Corruption is prevalent in today’s Jamaica, a factor which may deter potential international investors. According to Transparency International, Jamaica is ranked 70 out of 180 countries for being corrupt and its corruption perception index is 44 out of 100. The corruption perception index is calculated based on 13 different surveys completed by “reputable institutions, like the World Bank and the World Economic Forum”.
Locally, data from the LAPOP and the University of the West Indies survey was analysed and showed that 97 per cent of the respondents believe that more than half of Jamaican politicians are involved in some kind of corruption. In addition, the National Integrity Commission carried out a survey of 1,208 Jamaicans. They believed that, “70 per cent of Jamaica’s elected officials were corrupt, 80 per cent of the police force were corrupt and 50 per cent of government employees were corrupt”.
Jamaica is known to have a long history of corruption among politicians and oftentimes sanctions are not applied to their wrongdoings. Corrupt politicians are either allowed to resign or forced to resign after they are caught. Typically, the investigative bodies in place carry out investigations and there is no more news after that. The last politician to have been charged and imprisoned for was former Minister of Labour and Public Service, Senator James A.G Smith in 1990. He served five years. Smith was said to have used money from the farm-workers programme at the time.
No other politician has been prosecuted for corruption since. Former Junior Minister of Transport, Works and Housing Richard Azan was forced to resign after he, allegedly, illegally constructed shops in the Spauldings market in Clarendon. Azan even collected rent from vendors without the knowledge and permission of the Clarendon Parish Council in 2013. Azan expressed no regrets for his actions, and he was not charged but instead Azan was reinstated in Parliament. Former Minister of Science and Technology, Kern Spencer, was freed of his charges due to lack of evidence in 2007. Spencer was accused of swindling money from the Cuban light bulb programme. Involved with him was his secretary Coleen Wright, to whom Spencer had given millions of dollars to lodge in his bank account on more than one occasion. Investigations showed that there is no possible way Spencer could get his hands on so much unless he was doing something illegal. Kern Spencer remains in Parliament today.
The citizens have little faith in the Jamaican politicians, Andrew Williams (not his real name) observed that, “the government is moving at a snail’s pace to sanction these politicians and putting an end to them stealing from people’s purse”. Clifton Huie says, “everything in Jamaica is sugar coated, nobody don’t know anything until it affects them. All corrupt politicians just laugh at the justice system and the prime minister because nobody’s hands are clean”, Huie continued.