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With the discovery of ‘Black Gold’ Guyana has been touted as ‘Little Dubai’ and attracted the attention of the world. To this extent, reputable international business entities have shown an interest and are negotiating with high-level government officials to invest in several oil-related and other industries.
This is indeed great news until one is accosted by the many accusations of corruption that have recently plagued the country. The most shocking of these accusations were leveled at Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, by a Chinese businessman, Su Zhi Rong and though this esteemed government official has vehemently denied these accusations, corruption is so endemic in Guyana that many citizens are less liable to dismiss the allegations as mere hearsay.
Corruption is so endemic in Guyana that the citizenry has come to regard it as a way of life and the only way to get positive results when engaged in business and other transactions. Sadly, one gets the impression that corruption is an obtrusive element of Guyanese society.
Even a surreptitious glance will reveal the presence of corrupt practices in a myriad of government ministries, departments, and agencies. This phenomenon seemingly is contagious and has metastasized to such an extent that it is an existential threat to peace and security. To add salt to the wound, it seems painfully obvious that the ruling cabal is either unable or unwilling to address this grave anomaly and has apparently assumed a laissez-faire disposition thus giving credence to the accusation that they are primary beneficiaries of graft and corruption.
There have also been complaints by members of the business community as well as ordinary citizens of coercion to pay huge sums of (bribe) money for government services. When one juxtaposes the lifestyles of some of these officials with their salary scales, he/she is assured that such wealth is not accrued from honest dealings. Decent, law-abiding citizens, therefore, expect that individuals of the aforementioned ilk should be deemed unworthy of trusted positions and should be fully prosecuted in accordance with the laws.
A responsible government should protect its citizens from predatory public officials. Moreover, a transparent and accountable government will ensure that persons of questionable character are discouraged from employment in public services. Unfortunately, the ruling cabal is neither transparent nor accountable; since they have attracted many persons of unsavory character who are currently holding senior public service appointments.
When the current government ascended to office in August 2020, it disbanded the State Asset Recovery Agency, (SARA), an entity established to support the United Nations Convention against Corruption 2003. Obviously, they have failed to observe those statutes and are uninterested in stemming corruption. Notwithstanding, this government seems more willing to support its cronies in enriching themselves at the expense of the state. Notably, there is no discernable effort to establish the veracity of declarations made to the Integrity Commission by public officials and enthusiasm to cause public servants to conform to an approved code of conduct.
The beneficiaries of the state largesse are close knitted, mostly friends, families, and favorites of the ruling cabal, a disgusting phenomenon that smacks of nepotism and patronage and is obviously supportive of a corrupt state.
Public officials are fearlessly demanding rent for public services and such unscrupulous and repugnant behaviors have infested a plethora of public entities and agencies. There are reports where citizens and business entities are coerced to pay large sums of money to procure gun licenses, local content certificates, house lots, commercial lands, placement at schools, and an extended list of other services.
Such corrupt practices encourage citizens and business entities to “pass something under the table” in order to access government services. This is seen as a special tax, though pernicious in nature, assures that the corrupt agent fulfills their end of the bargain. Businessmen/women who conform to the criteria to access the corrupt services ostensibly shift the expense to their customers through inflated commodity and service prices.
Undoubtedly, corruption has a negative impact on political stability. Moreover, it reduces the level of human capital and the share of private investment. In Guyana, income inequality and poverty are directly linked to high and rising corruption. With such a demeaning status quo, officials are wont to engage in corrupt practices to buffer their investments. When one adds the absence of stringent enforcement policies coupled with poor salary scales it becomes easy to envisage the widespread corruption manifesting itself. On the flip side, governments are accountable to the citizens and naturally, must urgently address this decadence.