CRITICAL MASS: SMALL JURISDICTIONS AND BIG PROBLEMS-LOGISTICS AND
INFRASTRUCTURE CHALLENGES TO MEET SMALL JURISDICTIONS EXPECTATIONS TO ACHIEVE THE SAME SERVICE LEVELS AS LARGER ONES MAY, 2016 BY EDMUND G. HINKSON, ST. JAMES NORTH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
It is an absolute necessity that the Parliament of all nation states, no matter
their territorial size or demographics, enact, implement and strictly enforce legislation providing for accountability and transparency in the governance systems of their respective countries. The cost, financial, developmental and otherwise, resulting from a failure to undertake this process, is just too significant. This cost cannot be afforded, particularly by small jurisdictions which have in the recent past been experiencing severe challenges to achieve and sustain competitiveness in the new global economic and trading order.
Clear and precise laws as well as orders and policy directives emanating therefrom need to be in place in small independent countries in order to maximize solid governance principles involving the administration of both the public and private sectors.
Auditor General departments need to be empowered with criminal prosecutorial powers to be able to properly investigate and pursue those who do not comply with modern day financial and accountability provisions. Those persons in positions of responsibility, whether from the political class, the bureaucracy or the commercial sector, must be liable in law for breaches in the system of governance falling under their purview.
Fiscal Responsibility legislation must exist so that these countries can ensure that best practices rein in terms of the fiscal management of government.
Parliamentary Committees must be established or, if already established, must be given more powers to investigate, pursue and enforce alleged breaches of the financial, tendering and accounting rules of government.
Additionally, Freedom of Information legislation must be enacted and enforced to empower the public, including the media, to obtain information relating to the country’s governance. This ought to be their right in the public’s interest. Citizens ought to be able to receive information on the basis that it is their tax-paying dollars by virtue of which the elected politicians and public officers administer the nation state. Failure to provide for this type of legislative framework and the continuation in this era of archaic Official Secrets Acts are a hinderance to any nation’s developmental progress. This is even more the case in small jurisdictions which invariably possess greater familiarity among persons than exists in larger, more developed states.
Finally, it is absolutely essential in this context that the Parliaments of small vulnerable nations, particularly those in the developing world, enact, proclaim and enforce modern day Prevention of Corruption, Bribery and Integrity in Public Life Legislation.
Persons who come into public life, whether they are elected or unelected officials, must be subject to the full weight of the law for their corrupt practices and for breaches of trust and faith if small jurisdictions aspire to achieve the same service levels as larger ones.
It is estimated that corruption costs individual nations millions if not billions of dollars each year, if not dealt with and pursued. This comes at a tremendous price and disadvantage to those citizens who are consequently denied maximum educational opportunities, health care and social and welfare services which the state would otherwise be in a position to financially afford them.
Small jurisdictions, while not having the human and financial resources at their disposal which richer developed countries possess, have absolutely no excuse in failing to make legislative provision for their best systems of governance through insisting on the development of a culture of accountability, transparency and anti-corruption throughout their respective societies.
Edmund Gregory Hinkson
Member of Parliament, St. James North, Barbados.