Amid all the brouhaha domestically about the first quarter performance of the Barbados economy – and more specifically what Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler will be bringing in his much anticipated budget later this month – readers may have overlooked the findings of a very interesting corruption study released in Jamaica this week.
The study, commissioned by the Office of the Contractor General in Kingston and published on Wednesday in the Jamaica Observer newspaper, sought to solicit the views of the country’s young people on the vexed issue of corruption.
And based on the assessment of Contractor General Dirk Harrison himself, the results were simply “troubling”.
“The facts are startling,” Harrison said, with the full report on the study due to be released in the coming weeks.
In total 1,262 students – 25 per cent were from primary and junior high schools, and 75 per cent from high schools – were asked to consider the level of harm corruption could do to the society and to them as a group.
The students, ages ten to 19, were also asked to look at the population, including their families and friends, their community, the economy, and the country in general with a view to assessing who they felt were most corrupt.
Now comes the startling part.
Harrison said while 80 per cent of students believed that teachers, medical doctors, athletes, sports coaches and managers, and pastors were not corrupt, they had a totally different view of the country’s political leaders.
In fact, only 37 per cent of the students viewed politicians favourably, compared to 63 per cent who felt they had little or no integrity.
More surprisingly, bus drivers, 44.3 per cent; conductors, 45.8 per cent; and the police, 47.7 per cent, were also viewed negatively by the youth surveyed.
However, 76 per cent of students viewed members of the Jamaica Defence Force favourably, while 68 per cent felt the same way about judges.
The contractor general, who was addressing the Stony Hill Kiwanis Club in St Andrew on Monday, said 10.8 per cent viewed lottery scamming as acceptable, while 23.2 per cent said the illegal activity was harmless.
More worryingly, 40.4 per cent of students felt that truth telling was not valid in Jamaica; while 15 per cent said that people who were lacking in integrity were more likely to succeed in life and 35 per cent thought that individuals who were willing to engage in deviant, corrupt and criminal activities were likely to be successful.
“I must say the findings are disturbing,” Harrison reiterated.
“The importance of all of this? We need to engage the young people,” he added.
The study came against the backdrop of a deadly lottery scam last year, centred in the parishes of Hanover, St James, Westmoreland and St Elizabeth, that pushed its murder toll well above the national average of 50 murders for every 100,000 people last year, the worst year ever for Jamaica in terms of its per-capita murder rate.
And while this situation is indeed troubling we can’t help but to wonder if these perceptions of the youth – not only of politics – but also of the salient ingredients for success are equally held in other Caribbean
Do Barbadian youth see their politicians as generally corrupt and do they believe that telling the truth is overrated? We would hope not, but it may well explain the behaviour of the young in our increasingly deviant society.
Perhaps the University of the West Indies may want to expand its Jamaica study into a much more meaningful regional research project.
That way there could be much more regional engagement with our youth for the greater good of us all.