-but Govt. must declare war at all levels
“We lived in a system where PPP saw corruption as an entitlement and less as an infraction.”
By Kiana Wilburg
As nauseating as it may seem, some social analysts firmly believe that many of Guyana’s politicians see
corruption as a privilege for attaining high office; the holy grail so to speak.
University Professor Dr. David Hinds says that he was not the least bit surprised when Guyana was once again branded as one of the most corrupt countries in the Caribbean.
Specifically, the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index which was released last week by Transparency International shows that despite much talk by nations to fight corruption, countries including Guyana have shown little sign of improvement.
Guyana received a score of 29, signaling a slip of one place down from its score last year. But Guyana did improve in ranking. In 2014 it was ranked 124 out of 175 countries but in 2015 it moved up to 119 out of 168 countries.
The report said that any score below 50 indicates a serious corruption problem. Guyana has never been above. Transparency International is an organization that works together with Governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals.
Dr. Hinds says that corruption really is too entrenched in Guyana. But Government must declare war at all levels to root it out. Dr. Hinds said that when corruption becomes so entrenched in the political process, it tends to outlive the government under which it took life.
“What we have in Guyana is what I call ‘structural corruption.’ It is a form of corruption that permeates almost every aspect of life. Corruption is accepted as the norm rather than the exception; therein developed a culture of corruption. For corruption at the top to thrive, the lower levels of the society have to accommodate it—a case of if you can’t beat them then you join them,” said the University professor.
He said that what has happened under the PPP watch was that corruption took root at the top echelons of government and over time it consumed the rest of the society.
Dr. Hinds opined that top government officers of the PPP “came to see corruption more as an entitlement and less as an infraction.”
“And over time, the general citizenry accommodated corruption as a form of survival. So, for example, whether one is a police or a public servant or a contractor or a teacher or a small businessperson, one instinctively feels that one has to engage in bribery in order to survive,” explained the political activist.
“I am arguing that under the PPP, an entire generation of Guyanese has been corrupted. When you corrupt the lower strata of the society, you remove an important source of resistance to corruption.”
Dr. Hinds said that there would be less appetite for anti-corruption resistance had not occurred. But more importantly, he said that when a society is nurtured in such a manner, it allows those at the top to claim that the corruption is not at the top.
By doing this, he said that the corruption is blamed on being at the lower levels of society so as to mask the corruption at the top.
The University Professor said that official corruption is a fact of political life in all post-colonial societies. He noted however that the PPP government took it to another level.
He said that for one to understand corruption under the PPP, one has to understand the mindset of the party which sees political power as an inherent right; a God-given right.
The political commentator said that sense of political entitlement over time translates to mean that the country’s common resources belong to them.
Dr. Hinds said that the second factor that contributed to the PPP’s attitude to corruption is that a whole generation of its leadership entered politics not out of struggle, but as a career.
“And even some who were steeped in struggle, once they tasted power, they became career-politicians. These careerists lacked any commitment to nation and national good. So, they were easy victims of the politics of personal enrichment,” asserted the University professor.
A third factor, he noted, was the absence of any fear of sanction.
On this point, Dr. Hinds said that the fact that the PPP felt that it could govern the country forever on account of ethnic arithmetic, meant that it had no fear of being sanctioned by a new government.
Dr. Hinds said that this is seen by the very brazen manner in which the country’s resources were misappropriated as there was obviously no fear that they would be caught and worse yet be sanctioned.
“A fourth factor was the silencing of organized resistance through threats, use of force and critically through compromising sections of the organized opposition and their supporters. If one compared the political resistance to the two post-colonial governments, one would notice that there was much more robust resistance to the PNC government generally and particularly to official corruption,” said Dr. Hinds.
“I am contending that the less than robust opposition to the PPP government for most of its tenure contributed to the entrenchment of the culture of corruption. “
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Despite the change of government, Dr. Hinds believes that the culture of corruption would continue for some time. He is of the conviction that it is simply too entrenched in the socio-political DNA of the country.
He opined, however, that the new government would have to forthrightly and as a matter of policy, declare a war on corruption at all levels of the society. But that war he said should not disproportionately target those at the bottom.
He said that it has to target the real source— the top echelons of government.
The University Professor believes that there has to be clear rules that govern the behaviour of Government officials and robust enforcement of them. He said that the Code of Conduct, for example, must be unambiguous when it comes to conflicts of interest.
He said, “Much effort must be put into prevention of corruption. In this regard, there is need to strengthen anti-corruption laws, especially as it relates to the financial sector.
“There has to be a resuscitation of accountability by top officials. Government must be as open as possible. The Parliament must insist on Ministers appearing before its sectoral committees to answer questions.”
“There has to be a de-criminalization of resistance. The government has to encourage criticism as a value. But more importantly the so-called Civil Society organizations have to take the matter of government oversight very seriously. The media have to become more investigative too. They must ask tough questions and not be easily intimidated.”
Finally, Dr. Hinds emphasized that where there is clear evidence of corruption under the previous government, those implicated must face the law.
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