Reports have shown that at the global level, corruption costs over three trillion dollars and while there isn’t any data on the cost for Belize, we know that its negative effects are vast and far reaching. The Organization of American States, OAS, have undertaken a huge mandate to curb corruption. In this regard, OAS and its member states have committed to fight corruption by adopting the Inter-American Convention against Corruption in March 1996. Since the adaptation, there have been certain measures put in place to ensure compliance by Member-States. Today’s seminar on “Democratic Governance against Corruption” is also an effort to establish the commitments agreed to under the Inter-American Convention against Corruption. Starret D Greene, the Organization of American States Representative in Belize explains.
Starret Greene – OAS Representative : “In this seminar, we are calling on the citizens to say you have to get involved. Where you see corruption you cannot turn a blind eye, you cannot be complacent, you have to be involved in doing what has to be done to stomp out, to minimize in some cases and where possible eradicate corruption. We have been calling on the one hand for open government: transparency, accountability, citizens participation and here in this seminar now we are calling for citizens to rise up and to be advocates, to say the wrongdoing must stop. The movements of funds from areas where it is needed to areas where it is not needed, that must stop. We are calling for equality, for inclusion and for the opportunity for all. Corruption robs people of the opportunity for upward mobility, this seminar is saying okay we must ensure that we have development in Belize that is sustainable, that is meaningful and that every citizen is given the opportunity to be apart of the development so that everyone can share equally.”
Representative from the civil society and the government were present at today’s seminar. Nikita Usher, the President of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, one of the presenters, spoke to Love News about the negative effects of corruption.
Nikita Usher – President of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “Corruption comes in several forms, I think the Minister used the point to say that all of us are engaged with it on a daily basis. He used a simple example when we go to work and we spend a half hour to talk with our friends and discuss what happened over the weekend is actually robbing the employer of a half hour of services that you should have been providing. The Minister made that point very clear but I think on a more larger scale, nepotism is one area. There is also the issue of bribes, there is also the issue that we call under the table but the one you asked about is more nepotism. What that does if you are employing people who are your friends or your families and you did not give equal opportunity to others to be employed then actually what you are doing is surrounding yourself with people that you would want to have and you might not be getting the collective agreement in terms of the discussions that you would want to have, does that person always support what you want as opposed to what it might be that you don’t want. That in itself shorts your country of employment opportunities but also short your country of the opportunity to have more people engaged in those types of discussions.”
Love News also spoke with Edilberto Romero, the Executive Director at Programme for Belize, about the drivers of corruption.
Edilberto Romero, the Executive Director at Programme for Belize: “Nepotism, greed, overall I think the values of our people are very important. I have seen in some cases our people have been moving away from the moral values that we are supposed to have. We are a nation that is established under the trust of God. If we try to start moving away from that, it is our moral compass. It becomes more difficult to determine if this is good or is this bad? It becomes what people start to call the grey line. It has reached the point that in crime, for example, we have people who don’t value the life of another person. It doesn’t matter how much you hate that person, life has value. It has to do with the moral values to start with so more people start to pay attention and love your moral values, stay faithful to the moral values, then you have integrity, you have honesty, then you won’t get into corruption activities. The Government has to make sure that it has legislation, it has to make sure it stays within the legislation, it has to make sure that it enforces the legislation. Everybody has a role in education, we need to educate people more about corruption and the impact of corruption.
The one-day seminar is being held at the Radisson Fort George and Marina.