A report from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has pinned Guyana at the top of the list in the Caribbean, where a large percentage of citizens are required to pay a bribe to access Government services.
The study, titled “Wait No More: Citizens, Red Tape and Digital Government” was released earlier this month and through surveys, a closer look was placed on the way business is done, the ease of doing it and access to services in the public sector among other factors.
It revealed that in this part of the world, the lack of “standardised processes” makes it easier for dishonesty and insisted that corruption is everywhere. Looking at the data from the 2019 Transparency International survey, statistics from five countries showed that there was an 18 per cent average for persons who made payoffs for Government services.
“Manual Government transactions, face-to-face interactions, and the lack of standardised processes mean that transactions are vulnerable to dishonest behaviour. In fact, corruption is everywhere: 29 per cent of Latin Americans report having paid a bribe in the context of a public service in 2016. According to data from a 2019 Transparency International survey, the proportion of people in the five Caribbean countries surveyed that reported paying a bribe to access a public service was 18 per cent,” the document stated.
However, in Guyana, the figure is a glaring 27 per cent and regarded as the highest in the region. The lowest occurrence of such activity was recorded in Barbados with just 9 per cent.
“In Guyana, 27 per cent of those surveyed said they had to pay a bribe to access a public service, the highest proportion in the region, followed by 20 per cent in The Bahamas and 17 per cent in both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados registered the lowest rate, with only 9 per cent of the surveyed reporting having paid a bribe to receive a public service,” the IDB report pointed out.
Throughout the Caribbean, the numbers were further broken down to name specific entities and agencies where these monies landed. Topping the list was utilities with 19 per cent, followed by the police at 18 per cent, voter’s identification and permits at 15 per cent, public schools standing at 10 per cent, and public hospitals at eight per cent. There was even a small percentage of individuals who bribed the courts.
With these numbers, the report went on to state why there is such a high number of individuals who are willing to bribe their way through the system, rather than going through the due process. It speaks to the lack of flexibility to accommodate the working class, resulting in many persons opting to use an alternative which will not affect their income.
“One of the biggest problems of difficult Government transactions is their regressive character: they affect the poor more. People in this segment of the population generally enjoy less flexibility at work, which makes it difficult for them to ask for time off to carry out a Government transaction. Likewise, they are less able to forego lost income and have fewer resources to cover the costs incurred in carrying out transactions.”
With that, there are cases where the requirements and formalities are difficult to complete by persons who would not have accessed higher education. In essence, many earning a lower income benefit less from Government services.
“All of the above means that low-income people complete fewer transactions, which implies that they benefit less from Government services and programmes….Taking educational attainment as a proxy for income, it becomes clear that citizens with less education reported having completed fewer Government transactions in the last year. Only transactions associated with identity, education and health, social programmes, and transportation, as well as the reporting of crimes, were considered, as these transactions are assumed to have, at the very least, an even demand among different socioeconomic levels, or an over-representation of lower-income earners.”
In the past 12 months, only seven per cent of persons with no formal education and 17 per cent of those with primary school education completed a transaction, showing the disparity of the population and moreover, the amount of persons who were potentially engaged in bribery.
“The fact that low-income people carry out fewer Government transactions, even to access services that in theory would benefit them, has negative implications: Government programmes are not reaching their target beneficiaries, which reduces policy effectiveness,” the IDB data showed.