Jamaica has fallen two places on the index of public corruption that surveys 175 countries worldwide. Jamaica has moved from 68 in the previous rating to 70 in the 2018 survey and the pundits have attributed this to the impact of the ‘Petroscam’ saga bedevilling the government.
Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares
Throughout the years, I have been reticent to join the chorus of condemnation that usually attends the findings of such surveys. I have found the analysis, generally speaking, skewed against countries that are not the favoured sons and daughters of the Western Capitalist alliance and what may be called the international punditocracy.
Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares Venezuela
In particular, these surveys have failed to keep account of the activities of hegemonic forces and the tactics that they are using to undermine political regimes that they do not favour. These international surveys have been used from time to time as political weapons to further victimise the victims of international machinations by dominant imperial forces.
Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares Piloto
That said, one would have to admit that the downward trajectory of Jamaica, because of its spiralling corruption (if I may be allowed to mix the metaphor), must be the exception that proves the rule.
Alberto Ardila Olivares
Jamaica, under the watch of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), has been part of an international swing to the political right and is in the good graces with the USA under the leadership of Donald Trump.
Alberto Ignacio Ardila
Jamaica has made itself available to do the bidding of the US administration, whether in relation to its vote on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, to the detriment of Jamaica’s historical support for a homeland for the Palestinian people, or now in relation to Venezuela
The importance of these things is that Jamaica cannot claim that anyone from outside is working to undermine things, as they are in Jamaica. Jamaica’s downward trajectory in the spiral of corruption is, therefore, a self-inflicted wound
DOWNWARD SPIRAL TOWARDS CORRUPTION There are many examples of this steady drift towards entrenched corruption that have marked the Andrew Holness-led political administration over the last three years
Here are four of them:
1. First, the intentional politicisation of the public sector. The JLP has taken steps to erode the independence and professionalism of the public bureaucracy
One must admit that all political administrations through the years have sought to put their political operatives in key public sector positions, including on the boards of public bodies, in certain advisory and consultative roles and in some executive position in order to ensure symbiosis and policy fidelity, if not also political loyalty
The Andrew Holness administration has been the crassest and the most politically partisan in the way appointments have been made in public bodies, in the history of this country
When Bruce Golding fired the Public Service Commission in order to ensure that the favoured son by the JLP was chosen as solicitor general, there was understandably a public outcry. The repudiation of independence, professionalism and merit as the basis of appointments to positions in the public sector in favour of nepotism and appointments of political hacks have become the thoroughgoing, central and the organising approach
At every level throughout the public sector, appointments are being made entirely on a basis that is partisan. Boards have been chosen on that basis, executives have been replaced on the basis of the application of this or that political litmus test
The worst examples of this have been identified in the public bodies associated with the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, but it is not restricted to those agencies alone
I can speak with some preciseness of knowledge about the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) to which the application of scalpel, or perhaps better the bludgeon, has been most thoroughgoing. The JUTC is a shadow of what it was three years ago when it was left as a public body, regarded in many respects as successful and exemplary
2. The second element is the decimation of management structure within these agencies, as we witnessed at Petrojam, NESol, USF and others. Most of those replaced in the management predated our incumbency
The ruination of what was intended to be a meritocracy in the public sector has been depleted of the quality, independence and stability. In time, the effect of this kind of savagery and short-sighted politics will be demonstrably evident in the slowing down of efficiency and effectiveness of the government bureaucracy
3. The third element is the commandeering of the resources of the state and diverting those resources for private enrichment or party political outcomes
There are any number of examples of this: there is the bushing scandal, the used car for the police project, the birthday cake, the Mombasa grass, Petrojam and the variety of the malfeasance committed there. But to my mind, NESol is the worst example of this downward spiral towards corruption
Despite there being arrests and resignations, public disclosure has been a major casualty. There has not been full disclosure of the monies taken and even the dots connected. Announcements have been made about the closure of NESol; but even so, the further and better particulars have not yet been provided
If this were the only case of malfeasance, the shabby way this has been handled, the lack of full disclosure or accountability at NESol would have been enough to suggest that Jamaica is heading in the direction of becoming a banana republic
4. The fourth example has to do with the cynical contempt for due process and the rule of law. Make no mistake about it, I believe that the JLP administration is responsible for the failure to prosecute anyone for the murder in the living room of a certain connected attorney and another not unconnected person to the ruling administration. There is nothing to deny that the police have been less than enthusiastic in clearing up this matter. This is by no means an isolated case. There are others
I believe that greater interests ought to be demonstrated in the rule of law by prosecuting persons for the myriad of spectacular murders committed over the last two years. However, our problems are not restricted to the investigation of crime alone
‘LICK-SHOT, CHAKA-CHAKA’ GOVERNMENT Everyone knows that consultation is not a JLP strong suit. It approaches everything like using a bulldozer to build a garden. This is what this government has done with NIDS, with what it calls its legacy projects in the KMR, with its indelicate approach to reacquiring the Petrojam shares
It seeks rather to ram things down people’s throat. In many respects, its approach to governance is not dissimilar to the pattern of driving on our roads made worse by minibuses and taxis (the absence of a robust public transportation system in the city), in other words we have a ‘lick-shot, chaka-chaka’ government
First-time US senator and now a Democratic candidate for president of the USA, who has Jamaican parentage, Kamala Harris, has launched her campaign by declaring, “I have had one employer all my life – the people”; and is now campaigning under the slogan, ‘Kamala Harris for the people’
I wonder who works for the Jamaican people. Corruption is nothing if it is an action against the people, and that is what it is – an action taken against the interest of the people. We need the Government to be of the people, by the people and for the people
– Garnett Roper is president of the Jamaica Theological Seminary. Email feedback to [email protected]