Published On: Wed, May 13th, 2015

Good governance in the Caribbean SIDS

GoedeDuring a Master Class Corporate Governance, a participant asked me: how does the governance of Curacao compare to the other Caribbean islands? How can we compare them? Is there a universal system to compare them?

Before that we should answer the question what is good governance? There are many definitions. It comes down to steering according to certain principles. Some of these principles are:

• Integrity
• Transparency
• Inclusiveness
• Accountability
• Fairness

A second question we should answer first is: why good governance? Because it is about avoiding corruption and tyranny of a country. Corruption is considered the main obstacle for social and economic development of nations, especially SIDS. SIDS are extra formable because of close interpersonal relationships. This creates a climate for nepotism and corruption.

The system I use to compare governance performance of (177) countries, in this case SIDS, is the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. Although I must say that there is critique on this model. No model is perfect. According to this list, in 2013, Barbados (15) is the least corrupt country in the Caribbean. The Bahamas and Saint Lucia are ranked 22nd.

Transparency International did not provide figures for St Kitts-Nevis, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and Belize; it said that St Vincent and the Grenadines had a ranking of 33.

Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are ranked 38. Dominica 41. Suriname 94. Guyana 136. Haiti 163.

The World Bank uses a different system. The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project reports indicators for 215 economies for six dimensions of governance:

• Voice and Accountability
• Political Stability and Absence of Violence
• Government Effectiveness
• Regulatory Quality
• Rule of Law
• Control of Corruption
• Capacity for Policy Development

The ranking of the Caribbean does not differ much from that of Transparency International.

Another well-known tool used by Transparency International is the National Integrity System (NIS). The following picture illustrates the model. It is about thirteen indicators.

“To date NIS studies have been completed in more than 100 countries around the world. Transparency International conducted its first NIS study in the Caribbean region in Jamaica in 2003, followed by a Caribbean composite report in 2004. More recently, from 2009-2011, Transparency International carried out an NIS assessment in the Turks and Caicos Islands and, from 2012-2013 in Curacao. The Curacao study highlighted weaknesses in the public sector, political parties and the media as well as a general lack of trust in the country’s key institutions.”

In 2013 the assessment of Curacao was presented. The conclusion is that the integrity system of Curacao is very weak. Only a few pillar score somewhat positive: Judiciary, Ombudsman and Audit Institutions. In the last few years the Kingdom of the Netherlands had to intervene to correct governance.

Curacao was preceded by Turks and Caicos in 2001. They scored badly and the United Kingdom had to intervene.

In 2014 St Maarten started an assessment and the results are still unknown.

Based on what we know now, I would estimate Curacao to score in the range of Dominica. While many similar reports regarding the respective islands write about the influence of drug trafficking, money laundering and (transnational) organized crime, the Curacao NIS assessment barely touches these subjects. One might say that the report is in denial.

Ironically, on 5th May 2013, a member of parliament was killed in Curacao for the first time in its history. Theories are that this was ordered by people involved in transnational crime.

Curacao has done close to nothing with findings from Transparency International.

By Dr. Miguel Goede

Dr. Miguel Goede is a strategist and trend watcher in the Caribbean. He is based in Curacao and works for governments, corporations and NGO in the region. You can find out more Join the discussion on Facebook Caribbean 3.0

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