Corruption Hinders Development

Friday, May 19, 2017
FRIDAY, MAY 19TH, 2017 

- For Immediate Release- 
“Corruption is the enemy of development, and of good governance.  It must be got rid of.  Both the government and the people at large must come together to achieve this national objective.” ~Pratibha Patil  
The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has taken on the cause against corruption in the belief that the cost of corruption has become too great for our small, beloved country to bear.  Corruption continues to grow throughout the economy, enriching the few at the expense of the many, yet an ongoing shortage of political will continues to deny us the chance to halt the actions of the corrupt and give our small economy a chance to grow for the benefit of all.  
The Integrity Commission (“the Commission”) is established under the Prevention of Corruption Act, which was passed specifically to introduce measures to “prevent and combat corruption and corrupt activities”, and to introduce investigative measures and offences relating to corrupt activities.  The Commission’s egregious decision to forgo required filings by public officials beyond the past year is the latest example where corruption has triumphed.  In effect this decision has robbed Belizeans of their right, under law, to know fully whether their elected and appointed public officials have exercised proper stewardship of our assets without improper personal gain. There is in fact no identified limitation to the Commission's power to investigate retroactively.   The BCCI therefore calls on the Commission to reverse its last decision and mandate that all Members of the National Assembly and public officials comply with their statutory obligation to file returns, not just for 5 years, but commencing with the date when they assumed public office.     
On Wednesday, Belizeans listened appalled as political operatives deliberately disrupted the Senate Select Committee, denying us our right to know what happened in the scandal involving rampant corruption at the Immigration and Nationality Department in the issuance 
of Belizean passports and visas.  The relevant political party they serve, in its duty to the country that enables it to exist, must censure its operatives and visibly condemn their actions. In particular, one of those operatives identified by the media has an assigned responsibility to uphold the dignity of the National Assembly, and his behavior has instead demonstrated sheer disrespect for one of the most important symbols of our democracy. This requires action appropriate to the insult.  
If Belize is to break the shackles of corruption binding our beloved country and strangling its growth and development, every member of the public has a right to be informed of corruption where it occurs, and to demand action against it. Both the Integrity Commission and the Senate Select Committee are methods that allow us to gather that information, and we cannot allow either to be undermined. We as citizens also have an unwavering duty to remind our public officials that their duty is to serve without fear or favor, to follow the rule of law, and to exercise good governance and exemplary stewardship of our national resources.   
It appears that over the decades since our independence, our elected officials have forgotten that their duty is first to their country.  It is time that the people of Belize reminded them of their priorities.   
- End -  
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