‘Corruption’ – it is a word that is commonly heard especially in the political and public service arenas. As hundreds of businesses prepared to be a part of the Belize Marketing Expo on Saturday morning, the official opening ceremony was nothing short of amusing. The President of the Belize Chamber of Commerce, Nikita Usher, gave punches at the Government, speaking on monies not wisely spent and how that translates to corruption.
Nikita Usher, President, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “If we could only strike the right, hit the right chord of collaboration, develop a common vision for a prosperous Belize and adopt the relentless aversion of corruption in all its forms our story of a nation would be far more promising and our place among the nations of regions more secure. However we struggle in many fronts especially the overweight of corruption. Almost three years ago after signing the UNCAC we have yet to make any meaningful progress in enacting legislation to contain corruption, and it keeps getting bigger. We know it’s not an easy nor a short journey, we know several changes in government and the mindset of the citizenry must take place to achieve the level of success in weakening corruption. We believe it is possible if only there was the political will to do so. Last year you would recall that I said the miasma of corruption pervading our shores and stroking the arteries of the private sector, it is still the same case today. Last year recent a vibrant private sector transformed the socio economic landscape of a nation through capital investment, job creation and efficient production and supply of goods and services today. Today it is still the same case.”
In the audience at the opening, was Deputy Prime Minister, Patrick Faber. Usher’s message did not fall on deaf ears as Faber responded with the proverbial message, advising Usher to take the beam out of his eye.
Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister: “As he came down I said to him that while I couldn’t argue much with what he said he missed a grand opportunity because corruption of course is more than just government corruption. In fact a lot of the corruption that happens in our economy happens because of the business people and I said to him ‘you know president I thought you missed that opportunity to say as well to the business community that is listening as well, the private sector that they ought to be encouraged to practice good legal practices as well. We know how many business people for instance are evading paying their taxes, they try to find all kind of ways to avoid giving the government what it’s due and it’s not only taxation there are other areas of course where we are selling Belizeans some products that are not of the best quality, we are buying substandard products so there is a lot and they take advantage of the fact that the Bureau of Standards and other government agencies aren’t as well equipped to police the system so there is a lot of corruption taking place even in the private sector and it is the responsibility of the chamber to point out where it is that we can fix these things in the public service but don’t miss that opportunity was what my message was to him. To also point out what is wrong in the private sector because if we’re to fix the issue of corruption it has to be widespread. And I take this opportunity to say to the wider Belizean people as well you know when we hear corruption, and I know there are a series of commercials on the television right now speaking to corruption, when people hear corruption they immediately think about politicians, they think about government but there are those people who engage in corruption are widespread and in fact when they accuse the political and the government leaders of corruption it’s quite often as a result of the people wanting to see such corruption. I’ll give you a simple example, people wanting to go into the Freezone, people wanting a politician or someone from the City Council to erase their parking tickets, people not wanting to pay their property taxes, they try to find creative ways, they try to dodge, all of this is corruption and so if what the president was calling for this morning is true and ought to be realized then it needs to be everybody’s business to stomp out corruption, everybody must examine their own selves the government included I’m not taking the government off the hook in that regard but everyone must do their part to eliminate corruption.”