruption has occurred. Bribery is so common that it is affecting the health and well-being of Guyanese.
According to a 2012 USAID research study, along with crime and violence, corruption is seen as the most serious challenge facing Guyana and Haiti, and a few other countries in the Caribbean. On the Corruption Perception Index 2014 by Transparency International based in Germany, Guyana is rated the second most corrupt country in the Caribbean after Haiti and along with countries like Liberia, Mongolia, and El Salvador, scoring only 27 points out of a possible 100.
And as we look around our society we can see why. We see it in the way our politics is practiced in many of our law enforcement encounters, the choices made in the way we proceed against alleged criminals in high places, the way many vital documents disappear from our courts, in many of the interactions that occur in public places, in persons seeking to obtain a document/license, government contracts and in some of the other decisions that persons make in their daily lives.
We see corruption in the way most men treat women who are sexually harassed and exploited by persons with wealth and power who seek to extort ‘favors’ from them, how persons of a lower socio-economic standing (the poor and the vulnerable) are denied access, privileges, and opportunities, and when fairness and justice are not being served at the various levels of society.
All of these hurt the mental and social well-being of Guyanese. Corruption hurts everyone who must depend on the integrity of persons who are placed in positions of authority and the PPP regime has not disciplined or filed charges against those who were caught in the act. Instead, they have promoted these individuals.
On a national scale, corruption means that resources that should go to a community for national development are diverted, and so poverty and inequality are not addressed. We often see its effects via the television sets and the print media, especially Stabroek News and Kaieteur News as corruption leads to conflicts and instability in our communities across Guyana.
Pervasive corruption has led to widespread distrust of elected officials and existing authority, a lack of confidentiality and confidence in institutions like the police and the government, and fear of reprisals. Prolonged delays in prosecution, the inconsistent application of penalties to perpetrators, and the belief that upper income persons use their positions of class to extract benefits not afforded to persons of a lower socio-economic class only add to the high level corruption.
To slow the rate of our further descent on the indices of corruption, the minority PPP regime must immediately institute several measures, including civic and legislative. They must embark on public education campaigns that outline specific examples of what corruption is and what to do about it. They must expand on the wordings in some of our current legislation, including the Corruption Prevention Act, to capture the notions of corruption that include the exploitation of women, political advantage, economic privileges, and social benefits.
The abuse of power, a lack of transparency, secret dealings and bribery by those in power continue to ravage the society, and these examples illustrate why corruption is a major barrier to the social, economic, and the health of the people.
Only by moving simultaneously on all the measures to combat corruption will Guyanese have a chance to stem this widespread cancer across our beloved country. Most Guyanese, however do have clear understanding of what corruption entails, how it permeates every sector and layer of society, and how it affects their health and will soon take the requisite decisive actions to stop the corrupt ruling cabal and who are currently getting away with it and restore some personal pride in the nation, and improve their well-being.
Dr. Reginald Watkins,
Dr. Devita Khan,
Dr. Vincent Nauth
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