Corruption! Few things leave us with a more bitter taste in the mouth than corruption. Political corruption exists when elected government officials abuse their public power or resources for personal gain. A particularly vile manifestation of political corruption is nepotism. Nepotism is the act of using political power or influence to get jobs or unfair advantages for members of your own family even though they may not necessarily qualify for such jobs or benefits.
Corruption in any of its forms is a direct threat to sustainable economic development. It causes destabilization of our society and endangers the rule of law. It compromises our ethical values and our sense of justice. When nepotism gives an unfair advantage to someone who is not the most qualified for the position, this undermines the common good. When Nepotism causes jobs or scholarly opportunities to be given based on connections rather than merit, credentials or experience then the service that the person provides to the public may be inferior. The presence of nepotism diminishes morale in the government service because advancement is not seen to come on the basis of hard work and accomplishment, but is based instead on kinship. The public faith in the integrity of the government becomes eroded.
Perhaps one of the most notorious cases of nepotism is Honourable Gaspar Vega’s claim that he and his family were “not normal people in Belize” and that they “work much harder than a lot of other people.” His justification as to why, as the then Minister of Lands, he gave away hundreds of acres of land to his family members. Infamy is not Gapy’s alone…who can forget the scandal that befell the Ministry of Health in March 2014 when Danini Contreras was hired? Ms. Contreras was then only the daughter of Minister Erwin Contreras. She is now also the wife of Hon Pablo Marin, Minister of Health. The Pharmacist Association of Belize contended in 2014 that the post of Director of Drug Inspectorate was created specifically for Mrs. Marin and was not advertised: therefore, more experienced, more qualified candidates were denied fair and equal opportunity to apply.
This brings us to another of the problems that nepotism creates. Supervisors are rarely able to give objective appraisals or feedback on performance to subordinates who hold relationships with them. It becomes a clear conflict of interest when your husband or wife or daddy is your boss and is tasked with assessment of your performance at work. A happy wife…makes for a happy life! Let us not forget that in 2010 Anwar Barrow was appointed to the BTL board by his father Prime Minister Dean Borrow. At the time his mother SC Lois Young was Corporate Secretary of the BTL Board of Directors.
Nepotism like other forms of corruption are difficult to eradicate. Before some of you break out your special corruption machete, you know the one sharpened on both sides? There are more concrete ways in which to mitigate the problem of corruption. There must be increases in levels of civil participation to ensure political transparency and democracy. There must be real efforts to decrease poverty and increase levels of education and access to information and the internet. There must be full disclosure of financial information of government officials and public officers in regards to income sources, liabilities, as well as assets.
International agencies such as The World Bank and Transparency International help to measure levels of corruption and recommend policies in order to stamp it out. Belize signed on to UNCAC on December 12th 2016 but to date beyond a few workshops this UDP Government has made no significant effort to implement this anti-corruption mechanism. Far from wanting to rid Belize of the stench of corruption this UDP government seems intent on hiding all the different ways that they have managed to perfect it. No matter, the truth always comes to light and Belizeans will stamp out corruption on Election Day!