Afra Raymond: Myths about Corruption

September 10, 2013 by MPA@UNC Staff

Corruption slows growth in many nations. Corruption can run rampant even in many countries with vast natural or financial resources. Journalist and activist Afra Raymond has been observing the readily accepted myths that help perpetuate the abuse of power in Trinidad and Tobago, and demystifies them in his TED Talk: Three Myths About Corruption.

The first myth he breaks down is that corruption isn’t illegal. Everyone does it, no one really gets hurt by it, and to a degree, and it’s accepted as a perk. The other myth Raymond addresses is the belief that corruption is only committed on a small scale. These myths are harmful because they lead to a sense of apathy that makes it easy for the government to avoid fixing these entrenched problems.

Raymond repudiates these myths by providing a shocking example of widespread corruption that occurred in Trinidad and Tobago. This particular corruption scandal came to light when a new government took over in 2010. Upon looking through financial records, it was discovered that the previous administration had wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on projects through hidden “administrative” fees. One example of this took place during the renovations to the Trinidad and Tobago airport that began in the late 1990s and finished in 2001. During this project, a bid-rigging conspiracy took place that involved multi-million-dollar contracts. In return for excessively high bids, companies gave government officials kickbacks. The public discovered this corruption when the airport project was not progressing as it should have.

In order to combat corruption, Raymond says that countries like Trinidad need a system that holds officials accountable for their mismanagement of funds and provides transparency in how money is spent. Raymond proposes that the government should be held accountable through a Freedom of Information Act that requires all institutions to answer questions, rather than avoiding them. He recommends the use of Alavateli, a social media email system that allows the public to make requests of the government to encourage transparency. Watch his TED Talk above to learn more about how Raymond recommends combating government corruption.