(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 20 Oct 2005)
I am giving it my all this morning not to be spitting mad. How often do I get this upset? Not often; I'm a somewhat easy-going type of person. However, I do have sensitive buttons that, when pushed, tend to provoke a passionate response. This morning's button is Guyana 's extremely low rating in the Transparency International's (TI) 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).
Guyana scored a measly 2.5 on a scale of 10 and ranked 121 out of 159 countries. The press release from TI said countries that scored below three indicated, “a severe corruption problem.” I am embarrassed and sad for Guyana . However, I am also piping mad. There are expletives I would love to throw in here, but I will refrain for the sake of propriety.
According to TI's Chairman, Peter Eigen, “Corruption is a major cause of poverty as well as a barrier to overcoming it.” Excuse me for a second whilst I once again regain my composure.
Up to this point, I have maintained a playful and fun ambiance with this column. Such an approach allows me to touch on sensitive issues in a polite and civilised manner. However, I do hope you will indulge me today and allow me to vent about this issue. I want to address this report which is not the least bit funny, and I simply don't feel the need to be polite. I promise to return to my usual wit and humour after I have had my say on this issue.
Concerning corruption and poverty, Eigen said, “The two scourges feed off each other, locking their populations in a cycle of misery. Corruption must be vigorously addressed if aid is to make a real difference in freeing people from poverty.”
In other words, poverty will reign in Guyana for as long as corruption reigns in Guyana .
The ironic part of this press release by TI is its timeliness. It comes right on the heels of a column put out by Robert Persaud, Information Liaison to the President. I had already determined to write a review of his column from this past weekend, where he said corruption “is like a cancer that can eat away at the fabric of any democracy.”
How very insightful of Mr. Persaud. Corruption is indeed one of the primary threats to any democracy. So here we are; the people are well aware of the extensive corruption, the government acknowledges the corruption, and now even the international community is weighing in on the extremity of the corruption in Guyana . What now?
To simply acknowledge this fact means absolutely nothing. It is pointless for Persaud to give lip service to the severity of this issue without providing an equally effectual strategy to battle it. However, I am making it my duty to call the government on such capriciousness, though usually in a more genteel manner. Conversely, today's news requires a good tongue-lashing.
Today the government has caused Guyana to be an embarrassment to the region. Today the government has no one but itself to blame for Guyana 's poverty. Today is the day that someone needs to be held accountable. Our 1992 hope for an honest and trustworthy new government has since been dashed. This rating is a direct reflection of our country's continued state since its independence.
“Corruption isn't a natural disaster: it is the cold, calculated theft of opportunity from the men, women and children who are least able to protect themselves,” said David Nussbaum, TI's Chief Executive. “Leaders must go beyond lip service and make good on their promises to provide the commitment and resources to improve governance, transparency and accountability.”
Corruption prevents local and foreign investors from doing business in Guyana . Corruption is a deterrent to the international community when considering their friendships. They don't want to be considered guilty by association, and who can blame them? After all, bad company corrupts good morals.
So who is it? Who takes the bribes? Who takes the people's money and spends it on themselves? Whoever it is should be fired. I am calling on the government to start an independent investigation, headed by upstanding citizens, to hunt down each and every corrupt public servant and fire them.
Corruption and poverty have direct links. Therefore corruption is Guyana 's primary enemy and it is time to declare war on it – starting with the immediate implementation of transparent accountability and open records. It is time to know from whence those big mansions and the nice cars your kids are driving have come. Tell me, did you buy those nice toys on your own salary? I don't think so.
Therefore, Mr. President, what is the government's response to this report, and what will you be doing to clean up the corruption for the people and for the future of Guyana ? This isn't a rhetorical question…I expect an answer.