Corruption is the primary reason for wanting to change a government

Dear Editor,

The number one reason for wanting to rid a country of its government is corruption.

True, corruption is present in every country, particularly in developing countries, and is the oldest phenomenon in organized human society. Except in a few cases where it reduces red tape and aids development, in general, corruption is a terrible scourge that is one of the primary obstacles to the economic development of a country; it undermines the rule of law, weakens trust in public institutions and challenges democratic principles. It reduces efficiency and increases inequality, and provides a fertile environment for organized crime, drugs and money laundering to flourish. It skews income distribution and thus distorts development.

In Guyana, if our erudite opposition economists were conscientious enough they would have been able to measure the impact of corruption on development. Presenting empirical evidence at the right time to the right people and place could be effective in bringing about faster change. Instead, they allow too many politicians, pundits and papers alike to engage in the politicking practices of race-baiting, false-name calling, dirty blogging, etc, in a wrong attempt to solicit the right action from the people.

If the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) were less political and more altruistic and concerned about the harmful effects of corruption, they, too, would have been spending more time educating the Guyanese people about the dangers of this cancer, and how to rid society of it. TIGI was established in 2010, three years after I wrote a letter in Stabroek News alerting the Guyanese people about the internationally accepted, German-based organization, Transparency International, and their assessment of Guyana. To date few know anything about TIGI in Guyana.

Transparency International’s assessments are widely accepted, even by UN studies and leading lending institutions. Alternative indexes of corruption are available from the Institute for Management Development (IMD) and the International Country Risk Guide (ICRG). Though methods differ among them, their results are similar. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is an “index of indexes” that averages scores from 16 different surveys of the perceived level of corruption in a country. A nation must have a score for at least two of the surveys to be included in the CPI. The index is scaled from 0 (most corrupt) to 10 (most clean). Guyana consistently ranks between 2 and 3 on their scale, implying one of the highly corrupt countries in the world, and second only to Haiti in the Caribbean.

Truly, this consistent score over the last decade or so certainly indicates the government’s inability or reluctance to deal with corruption. I am inclined to believe that most Guyanese households have either paid a bribe or taken it at some time, thus, the bribe-takers and bribe-givers are equally indictable.

But bribery is not the biggest slice of the corruption pie. Political kickbacks for contracts is, facilitated by poor accounting and accountability, and slipshod quality work, all resulting in the failure of some of the most expensive capital projects such as Skeldon and the Amaila road, as well as the collapse of bridges, roads and other infrastructure. Then there is the illegal approval to spend $4.5 billion without the people of Guyana or their constitutional representatives having any say in it. Left to pay for these are the poor taxpayer, his children, grand-children and unborn great-grandchildren.

I did not set out to write an economic treatise on the effects of corruption in Guyana; I just believe that corruption has been a great scourge that has severely impacted on the economic, social and political aspects of society, and wanted to persuade my fellow Guyanese to take action against it – by voting it out. May 11 might their only opportunity to so.

Corruption does not only carry a heavy economic cost. Careful studies would relate corruption to much of society’s social and political ills. When a government and its supporting arms break the law with impunity, it quickly spreads to the rest of the population. There is general disregard for the law, people’s rights and their property – even their lives – and the environment. Thus, banditry and crime, poor manners and morals, even our unsanitary neighbourhoods are all directly or indirectly related to corruption, for, not only do we lose our sense of value, but also our pride in and respect for things of value.

In short we are building an entire society on a ‘suck sand’ foundation. Many build their hopes and expectations on such foundations, and when these hopes and expectations cannot reconcile with reality, anomie steps in.

We need to deconstruct this ‘suck sand’ society and commence building a new society on strong values like those which begin at home with family men. Come May 11, reconstruction begins.

 Yours faithfully,               

Gokarran Sukhdeo

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