Well-known academician Professor Trevor Munroe who has been championing the fight against corruption in Jamaica, especially in the political arena, lists corruption as among the main things “killing” the Jamaican economy – the other two being crime and bureaucracy. In a bold bid to fight this monster, the goodly professor and former politician has set up the National Integrity Action (NIA), a non-governmental organization which he hopes will sufficiently sensitize civil society about the ills and deleterious consequences of corruption. But one of the NIA’s most serious challenges is not so much corruption, in and of itself, but what is the average Jamaican’s perception of that national malady.
In a land where “Anancy” is King and where Jamaicans have been described as having been dosed with an abundance of larceny, defining corruption will remain the greatest obstacle towards minimizing it.
Even with the best of intentions, the NIA so far has not succeeded in clearly defining in the minds of Jamaicans what is corrupt. This is by no means to discredit the work of that organization which has been a lone voice in the wilderness. But who better to take on such a gargantuan task? It behooves the NIA to launch an even more intensive campaign which involves defining the true role of a Member of Parliament vis=a-vis public spending as against being a legislator and constituency advocate.
Interestingly, both supporters of the PNP and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) point fingers at each other as if to say neither is a hotbed of corruption. In the meantime, while the finger pointing continues and there are those who maintain a seemingly sanctimonious stance, civil society is rife with cynicism (a pox on both their houses), leaving the diehards to perpetuate minority governments in a democracy where the adage “the greatest good for the greatest number” should be held as sacrosanct.
But corruption has become so endemic in the Jamaican psyche; it will take a generational shift to bring about meaningful transformation. In this vein, a national consensus must become paramount. But is this possible in an environment where even the colour that one wears defines one’s existence?
Then again, it is not just the elected representative who is likely to plunder the national till. It is well known that theft, bribery, graft and corruption of all stripes are to be found in the Jamaica public service as well as in many areas of the private sector but somehow the MPs and Councillors are the ones who are most fingered by civil society and the media. Perhaps it is time to bell the cat.