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Govt must do more to wipe out corruption
South businessmen say the country’s decline in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) is a clear indication that more has to be done to address corruption issues. Figures released by T&T Transparency Institute on Tuesday showed T&T dropped from 80 to 83, tying with Jamaica and Guyana as the Caribbean’s sixth-ranked nation. Commenting on the decline, Greater Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce president Richie Sookhai was he was not too worried. He believes it was as a result of the hectic election year.
Sookhai, in a telephone interview on Tuesday said: “This is really a perceived index. “From what I have seen, the Government has shown that they are dealing with any allegations of corruption, for example the SNC-Lavalin issue. “You have to understand that the index will be higher (because) we had four elections in a year. I will expect rumours of corruption. I am not surprised by that index at all.” He said it was not that the Government was not dealing with corruption but just that it had more work to do.
“There was also a survey that said we are one of the happiest countries in the world,” he added. The Government was forced to cancel an arrangement with the Canadian Commercial Corporation, to allow SNC-Lavalin, a discredited Canadian firm, to construct the $1 billion Penal hospital.
San Fernando Business Association speaks
San Fernando Business Association president Daphne Bartlett said perception was greater than the truth. She said: “If the perception is that there is more corruption this year than the previous year, something is making people feel that checks and balances are not what they are supposed to be, for example, in recent times the issue with purchases of cars by senior government officials who are entitled to car allowances.”
She said whether or not the allegations were true, the perception was that the entitlement was being abused. She also recalled that under the last regime, because of the Calder Hart controversy, the perception of corruption was very high. Although the perception has improved since then, she said: “The various authorities should be putting measures in place to deal with that kind of perception, whether it is true or not.”
The Point Fortin/South Western Chamber president, Nigel Minors, expressed concern about the impact the rating would have on international investments. He said: “As business people our major concern is the lack of further international investments. “I am hoping that all the powers that be that have all the wherewithal will do so with dispatch so we will start to see an improvement instead of going further down (the CPI).”
Based on his experience on the international business front, he said: “We seriously need to get out of that perception... it is not where we want to be for a number of reasons.”
Penal/Debe Chamber of Commerce president Sahid Hosein was not surprised. He said: “That is hardly surprising because we have become a very corrupt society where people like to point fingers but we are missing the important point that regardless of who they are, they come from society... they are a product and result of society. “We don’t seem to understand by our attitude we are setting the seeds to destroy what we call T&T.”
Unfortunately, he said, the institutions that dealt with corruption were not up to the task because of staff and resource shortages. Regardless of which administration was in power, he said, corruption continued to thrive. People, he said, had to become serious and demand accountability.
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