The announcement of the formation of Transparency Institute Guyana Inc (TIGI) is a welcome development (‘Company formed to promote transparency, fight corruption’ SN, November 11). It is laudable that a group of citizens has gathered for these related purposes. While I do not know most of the principals, I share relationships with a couple of them. I think that this body can represent the start of something different, and lead to a lot of good, if it is fearless and sensible, and focuses its energies on the gargantuan task ahead.
First, Transparency International (with which recognition is being pursued) concentrates on corruption, which it defines as the abuse of public office for private gain. It is the firm and widely held belief that this behaviour is rampant and out of control in Guyana. Some believe that this same public service corruption – inclusive of politicians, relations, and an extended cohort of other participants – is very pervasive and has been acutely destructive to the fabric of this society. The new TIGI entity will undoubtedly have its hands full, and not have to grope around in search of issues or areas to scrutinize. However, I believe that the phenomenal corruption spawned by the underground hub of drug proceeds, money laundering requirements, and compromised institutions far exceeds that associated with traditional governance and public service. Remember the underworld possesses vast sums of cash, but offers no budgets, no records, and no accounting; it is not subject to constitutional provisions and answers to no one. Further, I think that the two local worlds of corruption are interconnected. Given this context, TIGI could end up with a ‘two birds with one stone’ dividend through getting close to developments and situations where there is official misconduct surrounding goods, services, and contracts involving public monies on the one hand, as well as the services provided to private parties involving dirty money on the other.
Having said this, I now wish to share some extracts from an international bestseller written by Professor Brahma Chellaney titled, Asian Juggernaut: The Rise of China, India and Japan (HarperCollins, New York). By way of introduction, Dr Chellaney is one of India’s leading strategic thinkers, and has written for both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Since fellow countrymen have heard endlessly from some of us about the scourge and consequences of corruption, perhaps it would be appropriate for them to listen to a different voice on this issue, and one that is a recognized expert. This is how he describes corruption in his book: “Corruption is an evil that eats into the vitals of society. That the poorest states… are also among the most corrupt only shows that corruption is both a cause of poverty as well as a hindrance to the amelioration of the conditions of the impoverished people. Corruption undermines economic growth and social progress, undercuts the trust and confidence of citizens in the fairness and impartiality of public administration, impedes good governance, erodes the rule of law, distorts competitive conditions in business transactions, discourages domestic and foreign investment, fosters a ‘black-market’ economy, and raises serious moral and political concerns. In sum, corruption obstructs a nation from realizing its goals.”
Certainly a huge mouthful; but at one time or another, have yielded little or nothing in the way of change on any matter, it is now hoped that TIGI would be able to first table issues, to highlight them further to the white heat of exposure, and to bring consistent pressure to bear on politicians and others who serve.
As TIGI embarks on its work, most likely it will agree with Dr Chellaney when he wrote, “A corrupt system quickly corrupts those who enter it, turning them into prisoners of greed. The ideals, commitments and goals with which well meaning individuals go into a corrupt system dissipate rapidly.” And, “No anti-corruption drive can work if those who are the source of the problem hold the key to the campaign’s effective implementation. “The independence of investigative and judicial bodies is a prerequisite to strengthening the rule of law and developing an anti-corruption culture in politics and business.” However favourably governance in Guyana is perceived, even the most partisan would take little issue with the benefits embodied in such thinking, or the undeniable domestic realities regarding independent bodies and cultural mindsets.
I have deliberately limited expressing my own thinking on corruption in Guyana in this week’s writing; it is already well known. Instead, it is for the Guyanese public to decide whether they do (or do not) live in an environment riddled with chronic avarice, enemies of truth, and perennial ethical betrayals. It might interest those concerned about the quality of living today, and about betterment for tomorrow’s children.
In the meantime, I caution these well-meaning patriots to watch their backs, to be aware of eavesdroppers, and to remember Watergate. No matter how viewed, this has to be a monumental undertaking starting from scratch. It is a promising development, which could be of some significance later; I regret that existing circumstances prevent me from contributing at this point. In time, I am hopeful that I could help in some way, if still needed.