Corruption in Jamaica
Jamaica has improved 15 spots in the world corruption rankings, now ranking as the 68th least corrupt country out of the 180 polled. Despite this progress, corruption in Jamaica remains entrenched and widespread, and its effects still drive poverty and crime in what is one of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the Americas.

According to Transparency International’s 2017 Index, Jamaica received a score of 44, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. Although the jump in rankings is a positive sign, a score of 44 is still worrisome. The organization notes that any score under 50 indicates “prevalent bribery, a lack of punishment for corruption, and public institutions that do not respond to the needs of citizens.”

Also disheartening is the view Jamaicans themselves have on corruption within their country. According to the 2017 Global Corruption Barometer, which measures respondents’ perception of corruption within their own country, 51 percent of Jamaicans believed that most or all of the police were corrupt, with a further 37 percent believing that most (or all) of their representatives in Parliament were corrupt.

Corruption Costs

Both real and perceived corruption has far-reaching consequences for poverty, especially in developing countries. In Jamaica, where social infrastructure is already lacking, corruption diminishes quality of life by redirecting vital funding away from critical infrastructure such as healthcare, education, water, roads and electricity.

The money instead goes into private pockets, which results in an underfunded and underperforming government. This type of leadership then inadequately provides protection, jobs and basic services to its citizens.

Equally important are the effects of perceived corruption in Jamaica, where 68 percent of people believe corruption is increasing. This perception of a corrupt government is detrimental in that it discourages participation within the legal framework of society.

In the midst of an unfair system and a government which does not provide basic services for its people, many turn to extralegal groups for protection and livelihood. The result of such decisions are the high levels of murder and organized crime seen in Jamaica today.

Corruption and Poverty

Aside from the effects of corruption on the everyday life of Jamaicans, corruption also affects the economy as a whole. There is a universal trend of reduced foreign investment, lack of development and inefficient allocation of resources in corrupt nations.

The World Bank also notes that “the average income in countries with a high level of corruption is about a third of that of countries with a low level of corruption.” In Jamaica, this means corruption categorically lowers the quality of life for the vast majority of Jamaicans.

Positive Signs

Despite endemic corruption’s continued presence, there are indications that Jamaica is heading in the right direction. According to Transparency International, corruption in Jamaica has been decreasing, evidenced by its improved rank in the global corruption indexes.

Additionally, Jamaican leadership has begun to take an interest in anti-corruption, and has acknowledged that sustained economic growth is impossible without combating corruption. The Integrity Commission Bill in July 2017, passed by the Jamaican Senate, was an important step in the right direction. The act set in motion the establishment of an independent anti corruption unit tasked with uncovering and prosecuting corruption in Jamaica.

What Can Be Done

In its recommendations on curbing corruption, Transparency International notes five important areas in which the Jamaican government can improve:

  1. Encouraging free speech and an independent media.
  2. Minimizing regulations on media and ensuring journalists can work without fear of repression or violence.
  3. Promoting laws that focus on access to information to engender transparency.
  4. Advocating for reforms at the national and global level which push for access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms.
  5. Disclosing relevant public interest information including government budgets and political party finances.

Transparency International also notes the important role that everyday people can play in the fight against corruption. In fact, Jamaicans overwhelmingly believe in their own ability to fight corruption, with 73 percent of the population believing they can make a difference. Transparency International gives these suggestions for those trying to take up the fight against corruption.

  1. Say no to paying bribes.
  2. Report incidents of corruption to the authorities. When there are no trustworthy authorities, report the incident to Transparency International’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centers (located in over 90 countries).
  3. Join an Anti-Corruption organization.
  4. Take part in a peaceful protest.
  5. Pay more to buy goods and services from a corruption-free company.
  6. Spread the word about corruption through social media.

Although Jamaicans still face an uphill battle in the fight against corruption in Jamaica, the message from Transparency International is very positive. By making anti-corruption a priority, Jamaicans can bring corruption to the curb, and alleviate much of the poverty and social ills that corruption perpetuates.

– Taylor Pace
Photo: Flickr

Conditional Cash TransfersIn development assistance, there is always a hand that gives and a hand that takes away. Policymakers now face the fact that up to 20% of foreign aid administered by NGOs and government agencies can end up in the hands of corrupt local leaders. However, conditional cash transfers may be the solution.

