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‘Singapore Of Americas’ If We Root Out Corruption

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Robert Myers

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas can become “the Singapore of the Americas” if it rids itself of corruption, poor governance and lack of vision, a prominent reform campaigner argued yesterday.

Robert Myers, the Organisation for Responsible Governance’s (ORG) principal, told Tribune Business that the Bahamian economy would “be on fire” if it were not for such flaws that deterred investors and cost taxpayers millions of dollars annually.

Speaking following The Bahamas’ recent one-place slippage to its lowest ever ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Mr Myers said a “mentality and culture” change was needed to eliminate graft, waste and inefficiency that costs this nation “hundreds of millions of dollars” on an annual basis.

Revealing that ORG is preparing to imminently launch a National Integrity Campaign, designed to drive home to the Bahamian people how much corruption costs them personally, he said such incidents ranged from buying a civil servant lunch to “jump the queue” to outright stealing and fraud.

He added that such graft had resulted in VAT’s implementation, and its subsequent rate increase to 12 percent, as the government had to “pay for its inefficiency and waste” by increasingly taxing the Bahamian people and businesses.

Mr Myers said it was “honest taxpayers” who were being forced to bear this growing burden as he repeated calls for the government to “put its own house in order” before turning to the private sector for more money, likening tax increases to “pouring water into a bucket with holes”.

But, should The Bahamas solve these problems, Mr Myers said the rewards will be felt financially by all Bahamians and residents. Failure, though, would result in the country falling further behind “in a day and age when the world won’t tolerate such behaviour”.

Calling on the Government to drive the needed change, the ORG principal said The Bahamas’ decline in Transparency International’s latest index - albeit to a still-high ranking of 29th - showed that other countries were likely improving at a faster rate than this nation.

“Other people are improving with greater leaps,” Mr Myers told Tribune Business. “A lot more needs to be done to solidify and improve our position through passage of the Integrity Commission Bill, implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and other anti-corruption measures.

“The Government needs to drive these things, the culture and the policy, and it’s not,” he added, pointing to the Government’s reluctance to release feedback on its proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme. “Transparency is not in the culture of this government and any other government.

“The culture has to change. The Government needs to work for us, and people need to know what is going on. When it doesn’t it leaves open the opportunity for corruption, malfeasance, collusion, manipulation - all kinds of stuff.”

Mr Myers said The Bahamas needed to focus on where the likes of New Zealand and Singapore stood in Transparency International’s rankings, and aspire to achieve a similar ranking near-top.

“I said to somebody the other day: With our proximity to the US, our economy should be on fire,” he told Tribune Business. “If we get these things figured out, we should be no different to Singapore in Asia. We should be the Singapore of the Americas.

“It’s poor governance, vision and lack of action that causes that. There’s no reason why we can’t change, resolve it, and become more responsive and collaborative in government. It’s a matter of changing the culture and mentality of government and the people, and if that happens we can be the Singapore of the Americas.

“If we don’t act we get left behind, as the rest of the world will not put up with that behaviour in this day and age.”

Mr Myers confirmed that ORG’s Integrity Campaign, which will be launched with the collaboration and support of other groups, aims to “sensitise the public and the Government to what corruption means to them” and the need for greater accountability/transparency.

“Corruption is buying a public servant lunch,” he explained. “How does that impact the general population? If they’re not getting that they’re not doing their work. That’s costly for the majority: Their file doesn’t get seen. It causes people a tremendous amount of frustration and they go elsewhere.

“Then there’s the outright corruption and stealing. Then there’s the perception and reputation. When you add all that together, companies in the US cannot entertain that so The Bahamas gets overlooked. There’s just too much mess going in, and that precludes them from even bothering to try.”

The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), with its extraterritorial reach, heavy fines and jail sentences, is intended as a major deterrent to American companies paying bribes to foreign officials to win bids as a contract. As a result, Mr Myers said some top-notch investors may not come to The Bahamas due to perceptions about the level of corruption.

“It costs them [the Bahamian people] from zero VAT to 7.5 percent VAT to 12 percent VAT,” he added of the effects of corruption, waste and inefficiency. “You’re not getting more services for that money. All you’re doing is paying for inefficiency, as the previous amount of money is no longer capable of running the country.

“All that corruption is going into inefficiency, deficits and debt, and trying to balance the budget and pay back the debt. We’re paying for these sins. The taxpayer is paying it and there is absolutely no net value to the public.”

Pointing to NHI as an example, Mr Myers said the Government was “grabbing more money from the private sector and working class because they can’t fix their own problems”. Bahamian healthcare professionals have repeatedly urged that the public health system’s weaknesses be fixed before launching NHI, with Dr Glen Beneby, the former chief medical officer, admitting that around $100m - some 25 percent of the Government’s annual health spend - is lost to waste and inefficiency.

