The local print media reported that the Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Persaud, called on the PPP/C government to stop attacking citizens who expose corruption. Mr Persaud’s comments came in the wake of the release of the 2014 Annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report. According to that report, of the 175 countries surveyed for corrupt practices, Guyana ranks at number 124 making it one of the most corrupt countries in this hemisphere and the most corrupt English-speaking country in the Caribbean. The PSC head proffered a number of things he believes should be done to curb the unprecedented level of corruption in the country. Of the many suggestions and comments he was reported by KN to have made, I found these few lines to be very instructive: “He noted that corruption in the public sector cannot exist without the support of some members in the business community or the general public, thus he called on private companies that engage in these immoral practices to hold themselves to a higher standard and desist from spreading this cancer in the Guyanese society.”
Mr Persaud is correct; the organization which he heads may have members who are deeply in bed with corrupt public officials and politicians. The question, then, is what are he and the PSC prepared to do about it, apart from asking these business owners to desist from such practices? What if these business operatives do not respond to Mr Persaud’s call? Will the PSC cooperate with the police and help to rein in their delinquent members? Is there some regulation or penalty that the PSC has in place to deal with these members? Is the PSC prepared to initiate and enforce appropriate regulations in order to ensure that corrupt business owners are punished? How has the PSC helped to address corruption in the past? Has the PSC ever found any of its members to be engaged in corrupt business practices, and if it has what actions did it take? It is very possible that the ordinary man in the street can point out a corrupt business owner, but yet these people remain protected by the powers that be and may well be members of the organization Mr Persaud heads.
It would be interesting to hear Mr Persaud and the PSC’s views on the ‘money plane saga.’ Could the PSC state whether Mr Khamraj Lall is a member of the PSC? The organization should also let the public know whether it has any plans to engage the government on the issue of corruption. Just as the PSC has proposed a plan to break the political deadlock one would expect that it would also help to devise an agreement to which the PPP/C government and the PSC can sign on as they pledge to work together to reduce corruption. Of course the people, the opposition political parties and civic organizations should be fully engaged and allowed to observe and monitor the implementation and working of this agreement. In fact, Mr Persaud might want to ensure that the agreement allows for the opposition parties and civil society organizations to be signatories to it.
It is time that those who have the power to act on this issue do something. Guyanese are tired of hearing that their country is regarded as one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Time has come for more action and less talking on this issue.