June 13, 2021

The Editor Speaks: Corruption

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Is corruption everywhere? Even here in the Cayman Islands?

If you are tuned in to the daily radio talk shows and listen to the promotional ads for these programmes you would answer ‘Yes’ there is corruption here.

However, where is the proof?

Years ago, proving corruption was difficult. In a lot of countries, where the media is controlled by the government, it is still difficult to prove. If the government have the military on their side it is impossible, even if you can prove it. In these cases they don’t even try to disguise it.

The biggest shock I think most of us had here was the discovery that Cayman’s Prince of Football/Soccer, Jeffrey Webb, who won election to FIFA and CONCACAF was his anti-corruption stance. He was there to stamp it out. All he did was stamp his foot on how the corruption going on there could benefit him that included racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. He even had the nerve to appeal against the $1million dollar fine FIFA had imposed on him. Thankfully, he lost.

He must be singing like a bird to save himself as his sentence hearings keep on being put off. To date he has paid back over $6.7 million to the US authorities.

Even so, I expect his garden at his luxurious house in the USA still smells of roses.

What prompted me to write this Editorial today is an Opinion piece written by George C. Brathwaite PhD, we have published today courtesy of Caribbean News Now titled “Anti-corruption mix and fix”. He quotes the pop singer Bono – “The worst disease in the world today is corruption. And there is a cure: transparency”.

The UK Foreign Office shouted the word ‘transparency’ at us when former Government Premier, McKeeva Bush, was trying to get our Cruise Ship Berthing Facility to be built by the dubious China Harbor company. Not surprisingly, the UK squashed it. Even Bush’s own members weren’t privy to all the terms of the Agreement between Bush and China Harbor.

The big joke in all this is the UK has hardly been transparent in their dealings with us.

Robert Klitgaard, who is an expert on corruption, came up with a corruption formula where corruption (C) = monopoly (M) + discretion (D) – accountability (A).

An article I found on the website South Africa The Good News they asked the question “Is corruption a human condition, everywhere?”

The following is taken from the above:

The first term means that in a country or institution where the leadership has a great deal of power, either because it is a dictatorship (no elections being held) or where opposition is weak, corruption is likely to be much greater than in a democratic or free country or institution. The second term means that corruption is more likely in a country or institution where there is limited transparency of processes, where processes are not clearly defined and where there is limited oversight. The third term means that in an environment where corruption goes unpunished or where punishment is light, corruption is much more likely to be prevalent.

What I take from this equation is that, especially in large institutions controlling large amounts of money, corruption is the most likely outcome, unless it is actively countered. Unfortunately, history bears this out. There has been no civilisation, no group of people, and no country that has been totally free from corruption, even the most successful ones. From ancient Egypt, through the Greek and Roman Empires, the Chinese civilisation and Europe in the middle ages, corruption was a serious issue. Corruption has continued in the developed world during the 20th and 21st centuries.

Today, the countries that score the lowest on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index tend to be in the developing world and are dictatorships (like North Korea), failed states (like Somalia or arguably Sudan) or countries suffering from conflict (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya).
In 2014, SA ranked 67 out of 174 countries, scoring higher than Brazil, Italy, India, Thailand, Mexico, Argentina and Iran.
However, there were a number of developing countries that attracted a better score than SA, including Barbados, Chile, the UAE, Botswana, Mauritius and Namibia.

How do successful countries counter corruption?
In 2014, the four countries that were considered the least corrupt were Denmark, New Zealand, Finland and Sweden. These countries typically have “high levels of press freedom, open budget processes and strong accountability mechanisms”.
With the exception of the UAE (and maybe Hong Kong), all of the top 25 countries in the Corruption Perception Index were democracies where power changes hands between different political parties from time to time.

A key feature of scandals in the developed world over recent years, whether it was Watergate, Elliot Spitzer, Rod Blagojevich, the Chen Shui-ban Scandals or the Profumo Affair is that they typically lead to resignations or arrests (although there are exceptions like Silvio Berlusconi). In many developing countries though, corruption often goes unchecked and unpunished for years.
The key differences between countries that are generally prone to corruption and countries that are less prone to corruption are that

it is easier to identify corruption in certain countries because of transparent and open processes;
there are more likely to be whistleblowers in countries less prone to corruption;
the press is more likely to report on corruption;
the people are more likely to be outraged by corruption;
political parties (companies) are more likely to demand resignations from or pursue prosecutions of perpetrators;
opposition parties are more likely to be strengthened by corruption from the ruling party (potentially to the point where they can take power); and
the political process allows for a peaceful transition of power.

The writer concludes with:

“Corruption unfortunately appears to be a human condition. It has occurred and occurs everywhere regardless of country, creed or institution unless the necessary steps and processes are in place to counter it. It is not sufficient to simply depend on the good ethics and morals of our leaders.”

There you have my answer.

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  1. Chris Johnson says

    You raise an interesting topic. From my experience corruption is rampant in the Caribbean including Cayman. The problem is when it is reported the authorities particularly local enforcement departments do precisely nothing. If one uses the media to draw attention to a specific instance the writer and the media get subject to letters from nasty lawyers and/or a lawsuit. Thus those who try to keep the place clean are continually up against it.

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