A recent report by the Inter-American Development Bank suggests that conditional cash transfers offer a way out of this dilemma. This form of foreign aid offers cash grants to citizens in exchange for compliance. This could mean enrolling their children in school, completing regular medical exams, or attending job skills training.

In Latin America, where youth unemployment hovers around 14%, this means lower risks of radicalization. Roughly 60% of the young adults in this region work in the informal sector, where there are markedly low wages, no benefits and job insecurity.

When this occurs, many of those who might have been productive citizens turn to more lucrative (and illegal) activities. And so the conditions for terrorism flourish.

Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) for the poor in Latin America have posted consistent gains over the past 15 years. They provide money for nearly 129 million individuals of working and post-working age. In addition, some of the countries suffering from the harshest degrees of poverty are taking advantage.

UNICEF reports from 2008 found that in Paraguay, CCTs increased household per capita income by 31% while reducing food expenditure by four percent.

Child school attendance also rose, as beneficiary families were able to save 20% more than without assistance. UNICEF also reports that families enjoyed seven percent greater access to credit. Finally, they invested 45% more in agricultural production.

These are significant results for a country tackling one of the most corrupt and poverty-stricken parts of the continent. Home to radical groups such as Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, the tri-border area—between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina—is a perfect case for why the United States should ramp up its aid to Latin America.

The endemic poverty in this area allows one to bribe a local security agent for $35 ($15 for Paraguayan officers), buy an AK-47 for $375, or solicit women under 23 years of age for as little as $15.

In this sort of environment, traditional aid projects for nutrition or housing are less effective.

Researchers from Transparency International reveal that in areas like the tri-border, local leaders inflate the amount of requested aid, inviting speculation by gangs and smugglers.

Much of the aid is then misused: corrupt leaders sell food surpluses for personal profit, award housing contracts under threat. In addition, other goods (such as prescription drugs) enter the tri-border $1.5 billion black markets.

Conditional Cash Transfers offer immunity from these abuses by requiring greater accountability from both local leaders and the community. Because they are cash benefits, municipal officials are unable to divert goods as “losses” or favor particular groups.

Instead, they ensure that valuable U.S. aid reaches the hands of those who need it most—citizens doing their part to break the cycle of poverty.

Alfredo Cumerma

Photo: Flickr

Corruption Kills Millions, Steals Trillions - The Borgen Project
In a report released by ONE, an anti-poverty organization, it is estimated that corruption causes 3.6 million unnecessary deaths and costs poor countries $1 trillion each year.

Using three different methodologies to calculate the cost of corruption, all three measures indicated that the loss was either $1 trillion or $2 trillion.

In what is called a “trillion dollar scandal,” corrupt business practices, “anonymous shell companies, money laundering and illegal tax evasion” all serve to severely reduce the effectiveness of poverty relief efforts.

While extreme poverty has been reduced to half its original level over the past 20 years and has the potential to be completely eradicated by 2030, corruption is putting much of that progress at risk.

While corruption is damaging in almost all countries, it is especially dangerous in poorer and developing countries and mostly affects children. It is estimated that millions of deaths could be avoided if corruption was combated and recovered funds were reinvested in essential fields.

Furthermore, the money that is siphoned out of poor countries is not from international development aid, which has helped make a considerable improvement, but rather directly from businesses in these countries. The money is generated by domestic businesses and illegally extracted out of the country. The largest source of financial drain is the illegal manipulation of cross-border trade.

The organization found that even recovering a small amount of the money lost to corruption could dramatically affect development. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a small amount of recovered funds could provide an education to an additional 10 million children each year; pay for an additional 500,000 primary school teachers; provide antiretroviral drugs for more 11 million people with HIV/AIDS and buy nearly 165 million vaccines.

The report stresses action that serves to end the secrecy that allows corruption to thrive. If specific policies were implemented that increased transparency and combated corruption in the four areas of “natural resource deals, the use of phantom firms, tax evasion and money laundering,” developing countries could considerably stem the financial drain.

Natural resources in particular can provide a vital source of funds that could greatly increase economic growth in many developing countries. Corruption concerning natural resources is particularly bad, with approximately 20 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa rich in natural resources but receiving few benefits from these reserves.

Specifically, One calls for mandatory reporting laws for the natural resource sectors and publish open data so citizens are able to track where travels from and to, ensuring that the funds are not lost to corruption.

Published in anticipation of the G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia in November, the organization stresses the importance for the G20 nations to address the issue. Now that the cost of corruption has been defined in real terms, the fight against corruption can become more directed and effective.

