Corruption in Guyana is entrenched and widespread and it is choking the country’s development. Serious consideration must be given to what lies ahead, should the government fail to decisively and aggressively confront corruption. For the past 15 years, Guyana has suffered from a perception that it is a highly corrupt country, and this is evident in the March 2017 report of the United States Department of State, which pointed to the magnitude and depth of corruption in the country.
In 2016, Transparency International (TI) Correction Perceptions Index (CPI) has ranked Guyana among the most corrupt countries in the world, with a score of 34 where zero means highly corrupt, and a score of 100 indicates that the state is not corrupt. It means that Guyana has moved up by 11 places from 119 and a score of 29 in 2015 to 108 and a score of 34 in 2016. When a country’s CPI falls below 40, it has reached a tipping point, where most government institutions are corrupt and in a state of relative dysfunction.
While this is not the case in Guyana, many Guyanese do not have a favorable view of the leadership or of some of the country’ most critical institutions, such as health and education. In 2015, the Global Corruption Barometer which assesses corruption in national institutions globally, found that most Guyanese felt the country’s police and parliamentarians are extremely corrupt.
The promises made by the last administration to strengthen the country’s anti-corruption frame-work were a sham because nothing of substance exists to effectively address the pervasive and endemic corruption that has afflicted the country. Since independence, only a few public officials have been jailed for corruption in Guyana by the Burnham government. No one has been jailed by the PPP administration, despite the massive increase in corruption. This is a striking phenomenon, which can only be interpreted as supporting the view that corruption and impunity in Guyana are deeply entrenched and widespread. Few expect that the much-heralded anti-corruption bill will advance the fight against corruption.
This administration is not blameless, either. Prior to entering office, it had committed in its election manifesto to bring an end to the incidence of rampant corruption in the country. Very importantly, it acknowledged that sustainable economic growth is not possible without combating corruption, whose costs are far-reaching. Corruption is a major concern for developing economies like Guyana, and the adverse socio-economic consequences it portends are substantial. Corruption impedes economic growth, undermines the rule of law, and tears down the fabric of society. It erodes the quality of life of citizens by diverting public funds away from critical social services, such as health care, education, water, roads and electricity.
It also leads to human rights violations, reduces investor confidence, stunts business activity, wipes out jobs, fuels migration, increases the price of goods and services, undermines and destroys confidence in public institutions, and enables organized crime and other threats to human security to flourish. And, yes, corruption also steals public funds. The current administration had said that Guyana will be developed only if corruption is tackled in an uncompromising manner. However, as is now well known, this is being done at a snail’s pace in spite of the fact that several forensic audit reports have found many public officials from the last administration culpable of corrupt practices.
It is of great concern to the general public that after two years in office, this administration has not yet honored its election anti-corruption commitments. Although many, including supporters of the coalition believe that the government knows precisely what must be done to arrest the tentacles of corruption, yet it appears that there is a lack of courage and political will to effectively implement some the corrective measures proffered in the forensic audit reports.
Breaking election promises goes to the root of credibility and trust and when our leaders act in this way, it erodes their credibility, trust and confidence that a believing electorate has reposed in them.
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