The COVID-19 pandemic derailed Barbados’ efforts to tackle corruption, Attorney-General Dale Marshall said earlier this week.
He was speaking as one of the panelists of the virtual Commonwealth Caribbean Associations of Integrity Commissioners & Anti-Corruption Bodies conference on Wednesday.
Marshall said the groundwork was laid and the funding identified, but the island had to divert all of its resources to keep the country afloat at a time when Government was on the cusp of establishing an Integrity in Public Life Commission, a special agency to fight corruption.
“The resources that we would have made available to establish those agencies, to staff them independently and completely are now having to be diverted to ensure that we have ventilators [and that] those people who have been thrown on the unemployment line have food.
“Our current experiences are that we have had about 45 000 Barbadians applying to the National Insurance Scheme for unemployment benefits and our unemployment rate has now skyrocketed from just over 10 to 30 per cent,” he stated.
The Attorney General continued: “We have put a lot of groundwork into putting a modern framework to fight corruption and determining that we need new agencies. [We] provided funding in our current estimates for the establishment of all of those agencies but now we are faced with a choice; do we focus on the bread and butter issues in keeping Barbados afloat, or, do we take some of those resources and dedicate them towards the fight against corruption. It is an impossible choice but that is the problem with being in government, we have to make impossible decisions.”
Marshall said confronting money laundering was also important. He said that for every act of corruption, there would be an act of money laundering and used the opportunity to remind the panel that Barbados had “made its way on to the European Union’s (EU) blacklist” in relation to its fight against money laundering.
He revealed that the total volume of Barbados’ money is about 0.000001 per cent of the total amount of monies that is moving throughout the world.
“Therefore, to be on a blacklist and to be considered a country that poses a great risk to the EU financial market is rather fanciful. But we still have to deal with how to get off the EU blacklist and we are not going to be able to get off unless we adequately address the issue of money laundering. [In fact] any serious attempt to address the issue of money laundering must be completely married to how we deal with the fight against corruption,” he maintained.
The Attorney General gave the undertaking that Barbados would reorient its economy in such a way that transparency is at the center since this is vital to rooting out corruption. He also pledged to enact a modern and legislative framework to achieving the desired result. (BGIS)