Mass Corruption in Saint Vincent

Submitted by Nathan ‘Jolly’ Green

Firstly, what is corruption? Often, we use expressions or terms without having a clear understanding of their meaning or implications. In most dictionaries, corruption is described as dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.

Is corruption merely the reflection of a lack of integrity? I suppose it can be described as that, but it can also be described as a breach of Christian values, theft of decency and society led by corrupt officials using corrupt means to stay in power.

So where does election corruption come into the equation? In most countries, democratic elections have been assumed to play a crucial role in curbing corruption among public officials. Normally voters, due to their general distaste for corruption, are expected to sanction politicians who misuse public office for private gains. But not in Saint Vincent where a large proportion of the voters are more than willing to accept bribes to vote in favour of the Unity Labour Party [ULP].

Integrity is another term we often use but without realizing its implications. For instance, when the 2001 elections took place in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Mr Vincent Beach MP, said if we do not have integrity legislation within a hundred days, I will be gone. The ULP had championed integrity legislation before it came to office in 2001, saying while in opposition that it had a draft law. But once in power, it turned out that it was the last thing they wanted because it tied their hands.

Integrity is defined as: ‘honest’, ‘uprightness’, ‘soundness’, ‘completeness’, ‘wholeness’, ‘incorruptible’. Evangelist Billy Graham, said, ‘When we speak of integrity as a moral value, it means that a person is the same on the outside as he is inside. There is no discrepancy between what he says and what he acts, between his talk and his walk.’
But this moral model cannot be found in the current government of SVG.

February 24, 2009, in a historic moment in Parliament, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves seconded a motion raised by Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, bringing the motion on Integrity Legislation to the floor. That draft included the establishment of a Commission to oversee the execution of the legislation. It was recommended that this Commission include the Director of Audit and four other persons to be appointed by the Governor-General from among persons who could include retired judges, persons who have served as Director of Finance, Comptroller of Inland Revenue or in the position of Director of Audit.

Parliamentarians will declare their assets, liabilities, and income from every source to this Commission within three months of their election. They will then make a fresh submission by December 31 every year, while they serve in parliament.Eustace said that Commission must also have the power to report any illegal or suspicious findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

If a person fails to make the mandatory declaration, they should be reported to the parliamentary leaders, namely the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

Persons on the staff of the Commission are also going to be held to the strictest of confidence, and if they leak any of the information declared to the Commission, they can be fined or jailed for any unauthorized breach.

Dr Gonsalves obviously did not like the legislation at all, he raised questions about the demands of such legislation, saying that it could create difficulty in attracting persons to public office, who may find it difficult to submit themselves to that.

By 2016, the integrity legislation was still not gazetted and made law; it appeared to be abandoned. Gonsalves made a statement “The question is to enlarge those things and to go particularly for the matter of declaring assets and liabilities. And the difficulties with it, are you going to do it for ministers and not doing it for permanent secretaries?” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Legal Affairs. He said the difficulties that arise with the various integrity legislation drafts include senior public servants wanting exemption because they must submit not only their returns but also that of their spouse and children who live with them.

“They say, ‘Listen, I am not going to take on this burden. I am a permanent secretary, and my husband is a businessman. I have to do that?’’’ Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves said there is already a difficulty in getting people to serve as members of boards of directors of state companies. But we the Vincentian people know there is no difficulty in awarding such jobs to the boys, who are paid such huge fees they would have no cause to turn down such a position when offered. Legislation or no legislation they will take the jobs and take their salaries to the bank in wheelbarrows.

So, no integrity legislation, and what appears to be a licence for a free for all within the government departments to steal as much as possible as quickly as possible, just like before.

On Thursday, June 28th 2018, Gonsalves speaking in parliament said he has been in discussion both in CARICOM and OECS and would like countries to fashion integrity legislation more particular across the OECS where there are more significant similarities, and where the integration is tighter.

In July 2018 Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, leader of the ULP Government of St Vincent, told CARICOM that he wants to tackle integrity in public life from a CARICOM standpoint. “I would like us to have a model piece of legislation regionally to addresses matters in relation to quote and quote Integrity legislation”.

Most who have followed the situation in SVG will say Gonsalves spoke untruthfully when he made such statements; that he has no intention of introducing into law any integrity legislation. He dares to blame the NDP when he told parliament that the opposition is not serious on the issue and noted that an integrity commission was included in a proposed new constitution which they rejected. “The new constitution was far superior to what we have now, and there were no downsides in term of democracy and transparency. However, an opportunistic political position was taken by the opposition”.

