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World celebrates Anti-Corruption Day, NTUCB puts pressure on Government

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Posted: Monday, December 9, 2019. 11:53 am CST.

By BBN Staff: Each year on December 9, the world observes International Anti-Corruption Day, introduced by the United Nations in 2003 with the passage of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which Belize only adopted in 2016 and which has done little to visibly reduce the far-reaching impact of systematic corruption that continues to plague this country’s democracy and development. The National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) also issued a fiery release today demanding effective implementation of UNCAC in Belize by February 28, 2020.

The NTUCB demanded that GOB implement the recommendations from the ‘Executive Summary’ of the first cycle of the peer review process; that it immediately re-establish meetings of the UNCAC Steering Committee; and proceed expeditiously with the review and passage of anti-corruption legislation and agencies in Belize.

The union called out GOB for the “stalled” process which it says undermines national development and has negative effects on all sectors.

Every year $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion is stolen annually through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5 percent of the global GDP. In developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance. “Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune,” the UN said.

Transparency International, a global anti-corruption watch-dog, noted that this year it falls in the middle of the world’s most important climate conference, the COP25, currently underway in Madrid, Spain. “Our minds do not often make the link between climate and corruption, but unfortunately the two are deeply interlinked,” it added.  “Countries that are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change often have higher levels of public sector corruption. Instead of improving peoples’ lives, climate funds might be siphoned off to private accounts, or wasted on vanity projects that benefit the few rather than the many.”   

The World Bank estimates that 20 – 40 per cent of water sector finances are lost to corrupt practices. Similar rates apply for the transport and energy sectors. In some sectors, this is exacerbated by criminal activities. Between 15 – 30 per cent of global logging activities are illegal. In key countries that produce tropical timber, this rate can be as high as 50 – 90 per cent of the volume of all forestry.

Transparency International also said communities from around the world have proven that civil society can act as an effective watchdog, demanding accountability from governments and businesses in their actions. In Belize, the government finally gave in to public pressure in December 2016, signing on to the UNCAC, however, since then GOB has been criticized for implementing the instrument at a pace that suggests it is not a key priority. Other countries in the region, including neighbor Guatemala, have implemented legislation and measures that have seen a number of former presidents and political allies thrown in jail for corruption. In Belize, the same has yet to be achieved despite rampant, and in some instances, blatant corruption.

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