Calling on the Government to address such leakage, Mr Myers added: “Nobody is making anyone accountable. The money is there; we’ve just got to clean up that mess and get it out of the hands of people wasting and stealing it.

“Corruption ends up costing you. You end up paying more in taxes. If someone else is cheating on Customs duty, VAT, real property tax and Business Licence, they have to come to honest people to make it up. The honest people’s taxes go up if they don’t stop that. Corruption in this country has got to be in the hundreds of millions if you add it together with inefficiency and waste.”

Mr Myers said addressing this, and creating greater accountability, would make The Bahamas a more attractive investment destination for both local and foreign investors, while also boosting private sector confidence.

“Nobody can argue about the fact it exists unless they’re completely ignorant,” he told Tribune Business of corruption. “We have to do our jobs, and that means the public sector management, Bahamians and government have to deal with it get rid of it.

“My position has always been: Clean up your house and then come back to us for more money. Don’t get more money to put into a bucket with holes. That’s insanity. When you increase taxes it’s like putting water into a bucket with holes thinking you’re going to do some good.”

Comments

SP 2 months, 1 week ago

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Conjecture with many words again and no tangible solution. All we do here is talk, talk, talk about Singapore this and Singapore that. Has anyone ever tried following the Singapore model here?

The real bottom line is, the Bahamas can never clean up corruption as long as the PLP and or FNM are in governance. full stop!

We need a third party with no PLP and FNM affiliations to tackle corruption from the top down in both parties. Otherwise, nothing can possibly happen.

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momoyama 2 months, 1 week ago

The Bahamas is 29th least corrupt country on earth. This is EVEN AFTER the most corrupt government we have ever had has been carrying on 2 solid years of antics. It is the least corrupt caribbean country after Barbados and well ahead of many developed countries.

What this moron is taking away from this report bears zero resemblance to reality.

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momoyama 2 months, 1 week ago

what this clown and others like him need to explain is why they are not paying their fair share of our tax burden through a tax on personal and corporate income, like almost every other country on the planet. And NO, the VAT was not introduced and increased to 12 percent because of corruption (in the 29th least corrupt country out of 180), but because our government listens to clowns like this and continues to exempt the wealthy from income taxes and instead shift the burden for running our country (with a paltry 17% of GDP in taxes) onto the poor and middle class.

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TheMadHatter 2 months, 1 week ago

No, it is the many here with your attitude that cause the Bahamas to sink further into the abyss. Why someone of the high calibre of Mr. Myers remains in this country is beyond me.

He is like a bright shiny unicorn wallowing in a pig stye. Instead he could take his wings and fly high over the rainbow. Someday he will after he realizes that the majority in this country don't even want solutions handed to them on a silver platter.

Beer, chicken, and music once every 5 years is all they want. It's all they need. Fun to breed and smoke some weed.

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momoyama 2 months, 1 week ago

Your moniker fits you. My favourite Lewis Carroll character. It would be nice if you waded into the calm waters of reality every now and again, though. It would be nice if you could address matters like statistics intelligently rather than running on with nonsense. As for this hero of yours, he just needs to stop evading taxes and spare us his utterly ignorant forays into matters beyond his understanding.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 1 week ago

Dream on. Unchecked Haitian invasion alone will see to it that our country continues its downward spiral. And the blame for that must rightfully be shouldered by Dimwitted Minnis and our all too wealthy and most incompetent Minister of Immigration, Brent Symonette. LMAO

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licks2 2 months, 1 week ago

The parite want to tell ya how to avoid shipping by air because how much it costs. Oh yea. . .when we opt to ship by sea. . .because of the projected costs. . .the booty comes home to papa!! The business community. . .especially the white community are the causes of high cost of living in this nation. . .them "tariff gougers" . . . place their profits approximately 75% increase above government "poking out we eye" tariff. . .by the time them finish "joking we up"". . .an economy car for $10, 000 right across the border is going for $50, 000 here!! By the time you pay government they share. . .that car cost about $15, 000

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momoyama 2 months, 1 week ago

I wonder, Mr. Myers, can you please name a country with a higher level of foreign direct investment per capita than the Bahamas?............I am waiting. Dummy

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TheMadHatter 2 months, 1 week ago

Wow. You really are happy with the status quo. Amazing. The best slave is one who believes he is free.

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hrysippus 2 months, 1 week ago

Hey, Soloyama, to answer your question; Bermuda, Turks & Caicos, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Cayman Islands, Lichtenstein, Antigua, shall I go on?

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Economist 2 months, 1 week ago

Luxembourg has the greatest amount of FDI based on GDP. The Bahamas is 155 out of 181 countries.

