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Corruption has no geographical boundaries, no class, religious or socioeconomic boundaries. It is pervasive and manifests itself in practically every government across the world. Some manifestations are more obvious than others. But no matter what, the impact of corruption can be devastating in developing countries such as Jamaica. Globally, the United Nations estimates that corruption costs $2.6 trillion in losses every year. Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index, finds that most governments are seen as corrupt by their own citizens. The perception of corruption undermines people’s faith in government institutions. Lack of faith in government and its institutions can be the precursor to either anarchy or dictatorship.

The pernicious effect on economies such as Jamaica’s, where there is no budgetary wiggle room to address many of our glaring deficits and human capital can be dangerous. Our budgetary space is growing tighter whilst our needs are escalating and our external debt continues to balloon. In such an environment, when one siphons money from the public purse or pushes through a controversial property sale that is not in the interest of the public, such as the Rooms Hotel sale, anger builds and it will only be a matter of time before one seemingly inconsequential act, comparatively, will become the proverbial match that lights the powder keg of resentment and discontent.

We have seen leaders such as Donald Trump and Andrew Holness successfully wrap themselves in the populist anticorruption holy cloth and populism. But while they have attained power, they both have failed abysmally to live up to their populist anti-corruption political campaign pledges to root out corruption. In fact, the Trump’s administration has been beset by corrupt officials who used their offices for private gain and have been forced to resign in the face of public outcry.

The Holness administration has been similarly wracked by a multiplicity of corruption allegations. Unfortunately, there has been no concerted public outcry. However, two cabinet ministers have been shunted aside whilst others, similarly accused of corrupt acts, have been recycled. Corruption is an existential crisis for the nation. A friend aptly described the government’s corrupt practices as a “walking, breeding opioid numbing the nation to the deleterious effects of institutional criminality”.

That fitting description of the ruling JLP, is a far cry from the opposition political party which campaigned on an anti-corruption platform. They successfully campaigned against the perceived corrupt PNP elite, only to now abuse the levers of power to enrich themselves, family members, drivers, household helpers and their cronies. With all the allegations of corruption in the public domain, and the opposition’s anti-corruption vigils across the country, the government cannot divert attention from their own misdeeds. They must act decisively. For the nation to have faith in government and its institutions, criminal charges will have to be brought, successfully, against the white collar miscreants who have been pillaging the nation’s coffers.

There has to be the political will by both the political directorate and the Jamaican stakeholders to put an end to the rampant thievery and misuse of the public purse. It can be done in Jamaica if the nation demands that it be done. It can be done if those with prosecutorial powers doggedly build sound, air tight criminal cases against those accused. Yes, it can be done.

Internationally, corrupt politicians are being jailed. Only recently Kenya’s finance minister, Henry Rotich, surrendered himself to the police after the chief prosecutor ordered his arrest over allegations of corruption.  Rotich is accused of flouting procurement procedures in awarding a contract worth over $450m (£405m) for the construction of two dams to the Italian company CMC de Ravenna. In Romania, the country’s most powerful politician, Liviu Dragnea, is behind bars. He was sentenced in May to three and a half years in prison for corrupt practices. He was jailed for using his government position and influence to secure what prosecutors called “fake jobs” in a public agency for two PSD officials, who continued to work for the party. If powerful men can be arrested in countries deemed as extremely corrupt, why can’t it happen in Jamaica? Are we content with living in a growing Kleptocracy?

To date, operatives of the Jamaican government have been accused of misusing and or misappropriating between three and fourteen billion dollars (Ja. $3,000,000,000.00 and Ja.$ 14,000,000,000.00) Make no mistake, it is the  public’s money which has been lost, stolen or misused. These are funds that could be used to build schools, rehabilitate our crumbing hospitals and fix our numerous potholed roads. The Jamaican taxpayers cannot continue footing the bill. It’s time to lock up the villains. Peace! mocobarrett@yahoo.com