Fighting corruption would be a lot easier if it had at least a little sex appeal. After all, everyone loves a scandal. Look at the attention showered upon sex bully now failed movie producer Harvey Weinstein who made headlines for grabbing something else any time he could for years. Or the attention Prince Andrew received for the mere possibility that he engaged in sex with a 17-year-old girl as part of the sex, drugs and rock ’n roll lifestyle that landed Jeffrey Epstein in prison where he managed his final illegal act, hanging himself.
But corruption doesn’t offend the way miscreant sexual engagements do and yet, as both an individual and as a nation of individuals, it should infuriate us. We should be shouting from the rooftops, demanding full stop, end, kaput - or else.
If what Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said was even close to the truth, that corruption costs The Bahamas $500m a year, think what that $500m could buy – a few mini-hospitals, modern schools, pay raises for teachers, infrastructure projects that would mean jobs. It could even have fixed the BPL legacy debt mess and bought us renewable power.
That alone should motivate us. But here we were, in the middle of anti-corruption week, and what happened. A few people from ORG (Organization for Responsible Governance) showed up in the House of Assembly. Thank heavens for them and their determination to soldier on.
Barry Rassin, the most famous Bahamian Rotarian in the world, presided over a town hall meeting at St Andrews Kirk and was powerful in his message as everyone in the hall recognised they were singing to the choir. So, overall, a handful of people bothered to show they cared when every single one of us needs to.
Corruption exists where inefficiency prevails. As ORG’s executive director Matt Aubry said on a radio show this week: “If a fella has one hour to get his driver’s licence renewed and there’s a long line and the only way he can get it done on his lunch hour is to give someone a few dollars, what is he going to do – he weighs the few dollars against making his boss mad or possibly losing his job.”
But low-level leads to mid-level and mid to high-level corruption and in the end, nothing threatens democracy and a free capitalist economy more than corruption.
Look at Haiti. Need we say more? Once the jewel and envy of the Caribbean, Haiti was brought down by two successive corrupt governments, reduced to a land of poverty and a new title, no longer a jewel, but the poorest country in the region.
The only way to stop corruption is to stop participating in the game and to report it when we see it.
I heard a heartbreaking story of a man who recently had to get a work permit. The permit was $200. It cost him $2,000, most of which he had to borrow and will spend months repaying.
It may lack sex appeal. But in this week that is supposed to be eyes on corruption, let us get on with personal and corporate pledges and with the needed legislation – full passage and funding for four essential pieces of legislation that will serve as the cornerstone to curbing corruption - the Freedom of Information Act with an independent commissioner, the Integrity Bill, Ombudsman Bill and Procurement Bill.
Until those are enacted and accompanied by strong teeth in the regulations, we are only paying lip service to ending a culture of corruption. You choose, but remember to look at Haiti.
Rising from the ashes
The first person who declared recovery from Dorian a marathon not a sprint got it right. Recovery efforts from the worst storm in Bahamian history, a monster that tore through two islands leaving a path of death and destruction, was like nothing we had ever seen. But the resilience of those among the hardest hit has been just as awe-inspiring. Last week, with little fanfare a third hotel opened in Abaco, it was the 16-room Abaco Inn whose manager Tom Hazel said: “Our goal is to rise like a phoenix out of the ashes…”
Winding Bay re-opened. So did the Sandpiper Inn at Schooner Bay. Three hotels in Abaco re-opening the doors to jobs, guests and a future that will be part struggle and a whole lot of love.