KINGSTON — Minister of Finance, Hon. Audley Shaw, says the administration continues to embark on a number of transparency and anti-corruption measures to enhance accountability in government.
The Minister, who was addressing the launch of the Business Ethics Programme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) today (Sept. 14) at the Wyndham Hotel in New Kingston, cited the establishment of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), the impressive work of the Office of the Contractor General, and moves to promulgate the Special Prosecutor Bill in Parliament, as evidence of the work being done in this regard.
He also mentioned the passage of landmark legislation in Parliament just over a year ago, establishing a new fiscal responsibility framework, which requires the Finance Ministry to table an annual report in Parliament called the fiscal policy paper that commits the government to new and higher levels of transparency in the budgetary process.
The Finance Minister noted that even with these measures, collective action between the government and the private sector is necessary in order to satisfactorily rid Jamaica of corrupt practices.
"Government must play its part and I believe we have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt in this administration over the past four years, our commitment to lifting the quality of the level of governance in terms of transparency. While it might not yet be adequately reflected in terms of the international index on transparency, we must recognise that it's a process," he stated.
The Business Ethics Programme, also known as FINPYME Integrity, is an initiative of the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC) a member of the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) Group in partnership with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).
It aims to encourage the growth of a robust and transparent business environment for SMEs in Latin America and the Caribbean by improving their capacity to effectively incorporate integrity, transparency, and anti-corruption practices into their organisations
IDB Executive Director with responsibility for Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, Richard Bernal, said the programme is expected to give local SMEs a greater understanding of how the implementation of business ethics practices contributes to a company's economic, environmental and social impact.
Mission Director in Jamaica for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Dr. Karen Hilliard, in endorsing the initiative, said corruption is a serious and prevalent problem across the globe, costing billions each year which could go towards development initiatives.
She said figures from the World Bank Institute indicate that more than US$1 trillion are paid in bribes worldwide every year. "Which means that, each year, the cost of corrupt activities is equal to a full three per cent of the world's Gross Domestic Product. How much good could that three per cent do here in Jamaica, for schools, hospitals, road, lights and equipment?" she questioned.
Dr. Hilliard noted that proper business ethics and anti-corrupt practices could revolutionise businesses and in turn, affect development and productivity among entities and nations. She said that this is especially crucial for SMEs that often bear the largest share of the financial burden of unethical practices.
Through the Business Ethics Programme, the IIC and its partner organisations aim to instill best practices of business ethics in SMEs across the Caribbean region through a series of group and individual technical assistance activities.
Experts will work with organisations to create a strategic vision regarding ethics and integrity, develop a business code, a code of conduct, and international standards for fighting corruption.
The programme is being funded by the Government of the Republic of Korea, through the Korea-IIC SME Development Trust Fund.
Other local partners are Development Partners and Management Limited, and Enterprise Development and Market Access Solutions.
By Athaliah Reynolds, JIS Reporter