There are many markers and pointers in the Caribbean that point to corruption in and by government ministers and others. Bribery and corruption is a major problem because bribery and corruption lead to a society where economic and political decisions become twisted.
Political corruption in the Caribbean Basin retards state economic growth and development, undermines government legitimacy, and threatens state security. In spite of recent anti-corruption efforts of intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations (IGO/NGOs), Caribbean political corruption problems appear to be worsening in the post-Cold War period.
If you observe islands where corruption is really out of control, you will find an Island that has badly maintained infrastructure or no infrastructure where there should be infrastructure.
Islands which are struck by storm and tempest, floods, landslides, yet take many years to correct the damage inflicted by nature. You can be sure corruption is at work because there is always enough aid and assistance to make good all damage in good time, it should never take years.
Corruption causes slow social progress; it hampers economic development, which drives up prices for products and services. A corrupt society is an unequal and unfair society. People suffer at the expense of corrupt government ministers and leaders and their appointed cronies.
But the most positive pointer to corruption of all, is when a government minister tells the people that the root of their economic development problems is caused by the past legacies of imperialism and slavery. That is the greatest get out trick and get out story that can ever be used. Because the poor and sometimes ignorant people want to hear that, they want to believe the reason they have no jobs, no money, and poor housing is because of their ancestral past, the treatment of their forefathers.
Dirty politicians know only too well how emotive this can be to many people and play that card to its full extent. You can be sure it’s not because of past imperialism and slavery, but because of today’s rampant corruption, theft of the people’s money.
Why have the independent states and territories of the Caribbean not achieved higher levels of economic development? It is because of corrupt politicians.
Other signs of corruption are low wages, lack of jobs, dreadful infrastructure, badly maintained roads, poverty, health care, people going abroad to find jobs. All very obvious signs that you are living in a corrupt society, led by corrupt politicians.
Some politicians blame their countries problems on the world capitalist system, and former colonisers. They blame anything and everything to cloud the fact that they are soaked in corruption. Then promoting a 21st Century Socialist dependency theory, which emerges from structural Marxism which some politicians want for their people but not for themselves.
These politicians fail to pay their workers in the Caribbean states and territories a fair wage for their labour and a fair price for their exported natural resources and agricultural and manufactured products.
These states and their politicians are aptly able to fool most international financial institutions (International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organisation (WTO), etc.), and countries such as the US, UK, EU, and also the developed world’s multinational corporations.
States ruled by corrupt politicians are inefficient States operating inefficient State Enterprises.
They fail to institute free trade measures and lack good governance measures. Generally scrounging from the developed countries, sometimes with little record of where the money came from or where it went.
These small undeveloped states remain undeveloped because of the corruption, funds that should be going to and for use by the people, in fact, go to a few corrupt politicians. Only the politicians, their cronies and sometime dynastical leaders are getting rich while the people generally suffer.
In the Caribbean, the developed states can point to The Bahamas as a perfect example of where a diversified, open economy, combined with low corruption levels resulted in high economic growth.
With a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $15,258, The Bahamas is the only independent Caribbean state listed as a high income developed state by the United Nations (UNDP 2001).
Caribbean citizens tend to overlook political corruption, the misuse of public power for private benefit, as a factor that retards the region’s slow economic development. One reason for the downplaying of this political corruption factor is the lack of empirical evidence as to its effects.
United Nations and World Bank efforts to measure state socio-economic development indicators and governance factors, such as political corruption, now allow us to provide empirical evidence concerning the effects of political corruption on development.
There is also the question of law and order; it appears that the more corrupt a country’s leadership that is where the greatest breakdown in law and order is; which further effects political corruption in a Caribbean development downward spiral.
These effects are the most pronounced on a corrupt state’s economic output and the rule of law. Also there is a tendency for corrupt leaders to hold sway over corrupt police forces and corrupt judiciaries.
Transparency International, the Berlin-based non-governmental organisation that addresses corruption issues, began to publish an annual “Corruption Perception” but for some reason rarely if ever expose what is going on in the Caribbean – sometimes praising States that should not be praised.
People are inquisitive in the latest Caribbean Development Bank matter in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, whereby CDB canceled financing to a project. Questions are rightly being asked; the people awareness has been aroused. Denials are being made along with excuses, some of which sound downright silly. But what is important are the awareness and the new interest the Vincentian people are taking to all that is written on the matter of corruption, even perceived corruption. It is the main subject on the streets, in the rum shops and Church communities.
One of the biggest acts of alleged corruption noted in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is during a four week lead up to National Elections when thousands of people are given free building material, millions of dollars worth, which on the surface appears an attempt to buy the peoples’ vote for a particular party.