Jamaica has a long history of political corruption and, unfortunately, it continues to plague the country’s political system to this day. Despite the efforts of successive governments to tackle corruption, the problem remains deeply ingrained in Jamaican politics, with many officials using their positions for personal gain. Since taking political office in February 2016, the Andrew Holness led Jamaica Labour Party administration has been embroiled in multiple instances of corruption and cronyism resulting in the sidelining of a number of elected and or appointed officials. More recently, the Integrity Commission, that has been charged with rooting out corruption in the country, presented a report to the island’s Parliament which fingered the prime minister in what has been described as ‘questionable government contracts awarded to a construction company between 2006 and 2009 when he served as the minister of education. Holness was cited for possible “conflict of interest”. The Commission said that its director of corruption prosecution should consider whether Holness breached the Contractor General’s Act and the Public Sector Procurement Regulations (2008 and the Corruption Prevention Act.
Holness won’t be charged
Although the Corruption Prevention Commissioner was quick to state that the prime minister would not be prosecuted, the development has sent the commentary circuit into free-fall as many responded with their own politically tainted views, many of them interpreting the presentation of the report and as an attempt to embarrass the prime minister for political gain. None seemed remotely aware that the Commission has a duty to the country to present the findings of whatever investigations that they had conducted to the nation’s Parliament and for its contents to be revealed to the public.
Among the current arguments being advanced is the view that one of the main drivers of political corruption in Jamaica is the winner-takes-all political system where the political parties compete fiercely for power, and when one party takes control, it often rewards its supporters with lucrative government contracts and positions. This leads to a culture of cronyism, where those who are politically connected receive preferential treatment, while others are left out in the cold.
Lack of Transparency and Accountability
Another issue is the lack of transparency and accountability in Jamaica’s political system. There are few checks and balances on the power of politicians, and the system is often plagued by nepotism and favouritism. This means that those in power can act with impunity, safe in the knowledge that they are unlikely to face any consequences for their actions. An excellent example of this is former Minister of Education Ruel Reid who was ultimately forced to resign over the misuse of hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds surrounding the Caribbean Maritime University in Kingston. Three years later, none of the charges laid against Reid and his associates have been heard in the Jamaican courts and even more so, no timeline has been presented to suggest that the matter will be adjudicated any time soon.
The impact of corruption
The truth be told, the problem of political corruption in Jamaica has far-reaching consequences for the country’s development as it undermines public trust in government institutions and erodes confidence in the rule of law. It also has a significant impact on economic growth, as corrupt practices limit foreign investment and hinder the development of a fair and competitive business environment. One could argue the issue quite easily as in the recent past, captains of industry in Jamaica have been brought into the nation’s Cabinet to serve in substantial roles, giving their organization(s) a seat at the table where the country’s economic policies are formed, and an unfair advantage in a supposed market-driven economy.
I am on the record that it is not crime, but corruption which stands as Jamaica’s #1 problem and that all other ills facing the county emanates from the high levels of corruption and the fact that the token removals from office of a few second level officers is meaningless, especially when none of the guinea-gogs involved are ever arrested, tried, convicted and committed to prison.
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