So Gonsalves claims that because the NDP and most Vincentians rejected the new constitution, that is the reason we have no integrity legislation today.
Yet when you look at the elections, it is allegedly the ULP that is giving away before each election twenty million dollars plus in building materials in return for the recipients to vote ULP.

Corruption is a complex phenomenon, often deeply rooted in the cultural and political practices of societies. It has become so deep-rooted in Saint Vincent that it will take international help to break the cycle.

Although the precise costs of corruption are hard to quantify and vary significantly from country to country, research suggests that corruption is bad for economic and social development (e.g., Rothstein 2011). Corruption has been shown to have a detrimental effect on tax revenues (Pani 2010), investments and economic growth (Mauro 1995, Del Monte & Papagni 2001), equality and poverty (Chong & Calderon 2000, Gupta et al. 2002, You & Khagram 2005, Uslaner 2008), and overall subjective well-being and life satisfaction (Tay et al. 2014). Moreover, corruption is said to erode political trust and undermine political legitimacy in a variety of institutional settings (Della Porta 2000, Seligson 2002, Andersen & Tverdova 2003, Chang & Chu 2006).

In other words, the backwardness of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines can be directly attributed to the corruption brought not just to the ballot box but many different branches of the ULP government.

Remember all left-wing governments in the Americas and the Caribbean need to create a peasant class to keep them in power. Poor ignorant people who gladly accept bribery as the norm. But they often go hungry, no work, massive crime, murders, children with drug habits. The result will ultimately be a situation, just like Venezuela.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines already under the ULP have more people than ever before receiving money from the poor fund. The ULP is proud of that and brags that because there are more being paid from the poor fund, they must be doing a better job. But the truth is more peasants have been created under this government.

Time for a change, time for integrity and decency, time for the NDP.

24 thoughts on “Mass Corruption in Saint Vincent

  1. Most Caribbean countries have one thing in common, a reluctance to enact/operationalize/effectively oversee integrity legislation. It says so much about the lack of integrity of public officials AND the unwillingness by the people to hold elected officials accountable.

  2. One must ask, how many ports have the Chinese either seized in the Caribbean or were SOLD to them….we know they got Jamaica’s largest or second largest port, stupid under-educated leaders cause this every time…..there are rumors going around but no confirmations…how many of these dirty, corrupt lawyers/ministers sold out or lost the taxpayer paid ports so far outside of Jamaica..

  3. WELCOME TO THE BRAVE NEW CARIBBEAN WORLD outside of COLONIALISM, corruption reigns at all levels. This is what happens with incompetent governments trying to BAT ABOVE THEIR WEIGHT ARE IN charge. These countries are fast sliding into the TURD WORLD abyss, COVID 19 maybe the final nail in the coffin as they say. Time will tell and the story is not likely to be pretty over the next 20 years or so.

  4. “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” What a tale of woe. But have no fear. Laws and commandments were written from the dawn of history and Man has infringed them. May be the politicians know this and decide not to waste legal drafting resources.

    • The decline of caribbean society is not unique. There is a global design. People who try to compartmentalize our problems are being myopic.

  5. Very true David Bu.
    The commonality is man. But societies do not decline; they merely shift the narrative.We, the people ,accept these shifts because in our deeper consciousness we know that politicians merely articulate what we believe/accept. Corruption flourishes in all sections of our society and will continue to do so until the tipping point is reached. There is always a point in time when someone says ,”Enough is Enough”. Let us hope that it will not be too disruptive and accompanied by an avalanche of collateral damage.

    • @Vincent

      You describe it as a shift, the blogmaster suggests decline. We maybe splitting a hair. We all assess based on a measure to determine if good bad or different.

  6. @ David
    You have inadvertently answered the conundrum. For the most part, the shifts are never objectively good or bad. They are really indifferent.The narratives simply became dominant. Again we the people accept them subjectively as better. A new comfort zone.

  7. Correction .
    @ David I should have retained your terminology “different”. I stuck to the one I learned by rote, “indifferent”. But I am sire you got the message.

  8. @David

    “There is a global design.”

    Not clear exactly what your trying to say, speak up and be clear.

  9. @ David,
    Saint Vincent
    ” it is allegedly the ULP that is giving away before each election twenty million dollars plus in building materials in return for the recipients to vote ULP.”

    it is allegedly the ?LP that is giving away before each election millions of dollars plus in building contracts ( an corn beef an rum ) in return for the recipients to vote ?LP.

    A contagion of greed ?

