Jamaica on top in athletics, but...
Country running last economically, says NIA
EXECUTIVE Director of corruption watchdog group National Integrity Action Professor Trevor Munroe wants service clubs across the island to convene a national conference to discuss ways to unify the country to overcome the current national economic and social crisis.
The NIA head's call comes amidst the celebration of the successes of Jamaican athletes at the London 2012 Olympics.
According to Professor Munroe, while the performance of the athletes in their different events has literally pushed Jamaica to the top of the world, the country is still at the bottom of the pile based on its economic performance, pushed there by rampant corruption.
"...At the same time as we are at the top of the world in athletics, we are near the bottom of the world in economic performance; in producing and in providing goods and services to uplift the quality of life of the majority of our people. Regrettably, when it comes to the economy, we not only don't qualify for the Olympics, but we don't even qualify for anywhere near the top three in our region," professor Munroe said in a presentation to the Rotary Club of New Kingston, Friday.
Referring to an article by the Economist magazine in July this year which predicted that based on current forecasts Jamaica will finish the year with the slowest average growth rate since 2000 in the Americas, behind even earthquake-stricken Haiti, Professor Munroe said Jamaica had "fallen behind a whole slew of countries that it was ahead of in 1970".
"There needs to be the broadest coalition of citizens' groups to reduce the harmful consequence of tribalism, of corruption and its offshoots. The situation is sufficiently serious for me to suggest to you that an initiative should be taken to convene a National Convention of all service clubs -- Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Optimists, etcetera; a convention that should include, as well, citizens' associations and civil society bodies of all types with one item on the agenda: "Discussion of urgent measures to unify the nation to overcome the national economic and social crisis"," the NIA Executive Director declared.
According to him "a major contributor to Jamaica's non-performance has been and continues to be corruption" which involves the granting of contracts based on politics or as a result of bribes and kickbacks; failure to prosecute effectively, in some cases amounting to protection of white collar criminals and the corrupt use of tax waivers granted in return for political campaign contributions or political favours.
He went on to note that in 2010 and 2011 almost J$11 billion was given out in the form of tax waivers "without any measurable return to Jamaica in terms of employment nor income generation".
"Indeed, now is the eleventh hour or more precisely, it is the fifth day of the second 50 years of our Independence... put simply, we now have to deal with the main forms of corruption that currently block our development and are costing our people the chance of a satisfied life," he added.
In the meantime, the NIA Executive Director said the media should do more to "call a spade a spade while calling on public and civil society groups "which have no partisan political axe to grind" to "become more vocal". In addition, he said "politicians of integrity... need to take a firmer stand within the councils of each party and, if necessary in the public space, against the corrupt and the tribalists who, as well, are present on each side of the aisle".
"It is no longer enough to murmur and to grumble in muted tones against those who would discredit the finer traditions which exist in each party and worst those who would prejudice Jamaica's name and capacity to survive and to grow out of the present crisis," Professor Munroe said.