EDITORIAL: Least corrupt status a source of pride
Given the prevailing cloud of economic uncertainty over this country, it was welcome news last week to hear that Barbados was among the least corrupt nations in the world.
Transparency International, which issued the report, is a credible organization and its ratings are accepted in much the same way as Standard & Poor’s or Moody’s reports on economic performance.
We would not be surprised if both of our main political parties, the ruling Democratic Labour Party and the opposition Barbados Labour Party latch onto this report and claim the positive rating is the result of their policies. The outcome in this instance must be a source of pride and encouragement for all Barbadians. While the measurements used by Transparency International were not disclosed, the rating can, therefore, evoke some sniggering on the part of those who have their doubts about its authenticity.
The Barbadian society is riddled with whispers of corruption, both in the public and private sectors. Many people point to the lifestyles of some citizens which bring into question their sources of funds. To counter the ever-present local cynicism there are obvious things which must be done to strengthen our position.
The promised Freedom of Information legislation must become a reality as it would lend to greater transparency. In Barbados senior public officers often withhold vital information, the release of which poses no threat to national security.
Credibility on the local front would also be enhanced by the enacting of legislation relating to the declaration of assets for people holding certain levels of public office.
To help eliminate the possibility of corruption, there should also be legislation relating to the establishment of an Office of Contractor General with the responsibility of reviewing all public tenders. We need not look further than Jamaica, where the role of this regulator seems to have met with a high level of success.
This issue of transparency does not relate only to the public sector but certainly to corporate Barbados also. One of the best ways to ensure this happens will be to place greater emphasis on corporate governance. This system by which corporations are directed and controlled must be observed. The several watchdog agencies and as well as auditors must not only be independent but must also be fearless in the execution of their roles.
The Transparency International reports on corruption must be used by this country to its best advantage as Barbados promotes itself as the ideal place to do business, to enjoy leisure or to live. Barbados must still aim higher in the areas of transparency and good governance if it wants to maintain its rating as the least corrupt country in the Caribbean.
Our natural pride in such an estimation must be partnered by a confidence inspired by clear everyday evidence of the requisite safeguards.