— William Ying

Sources: ONE 1, ONE 2, ONE 3, BBC, The Guardian, ABC News, Yahoo News
Photo: Blogspot

Women from rural and marginalized communities can play a key role in ending corruption. Developing countries often have the reputation for corrupt governments which in turn prolong their impoverished condition. It is usually grassroots women, the vulnerable and least empowered in these countries, who suffer the most. The irony is that it is women who are the key to ending poverty in these countries. Decision makers should not neglect to involve women when forming anti-corruption strategies – it would be counter-productive to their development not to.

On June 13th, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at her husband’s Global Initiative activism event. Her speech advocated for the advancement of women and girls, and improving the economic condition in developing countries. “When women participate in politics, the effects ripple out across society,” said Clinton. She explained that when women are educated and economically empowered, her family benefits and more get educated, grow healthier, and become even more empowered. Further, when women are involved in decision-making, the world becomes a safer place. Women are the primary caretakers of their households and communities, and as such, enabling women empowerment is a key strategy for lifting a majority out of poverty. Similarly, when women participate in politics, the world becomes a safer place.

Between 2011 and 2012, the UNDP–along with other development groups–conducted a research study on the gendered impact of corruption in poor communities. The research covered 11 communities across 8 countries – interviewing 392 women and 79 men about the grassroots women’s perceptions and lived experiences of corruption in developing countries. The findings and recommendations were published in a 2012 UNDP document titled, “Seeing Beyond the State: Grassroots Women’s Perspectives on Corruption and Anti-Corruption.”

The results?

Comprehensive anti-corruption efforts require the combined efforts of international agencies, national and local governments, and–more importantly–the women and communities who are directly affected. The state has an instrumental role to play in the creation of an enabling environment in the form of gender-sensitive policies, legislations and mechanisms to combat corruption. International agencies should focus on facilitating a supportive environment for women and men to organize around and fight corruption, including the gender dimensions of corruption. To ensure that programming and policies are relevant and effective for poor communities and women especially, grassroots women should be involved at all stages of anti-corruption interventions, including design, implementation, and evaluation.

Specific strategies that were recommended include (but are not limited to):

  • Establishing anonymous and safe spaces for women to report corruption with clear channels for redressing incidents
  • Forming women-led community monitoring groups
  • Raising awareness about bribery’s different impact on men’s and women’s everyday lives by using media, public hearings, theatre and art, and other communication vehicles
  • Hosting public, but safe, dialogue forums with local government so women can discuss and report corruption, thus ensuring that elected leaders understand local contexts and develop constituencies among grassroots groups
  • Organizing public registration days for births, marriage certificates, etc., a strategy that increases the openness and transparency of what were previously private transactions vulnerable to briberies
  • Allowing a free and independent press that is enabled to investigate, report, and publish on corruption.

– Maria Caluag

Sources: CGI, UNDP
Photo: Guardian

Transparency International USA InspiresTransparency International USA, or TI-USA, aims to live up to its name by promoting much-needed accountability in governments and businesses, both at home and abroad.

The task of successfully eliminating global poverty is often precluded by entrenched corruption practices in governments and businesses in both the developing and developed world. TI-USA was founded in 1993 as a chapter of the greater Transparency International movement in an attempt to address this corruption and to “promote transparency and integrity in government, business, and development assistance.”

TI-USA reports that each year, bribery, fraud, collusion, and other various forms of corruption taint over $1.5 trillion in public purchasing. Billions of dollars in illicit assets currently flow out of developing countries that need the money to survive.

TI-USA not only views this behavior as unacceptable and immoral but sees the consequential economic, social and health effects that such corruption may spur. In corrupted governments, most of a country’s assets remain in the top levels of society, placing a greater financial burden on the country’s poor who are often deprived of education, nutrition, clean water and health care.

As a branch of an already well-established nonprofit organization, TI-USA’s chief goal is to make the United States a forefront actor in establishing anti-corruption laws across the globe turning first to addressing transparency issues within the U.S. government itself. By doing this, the U.S. can show its commitment to the anti-corruption goal by reforming its own shortcomings as a model for developing countries to follow.

TI-USA shows that in order to become a leader in global activism a country must live up to the standards it promotes abroad within its own national boundaries.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Sources: Transparency International USA, Business Wire
Photo: Flickr