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 Bahamas Commentary

2004-04-28 08:51:21

Bureaucracy And Corruption

While we have heard the argument that corruption is endemic in The Bahamas and that it cannot be eradicated, we beg to differ.

Our view is that when corruption is allowed to seep into every corner and crevice of society, it affects and distorts the life chances and prospects of decent law abiding citizens. For example, when crooked politicians and corrupt public officers conspire to pervert the system by soliciting and accepting corruption rents, they bid up the cost of doing business.

More generally speaking, they have a socially corrosive impact on all aspects of community life and on the rule of law. The same kind of thing happens when crooked employees bilk their employers of time or pilfer goods. This is not only bad for business, but is also a key factor in the undermining of social trust.

Once the word gets going that certain categories of workers are 'on the take', people who 'pay to play' get preferential treatment. In other words, certain categories of crooks get to supplement their income at public expense. Indeed, this line of reasoning leads to the conclusion that crime does pay in The Bahamas.

Perversely and by the same logic, it follows that decent law-abiding people are shut out of certain markets. When the crooked politician or corrupted public sector worker is permitted free rein to tax the public for services, the decent law abiding citizen is obliged to pay twice, first for the services or goods he needs and second for the illegal benefit someone else receives.

The time has come for Bahamians and the leaders they choose, to rededicate themselves to making The Bahamas a place where social trust, decency and honesty pervade all aspects of social life.

This implies that they should rededicate themselves to both the spirit and letter of the law. Of more immediate concern, Prime Minister the Hon. Perry G. Christie should make it his business to find out whether whispered complaints concerning corruption in the uniformed branches of the public service are true or not.

There seems to be a symbiotic connection between the growth of bureaucracy and the expansion of corruption in The Bahamas. There is a mass of evidence - albeit anecdotal - to suggest that there are many Bahamians whose opulent life styles are directly linked to the corruption rents they collect. In the absence of income tax laws which would oblige Bahamians to disclose the extent of their income, there is little chance to force them to account for the money spent.

As past experience with public revelations of wrongdoing so eloquently attests, there are any number of politicians and public sector workers who would, at the first opportunity, put their palms forward in order to have them greased. In this regard, disturbing reports reaching us speak of corruption in the ranks of the uniform brands of government. The whispered suggestion is that certain high officials are on the receiving end of corruption rents.

Even now, a number of people still remember how hundreds of Cuban detainees were illegally spirited out of The Bahamas. Again, the whispered word is that hundreds of thousands of dollars changed hands. When the information was disclosed that the Cubans had disappeared - as it were into thin air - there was an immediate brouhaha and flurry of outrage. But soon thereafter, things returned to their normal groove.

One explanation for this sad state of affairs is the public's general acceptance of sleaze, corruption and underhanded tactics. There is, in instance after instance of revelation of corruption and wrongdoing, an immediate outrage. However, this never lasts long.

In a country where practically everybody is trying to 'get over', it is hardly surprising when scams, schemes and get-rich projects surface and crooks are unmasked. For quite some time now, there has been a pervasive stream of reports suggesting that Immigration, Customs, Police and Defence Force officers have corrupted themselves by being 'on the take'. While some of these reports are, for sure, little more than rabid scandal-mongering, there is a disturbing residue of information suggesting that this corruption is real, that it is deep and that its tentacles reach into the highest echelons of this society.

Editorial, The Bahama Journal 

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