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TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago

Yes, or no ma comrade Robert, the starting point is for the speedy investigation arrest, trial - all upon conviction attract a minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment. Yes, no - appeal it and you wait out your appeal period from inside prison cell behind walls Her Majesty's Fox Hill's Slop Bucket Motel. Yes, no - charged 'current' government officials jailed and remain jail immediately upon/following arrest.

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 1 week ago

That ship has sailed ............ Pindling made sure of that after 1973 ......... Nation For Sale

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bogart 2 months, 1 week ago

CORRUPTION...CORRUPTION..........obstable...to going forward.....an repeated...talk ...talk....talk.....talk...slick..slick....slunk....slunk...yadda....yadda...talk...all jus....NO EFFORTS.... doing is ....bacteria encouraging...increasing corruption cause there is NO EFFORTS.... to stop corruption....no results....plenty talk an no action encouraging corruption....won rotten apples in da barrel....

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 1 week ago

Here's the really big picture most of you have great difficulty seeing:

300,000 Bahamians living in a country that year after year sells or gives away Crown Land and other government owned landholdings to the select lucky few, whether they be Bahamians or foreigners who are somehow connected to our corrupt senior government officials. If even a relatively small portion of the prime acreage of The Bahamas that has so far been sold or given away to the lucky few had been divvied up amongst all Bahamians, we would all be multi-millionaires today. LMAO

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akbar 2 months, 1 week ago

Singapore has had a one party system for many decades. So when they formed a national plan there was no review and stop with different political parties taking the helm. Also Singapore is high on the list of human rights abuses and the government controls the media. We only witnessing the outward success . Penalties are harsh for corruption. Singaporeans are not less corrupt they have been indoctrinated and fear death and lashes. Are we willing to give up our democracy for financial success? So before you go touting all the benefits of being like Singapore please state all the facts.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 1 week ago

But the Bahamian people want harsh penalties for corruption....this is why they elected Dimwitted Minnis! LMAO

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akbar 2 months, 1 week ago

We all want the priveleges of living in a so called free society but not bear the burdens of responsibility.

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akbar 2 months, 1 week ago

If we were to be like Singapore more than half of these "expatriate experts" with their questionable practices would have have been flogged and exited out of this country. Be careful what you wish for.

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 1 week ago

Different races ......... different cultures ............. different mindsets

Why can't we be the best little black archipelagic nation??????

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Bonefishpete 2 months, 1 week ago

Don't they cane you in Singapore for littering? Just saying

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TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago

Yes or no - there is unified shill comradery amongst Colony of Out Islands Imperial Red Comrade PM and his bending over obedient curry favour crown members and House MP's carrying each others growing thicker by day buckets of dirty waters. Yes, no they holds red hatred members Queen's official opposition, PeoplePublic's criticisms, reporters questions, being called out to answer to so many lies and bad decisions.

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DDK 2 months, 1 week ago

Your are completely right, Mr. Myers, but this Government, for the most part, like its recent predecessors, has neither the ability nor the will to set the Country straight.

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akbar 2 months, 1 week ago

I agree but we as citizens cannot absolve ourselves of the problem of corruption only resting the blame on the "government" after all in this democracy it is a government of the people. The citizens need to have the will also. At present we all lack the will.

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akbar 2 months, 1 week ago

We all are part of the problem of corruption.

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TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago

Ma comrades, despite governing officials and workers making it tempting for PeoplePublic not want to slip a $20 here and there, don't make mistake of labeling majority as being part of the corruption when the vast most go abouts their daily personal and business tasks, never contributing towards the corrupting Colony of Out Islands, yes no?

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banker 2 months ago

The numerous problems in the Bahamas are unfixable. The country has had zero investment in its people. Education is sub-standard. Poverty is rife. Corruption is at every step of life in the Bahamas (you can pay for anything from a vehicle licence to going to the top of the line at the passport office). The middle class was never really a middle class because they were all unionised service industry jobs with the exception of a small number of financial services jobs. Our economy is like a brick -- tourism with an old product. With old products, you have to spend more and more to get a smaller amount of returns. What Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore did, was to force the multinationals to participate, reside and re-invest in the local economy. Most of the business profits in the Bahamas get repatriated elsewhere. The answers are simple. The implementation is hard. Not a single leader since independence believes enough in every Bahamian to invest in them and their future. I can relate to what Dr. David Allen says about kids growing up in the Bahamas. They know that they are getting a sh*tty education. They know that there are no real good jobs out there unless they leave to get educated. They know that they are children of a lesser God. They are the raw material of a future prosperous Bahamas and they are not being prepared for the task. There is no hope unless we get a benevolent dictator who will do something for the country instead of appeasing the unenlightened status quo masses or lining the pockets of the political elite. The biggest rectum orifices in the Bahamas are those who still support the PLP who have let Bahamians down miserably and are the root cause of our current problems.

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