    Buh doan mine me. I still spending my time watching music videos and playing guitar. Now almost good enough to play in a band. lol

  10. @VC
    I often find your explanations interesting. And thought provoking.
    I have been waiting for the ‘enough is enough’ day, but risk to say, it isn’t coming anytime soon.
    I fear you are correct that corruption has become the norm. I have no idea what a tipping point will be.
    The other day I was sent a “new business proposal, by some younger folks. I read it, and said, I “think” you may have the duty and tax payable too low. The reply, “you don’t worry, we have contacts, our projections are accurate”. On VAT, they tell me, “nobody remits the full amount”.
    You see, up front, they are planning to cheat the system. It has become endemic.

  11. @ Northern Observer at 11 :17 PM

    Thanks on two counts. It is encouraging to learn that at least some commenters are paying attention.
    Secondly, thanks for confirming that a significant number of businesses do not take seriously their responsibilities of collecting taxes,NIS contributions, and other funds on behalf of the GoB.

  12. NO.
    It is not new . An early member of the Lascelles family was a custom officer in the 18th century Barbados and ended up owning substantial properties in Barbados and the UK. Absentee plantation owners received less profits than their local attorneys and managers. So it is endemic.
    When will it end? That is a known unknown. Please stay tuned.

    • @Vincent

      Why would they if we have not practiced on supporting a culture of enforcing laws in almost every area of how we do business? Whether it is VAT, order in the mini/zr sector etc.

  13. @ David BU
    It is the lack of buy-in. The perpetrators’ interests and the interests of the society are not viewed as the same. It is driven by greed and/or high class “ignorance”. This will introduce the failed state prophesied by Willy and Hal.

    • @Vincent

      As you know Barbadians do not have the monopoly on greed and corruption. Hope flows eternal.

  14. @ Northern Observer

    It has become the norm for individuals and business owners not to fullfil their statutory obligations. I’ve known people who refuse to file income tax returns if they’re not entitled to a refund or if they have to pay taxes. Recently, ‘government’ wrote off outstanding/uncollectible income taxes from as far back as 1968.

    Inland Revenue/Barbados Revenue Authority has to take some blame for this situation as well.

    Sometimes even the politicians ‘get in on the act.’ Recall there was a query about a certain politician’s fee of $706,450, for providing legal services in respect of the $32M sale of a BIDC at Lot A1 Newton Business Park, Christ Church to Gildan Activewear Properties (BVI) Inc. in 2010. It was alleged the politician wrote a letter to the BIDC board in 2011, requesting the SOE to pay the VAT Division on his behalf, the VAT of $92,146 incurred on his legal fees.

  15. The issue with greed and corruption is that the wrong individuals and groups see the ‘Guvment’, to wit the Treasury as ‘them”, while the wrong individuals and groups see the Treasury as ‘ours”.

    When people do not pay taxes, yes, the Treasury suffers, but who is the Treasury really? It is the taxpayers.

    When a person says that they are not paying ‘them’, they actually are not paying their contracted amount, per legislation, into the pool with the other taxpayers. In that case they see the government as ‘them’. What they are really doing is not paying ús’.

    On the other hand, when, as some allege, I cannot confirm, that some may obtain more than their appropriate amount from the Treasury, they are taking not from some dark abyss, but from the group of taxpayers.

    The Treasury is seen as some abstract notion, rather than the taxpayers.

    That is really one issue. The other, as with any country, is that some do not really care and just want more than their fair share, at the expense of others. Happens all over the world.

    Corruption is a human curse. Yet, these same people, worldwide, will beat bibles on a Sunday, smile and shake hands at lunches and so on. Every skin teet aint a smile.

    On the positive side, their is a reckoning for corrupt people. The man made law is just a material law, the law of nature is much more serious. The man made law is necessary in any society seeking to be civilised. But the law of nature is irrevocable.

  16. DavidJune 15, 2020 7:37 AM The decline of caribbean society is not unique. There is a global design. People who try to compartmentalize our problems are being myopic.

    Astute per the global scenario, however needs clarification. While certain issues are caused by interferences and corrupt acts, globally, there is also an element of localisation of issues that an island or region can address, with the intent to better that region.

    But your point is nevertheless valid and there is a lot to discuss re the global scenario. There is much injustice committed in the last twenty years in the name of freedom and democracy, but possibly some may see some of these actions as giving rise to a demoncracy.

    However, same as with corruption, the law of nature does seek to balance and there is always a balancing measure. Mankind cannot defeat physics.

  17. @VC/Artax
    potentially society is unfolding as it should?
    Rules/laws were made to be broken. Some public body cannot be the referee, because all the refs are as involved as those they seek to adjudicate. And the private folks are doing the same.
    ‘The only difference between men and boys, is the price of their toys’

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