Which political party is more corrupt?

Sunday, July 14, 2019

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It is an incontrovertible truth that previous People's National Party (PNP) administrations were involved in corrupt activities, at least as much as the current Government.

Mr Audley Shaw, now the agriculture, commerce and fisheries minister, rode to prominence in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), then in Opposition, on the back of a long string of exposures of corrupt activities.

Yet, if we are serious as a country, we cannot regard it as enough to point the finger at the other side to say 'you did it too', which is what is happening right now with the Opposition PNP is trying to make anti-corruption its political mantra.

Corruption is not unlike crime — its potential to do damage to the country is as destructive whether it is PNP or JLP in power; and every Jamaican is impacted in one way or another. It has to be fought as a national, not a party issue.

The undue delay in conducting and completing comprehensive investigations into suspected corruption — as we are seeing now — is compounding the problem. It opens up the Government to speculative accusation that it has something to hide, and causes gossip fester and mutate.

At the economic level, corruption represents a colossal misallocation of resources from legitimate purposes to dishonest pursuits. While the distribution of ill-gotten gains might enrich individuals, it diverts benefits from those needing and entitled to have them.

Jamaica's reputation is already a mixed one, of an exceptional people in a beautiful physical environment but tainted with violence of every kind and widespread criminality. We cannot afford further reputational damage to the country and its institutions.

As reputational damage escalates it undermines the credibility of an economic reform policy package which has turned around the decades-long disbelief in Jamaica's economic management, starting under the PNP and continued by the JLP.

Like Mr Shaw in Opposition, the PNP is forcing revelations through the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), and in so doing has given its party a mission where before it seemed to have none.

It will not serve the JLP to find comfort in saying corruption took place during the PNP Administrations. This, along with the PNP's protestations of innocence, is a disservice to the country because it has reduced the necessary public debate about corruption to one about which party is more corrupt.

In a country where tolerance for corruption is high because of the “man haffi eat a food” culture, there needs to be a serious constructive debate not confined to identifying and prosecuting to the maximum extent of the law.

The focus of discussion must be on prevention of corruption by strengthening systems, empowering the investigative agencies, and regular auditing of systems governing public procurement.

For too long “white-collar” criminals have been treated differently from the ordinary citizen. There is one law for all and it must be administered fairly, impartially, and without exception.

Too much is at stake for any appearance of accommodation of corruption by the Administration. Only quick and decisive corrective action will do.


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