Corruption in Jamaica’s public sector has dominated the headlines in the print and electronic media for the last several weeks: Alleged corruptive activity at the Rural Agricultural Development Agency, Clarendon Alumina Production, and the Ministry of Education.

In a recent radio interview, Dr. Trevor Munroe, Executive Director of the National Integrity Commission, revealed that Jamaica loses up to 5% of GDP annually because of corruption, equaling about J$96 billion or US$620 million. It was also indicated that most corruption occur at the level of public boards and agencies that are given government subventions to operate. And yet, many of the agencies failed to submit annual financial reports as required by law. If we multiply this startling figure of loss by several decades, we have a clear understanding of the socio-economic mess of the country. 

Political parties who form governments and supply seemingly questionable board members undoubtedly possess neither the values of accountability, fiscal discipline, integrity, and transparency, nor the attitude of custodianship, that is, good stewards of the people’s “sweat and blood” money. They operate with an attitude of entitlement that leads to their managing the people’s money at their own whims and fancies.

Until these right and positive values and attitude are acquired, corruption prevails. Not even the anticipated changes to the selection of members of government boards and agencies and the way they function, as outlined in the resolution entitled the “Public Bodies Management and Accountability (PBMA) (Nomination, Selection and Appointment to Boards) Regulations, 2021”, will be sufficient to cure the virus of public sector corruption.  While the Parliament ought to be commended for this long-delayed legislation, it’s like placing the proverbial cart before the horse.

Values and attitudes are fundamental to nation building and sustained economic development. Legislations, rules, and regulations are shaped by common values and attitudes.  National values and attitudes, not only help to diminish corrupt activities, but also drive a nation’s confidence and pride in preserving, for example, its heritage and symbols of our heritage. If Jamaicans deeply value the historical struggles of our heroes and heroines to achieve political independence, then we would be intolerant towards the unnecessary departure from important national norms.  One such increasingly worrisome practice is the prevailing use of the colour yellow, instead of gold, in the Jamaican flag. 

Economic development and preservation of our heritage must be driven by common values and attitudes.  Any other way leaves room for corruption to strive, underdevelopment to prevail, and an absence of pride in our heritage. 

Published in the Gleaner

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