Narcotics-related corruption, arms trafficking, money-laundering and financial crime constitute a growing threat to the Caribbean, says TI report into eight island-states
Legislative reform to ensure "greater transparency and accountability in political parties and in the public sector" is an urgent requirement for strengthening national integrity systems in the Caribbean, argues Professor Trevor Munroe, author of a new report published today by Transparency International (TI), the leading global non-governmental organisation devoted to combating corruption.
The National Integrity Systems TI Caribbean Composite Study 2004 examines the national integrity systems of eight island-states of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), namely Antigua-Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. This Caribbean composite report follows a study of Jamaica authored by Professor Munroe and published by TI in August 2004.
"Narcotics-related corruption and associated arms trafficking, money-laundering and financial crime constitute a growing threat in the region," said Dr Monroe. "Political corruption in the context of ineffective procurement systems, completely unregulated political parties and 'winner-takes-all' majoritarianism, seriously undermines the quality of democratic governance," he continued.
Nevertheless, the author, Professor of Government and Politics at the University of The West Indies and a government Senator in Jamaica's Parliament, praised the efforts of some of these micro-states to cope with these daunting challenges and acknowledged that as a sub-set of the region their democratic systems performed very creditably compared with other Latin American and Caribbean states.
He noted that the Caribbean states remain distinctive in the extent of stable party governance, the frequency of free and fair elections, the normal exchange of power when oppositions accede to office by constitutional means and in the absence of one-party dictatorship, police-military rule, civil war and political assassinations.
In this context, the study draws attention to the fact that this creditable record is under severe stress from a global economic environment insufficiently sensitive to the special needs and vulnerabilities of small island-states. According to Dr Munroe, limited resource availability inhibits the ability of these micro-states to build institutional capacity in critical areas of their national integrity systems, for example the offices of the Auditor General and the Director of Public Prosecutions. Dr Munroe stressed, however, that these states preserve substantial democratic assets in a number of areas. He cited the vibrant, "free and independent media". Very often, he said, "it is the media, for instance in St Lucia in 1995, that exposes acts of alleged corruption which leads to government action in the establishment of Commissions of Inquiry". Another asset of the Caribbean states was "effective superior courts, evident in court rulings against the Executive in St Lucia, Barbados, the Bahamas and Grenada".
"A civil society with latent anti-corruption potential is another important asset. For instance, in Antigua-Barbuda, the mobilisation of a coalition of non-governmental organizations led to the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into corruption and the prosecution on corruption charges of high officials, including government ministers."
Moreover, domestic and international concern with financial crimes has resulted most recently in the adoption by some states (notably, the Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis and St Vincent) of more stringent regimes against money-laundering. As a consequence, they have been removed from the OECD Financial Action Task Force's list of non-cooperating countries.
Against this background, the National Integrity Systems TI Caribbean Composite Study 2004 makes a number of recommendations, including a call for "a new quality of activism among donor countries and in the donor community to ensure a less hostile external economic environment and the channelling of substantially increased resources to help reduce economic vulnerability and support urgently needed internal reforms".
The report also recommends political and constitutional reform to reduce the degree of 'personal Prime Ministerial government', to strengthen checks and balances within the state and to empower civil society. In this respect, the Gonsalves administration in St Vincent and the Grenadines has been particularly systematic and comprehensive in advancing this process in recent years.
As well as the need to build institutional capacity in critical institutions such as the Auditor General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the financial crimes unit and the magistracy, the report cites the need for "effective public education against corruption with a view to strengthening popular perceptions of the harmfulness of petty corruption and the need for more effective public engagement in raising levels of national integrity".
The report, which included completed questionnaires on each of the eight states and involved collaboration with a team of researchers based at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, was made possible with the funding of the UK government's Department for International Development. Professor Munroe's study benefited from interviews with a number of Caribbean Prime Ministers, and a wide range of top officials and prominent personalities in the public, private and civil society sectors of the states involved. The National Integrity Systems TI Caribbean Composite Study 2004 is the latest in a series of TI country study reports on national integrity systems.
The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Reports can be downloaded at: www.transparency.org
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Prof Trevor Munroe (Jamaica)
Tel: +1 876 9774476
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