To the independents who voted for the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) last election, it is evident that it has retreated from its promise to make enactment of transparency legislation a priority. Of equal concern to BU has been the reluctance by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to pressure the government to honour its promise. Civil society should be concerned that the BLP – the government in waiting – is committed to following through on proclaiming transparency legislation. There will be the obvious argument that the 2011 perception index released by Transparency International, Barbados achieved the highest ranking in the region of 7.8 out of 10. Perhaps the two political parties might suggest in light of the #16 ranking out of 183 countries, anti corruption legislation is not a priority. Such responses can be dismissed by asking – why did both political parties see the need to include it as a deliverable in their last manifestos?
Listed on the Corruption Index for 2011 are the USA at 7.1 and India 3.1. Although at opposite ends of the index these two countries are regarded as economic power houses on the global stage. More interestingly, the two are regarded as the two biggest democracies in the world. To acquire government approval in India for the most mundane request one must overcome an institutionalized system of corruption. Last week two angry Indian farmers acted out their frustration by dumping two dozen snakes in a government tax office. It is interesting that in India the fight against corruption in government has tossed up Anna Hazare. His charismatic leadership has attracted millions of Indians to the movement which has forced the government to prioritized its anti-corruption policymaking agenda. It seems India deserves its rating of 3.1.
In the United States – the other large democracy – we have a system which encourages lobbying and campaign donations to political candidates, political parties and government. Such a system is legal in the USA and the influence which lobbyists and campaign donors have on decision making by the US government is widely known and accepted. Although the Occupy Wall Street movement does not have an Anna Hazare, it represents John Citizens expressing disgust at the institutionalized corruption in the US government which is legal. Bear in mind the USA received a rating of 7.1 and is ranked #24. Connect the dots if you will!
In Barbados we need to establish homegrown standards to manage transparency. Whether the focus should be on the public sector or a mixed of public and private, we need to do it. Maybe corruption is not as blatant as it is in other countries but the average Barbadian knows how things get done in Barbados, it can best be described as covert. We should not become smug by the ranking of #16 which some may argue suggests contrivance.
One of the biggest disappointments at the call for transparency legislation in Barbados to be enacted is that it has come mainly from the Fifth Estate.