Person refusing a bribe. Photo courtesy ListSurge.
~ International agency ranks island 50th out of 200 ~
KINGSTON, Jamaica--Public officials in Jamaica are less likely to demand a bribe than those in more than ten other regional states, despite several reports of politicians and government workers demanding money to push through some projects and documents.
That’s the finding of the 2019 Bribery Risk Matrix produced by TRACE International, a non-profit business association founded in 2001 to provide multinational companies and their commercial intermediaries with anti-bribery compliance support.
The 2019 Matrix measures bribery risks in 200 countries and ranks Jamaica second in the region at number 50, just below St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which is ranked at 49.
The other regional states listed are Dominica, which is ranked at 54; St. Lucia (61); St. Kitts and Nevis (63); Antigua and Barbuda (64); Barbados (66); Grenada (67); the Bahamas (81); the Dominican Republic (112); Trinidad and Tobago (115); Cuba (144); and Haiti (170).
While the Bribery Risk Matrix is often compared to the more well-known Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), there are a few fundamental differentiators underlined by TRACE officials.
They argue that the main difference between the TRACE Bribery Risk Matrix and other commonly used measures is that TRACE focuses on business bribery risk.
“Other indices of corruption risk tend to focus on general corruption issues, and they are often based on perceptions, either from experts or the general population. While there are limitations to all types of corruption measurements, purely perception-based measures can be inadequate indicators of business bribery risk,” argued Alexandra Wrage, TRACE’s president and founder.
“The difference lies primarily in the Matrix’s recognition of the role that governmental transparency, press freedom and a robust civil society play in reducing the likelihood of bribery.
“In all of these areas, Jamaica scores better than average. So while the country demonstrates an average expectation of bribery by world standards, it also shows the potential for holding those expectations in check,” Wrage told the Jamaica Observer.
She noted that the Matrix, which was first done in 2014, provides nuanced and multidimensional analysis of the root causes of bribery risk – such as levels of governmental transparency and freedom of the press.
The Matrix provides an overall risk score and risk scores in four domains deemed to be indicators of potential business bribery risk. These are business interactions with government; anti-bribery deterrence and enforcement; government and civil service transparency; and the capacity for civil society oversight.
When the Matrix was first developed, Jamaica was rated roughly average in terms of overall bribery risk.
Since the 2017 edition, Jamaica’s rank has held steady at approximately 50 out 200.
“That shift may reflect some degree of improvement in the country’s risk profile between 2016 and 2017, but it is likely also heavily influenced by methodological developments over the course of the first few years of the Matrix’s publication,” said Wrage.
According to Wrage, Jamaica’s favourable score is largely supported by the high quality of its governmental and financial transparency, as well as by the strength of its press freedoms and civil society institutions.
“The data underlying the Matrix indicate a steady improvement over the past decade with respect to corrupt governmental activity and the bribery-related expectations they foster.
“Jamaica has also gradually eased burdensome government regulation, which can allow corrupt public officials to take advantage of administrative inefficiency by coercing bribes. Jamaica is currently deemed average in both of these respects, giving it still considerable room for improvement,” added Wrage.
She pointed out that data from international agencies are used to compile the Matrix. These include the French institute for research into international economics CEPII Institutional Profiles Database, the World Bank Group Doing Business and Enterprise Surveys, the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index, the United Nations E-Government Development Index, and Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.
The findings of the Matrix should strengthen the argument of US Ambassador to Jamaica, Donald Tapia, who recently argued that it is incorrect to broadly label politicians on both sides of the political divide locally as corrupt.
“You cannot paint this government, or the past government, with a brush of corruption,” declared Tapia at a Rotary Club of Kingston luncheon.
“The word corruption is so misused, and we have certain individuals that we know who have been brought up on corruption charges; does that mean that the barrel is corrupt because you have one bad apple?” asked Tapia. ~ Jamaica Observer ~