By Pat Dial
Kaieteur News – Corrupt practices have become a serious concern worldwide since it is an ailment which has attacked all countries, both rich and poor. In the ancient world, the great religious teachers like Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed and the Greek philosophers like Socrates and Plato have all spoken out against corruption but only a comparatively small proportion of their devotees were fully responsive to their teachings in that regard.
In the 18th century, with the advent of the European Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it began to be clearly discerned that nepotism, bribery, embezzling public funds, public officials not acting except when they received gratuities and other forms of corruption were oppressive to the citizenry, slowed up both business and governmental administration resulting in great inefficiencies and gravely diminished the quality of life. Modern governments, to improve their own efficiency, protect their citizenry and win their support and cooperation, became committed to eliminating corruption.
Dr. Ashni Singh, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, recently addressed a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on the challenges and measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation. Dr. Ashni Singh is an extraordinarily able professional in the field of Finance and is internationally recognised and respected as such. When he left Guyana after the Administration he served went out of office, he was welcomed by the international Finance Fraternity and could have pursued a lucrative career as an international consultant or an international public servant, but actuated by his sense of patriotism, he decided to return and serve his country.
Dr. Singh spoke to the UN General Assembly in his capacity as a Guyana Minister and his address was so compact and comprehensive that it is impossible to report on it without quoting him verbatim.
He pointed out that corruption threatens the core values of democracy. In other words, one could not protect and nurture democracy without at the same time working to eliminate corruption. This burden is shared by many countries including Guyana.
Dr. Singh then went on to point out other negative effects of corruption. These would affect economics, security, efficiency, crime and so on. “Corruption,” said Dr. Singh “has deep, insidious and lasting consequences on economies and societies. Its harmful effects on stability and security, public institutions and trust in them, the functioning and efficiency of markets, and overall economic performance are well documented. It undermines the Rule of Law and is often linked to serious crime such as money laundering, terrorism and trafficking of drugs, arms and persons.”
In focusing specifically on Guyana, Dr. Singh mentioned some of the other methodologies the Government of Guyana uses to eliminate corruption. These include greater transparency through Parliamentary oversight, independence and the mandate of constitutional bodies, new constitutional and legal frameworks leading to greater integrity in public office, public financial management, public procurement, enhanced focus on money laundering and countering financing of terrorism.
In referring to the Oil Industry and Oil revenues, Guyana will implement the standards of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative and uphold the Santiago Principle of Sovereign Wealth Funds. In other words, there would be much distance between politicians and oil revenues.
In citing the need and importance of international cooperation in fighting corruption, he underscored Clause 47 in the Lima Commitment in Democratic Governance against Corruption which emerged from the Fourth Summit of the Americas. A manifestation of this was the role played by the international community during Guyana’s March 2, 2020 elections, in ensuring that democracy was not subverted and that the democratic will of the people was eventually respected. Dr. Singh then reaffirmed to the UN General Assembly that Guyana will continue working with its international partners including the United Nations, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Implementation Mechanism of the UN Convention Against Corruption.
Several of the programmes which Dr. Singh outlined in his address are already on stream and Guyana could look forward in the foreseeable future to achieving pride of place as one of the world’s least corrupt societies.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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