IS JAMAICA A KLEPTOCRACY?

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“All forms of government are susceptible to political corruption. Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement. While corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and trafficking, it is not restricted to these organized crime activities. In some nations corruption is so common that it is expected when ordinary businesses or citizens interact with government officials. The end-point of political corruption is a kleptocracy, literally “rule by thieves”. – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The ongoing Petrojam scandal brings into sharp focus the controversial matter of corruption. Generally speaking, there is a wide-scale perception, both nationally and internationally, that corruption abounds in Jamaica in high as well as low places.

Ironically, repeatedly, public opinion polls conducted in the island among citizens have revealed that a very small percentage of Jamaicans take this matter very seriously and so have been unable to see the connection between corruption and the parlous state of the country’s fiscal affairs. Then again, what is corruption to the ordinary Jamaican?

The buying of driver’s licenses, the flashing of lights by motorists to warn approaching drivers that a speed trap is ahead, the frequent “greasing of palms” in order to access official documents, obtain registration or approval are all seen as “no big thing”. Indeed, many citizens are prone to opine, “A nuh nutten, a so the system run.”

In a society where most Jamaicans have been made to believe that “informer fi dead”, there is need to create an environment in which whistleblowers and media practitioners can expose corrupt individuals, especially public servants inclusive of the police and politicians, without being made into pariahs or corpses. A national consensus on what is corruption is definitely a major requirement if this is to be achieved.

There is no doubt in my mind, and I suspect in the minds of all well-thinking citizens of this country, that Jamaica is a budding kleptocracy. What with an underground economy that far outweighs the formal economy, a culture of “jinnalship” and “bandoolooism” that is accepted as normal, not to mention the rapid decline in values and attitudes, the harshest medicine is necessary to tackle this disease.

Recent reactions from the private sector and church as well as civil society have given us some semblance of hope that all is not lost, but will Prime Minister Andrew Holness put country before party and act in the best interest of this nation by relieving Minister Andrew Wheatley of all his portfolio duties? That, after all, is the right thing to do.

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