In 1995 the corruption perception index was created as part of an international research product and became the leading global indicator of public sector corruption. The index offers an annual view of the relative degree of corruption by ranking countries and territories all over the globe. The CPI corruption perception index for 2024 has been published and the Caribbean countries have a real problem of corruption based on the research methodology of CPI.
The CPI scores on a “on a scale from 100 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt)” which means a country with a score under 50 has serious corruption problems; unfortunately, for several decades now key Caribbean countries including Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana have been in the below 50. In fact, they are in the 40’s which indicates a serious problem and the consistency of the score over the decades would point to an inability of these countries to bring the issue of corruption under control; and so the question of corruption seems to be embedded in these countries which leads to a serious problem of economic development and of course a democratic government.
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This poor scoring on CPI indicates that there is a lack of real control and in fact punishment for bribery and corruption and that the institutions that are geared to protect and respond to the needs of the citizens and the society, those institutions are not working properly hence huge violations and the question of ongoing corruption. The CPI score also suggests that there is clear collusion between those that are in power and the powerful- those that are in power with respect to the government, executive and legislature, and those that are powerful in terms of businesses and their ability to control conditions.
These low scores also indicate some nepotism, fraud of course – we talked about bribery, kickbacks, clear conflict of interest and a corruption that seems to be normalized now in the Caribbean and is accepted with no outrage or protest by the citizens of these countries, and this is not to mention the outright mismanagement of public funds on projects and the awarding of unqualified contractors resulting in poor infrastructure, the corruption of influence, and of course political financiers, and it’s not unusual to find the gifting of public contracts to friends, girlfriends and family.
These are very sad indicators and it is time that something be done in an organized, sustained and deliberate method to bring this almost runaway corruption in these Caribbean countries into some form of control. The regional security system has made the point that gun violence that is taking such a heavy toll on our society with the tremendous loss of life, the tremendous impact on economic activities and of course the general psychology and trauma of the country is in fact related to some form of corruption, and that corruption has contributed considerably to the illegal gun problems in the Caribbean and corruption must be treated in order to deal with the vast number of firearms that has invaded the very countries with the low CPI.
The executive director of the RSS, Commodore Errington Shurland said – “I say corruption because I believe the only way these guns can get into the countries is through our borders and through individuals who facilitate such action”, so border security becomes a main issue who any robust attempt to bring down the violence and crime wave that is targeting these countries and has to be looked upon as part of the entire corruption scene.
Businessmen and women have been complaining for years of the crime control in their business areas where protection money has to be paid, violence is the norm and has to be contended with and in an uneasy and business environment it is daunting, and large investment groups have to factor in corruption elements in doing business in these countries and so it is not a not a slight indicator that can be ignored and just go about everyday operation and activities, the corruption index is a carefully researched measurement of what it takes in a country to advance this society, develop democratic norms and have a smooth and healthy economic development model, and this is what Caribbean region and the Caribbean countries need now.
It is also important to point out that there are countries in the Caribbean where this index is quite admirable – Barbados has the lowest level of corruption on CPI index and Barbados should be congratulated for that; and the region can start looking at the Barbados model to see what part of that needs to be adopted.
Barbados has a score of 69 which is admirable, followed by the Bahamas with a score of 64. Countries then need to bring about solid strengthening of checks and balances within the country, and to bring about general public awareness for the collective good. It is also very important that in these countries, the judiciary continues to be strong and independent and there can be an accounting to society because it is noted that in many of these low scoring countries of the Caribbean there is a lack of independence of the judiciary; the lack of a strong judiciary promotes corruption and the undue influence of political and economic elites; according to the Transparency International group, this lack of an independent judiciary “ renders many justice systems across the region incapable of applying the law effectively in an impartial manner or exercising their function as a check on other branches of government which is fundamental for all well- functioning democracies.”
The people of the countries ought to be aware of the danger and destruction of corruption, and CPI should be a measurement for all governments by the people as to their effectiveness in fighting corruption; a fight of corruption is for the people and the society and its well-being, not for the individuals.