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Paying back the campaign debt

Published: 
Sunday, October 22, 2017

How do people and national development suffer from parties paying back debts to political investors in their campaigns is today’s follow-on from last week’s column which showed how governments pay back investors in their electoral campaigns.

This week’s column is an overview of ways in which those forms of corrupt corporate and governmental behaviours displace people-based and national development. As with last week’s column, the purpose is to give to the electorate an insight into how campaign finance displaces their needs and those of the national community in favour of sectional interests, and the need to do something about it.

While there have been no reliable calculations a conservative estimate would place the revenue that has been spent on budgeted and non-budgeted items since 1973 at a conservative annual average of $30 billion; that would put the national expenditure at close to $1 trillion.

Again conservatively, at least a few hundred million of those dollars would not have gone into national development programmes but to projects which serve to pay back the campaign debt.

Every year, the spend on the Public Sector Investment Programme falls desperately short of its budgeted figure, a figure which would have been woefully inadequate in the first instance.

Social/human development services such as schools, hospitals, health offices in remote locations get neglected, while investors receive multi-million dollar contracts, which usually end up with huge cost overruns for non-essentials. The Tarouba Stadium, the Point Fortin to San Fernando highway, LifeSport, the list is long and inclusive of projects which are not necessarily designed for human and national development needs.

The corruption involved here is at the expense of human development, retardation of the growth of skills and expertise, and in an inefficient economy in which funds are not allocated to their best purposes.

Human suffering is an incalculable casualty of this process of corrupt underdevelopment and economic efficiency.

Inequality, already bred into the economic and social system, is widened and deepened, as those who receive contracts for their investment in the campaigns of political parties get richer; while the underclass, robbed of capital invested in their best interests, become poorer.

The tens of millions that corruptly go to political investors are utilised to fund luxuriously expansive lifestyles, while the middle class is said to be shrinking, and the social and economic underclass live in desperate need.

With large quantities of foreign exchange released “free sheet” by the Central Bank, high numbers of investor importers have few restraints on their activities.

Little is invested in technology, neither has any real investment been made to transform the poor administrative capacity which now makes the production of public goods and services inefficient.

The inefficiency induces further levels of corruption in the system, as bribery becomes necessary to receive in quality time a driver’s permit, a passport, land and building approvals etc.

Even less public funding has been available for research and development to produce goods and services for export.

Quality, value-adding jobs are not developed here as production processes remain rudimentary, a large pool of the investing capital having been diverted to marginal production in which investors have a stake.

The public perception of politicians has fallen dramatically as a result of the decades-long legion of allegations of corruption. Every new scandal unveiled by the media inevitably leads back to a contract awarded to a party investor, or a member of the tribe related to whichever party is in power.

Social services projects designed for another kind of investor, those who work on the ground canvassing to ensure themselves of a “ten days” after the election, are marginalized to being voter banks.

The electorate has to become wise to the debilitating consequences of campaign financing. The electorate has to not merely demand reform of the system of investors buying into the treasury, but insert the need for the constitutional change required on the national agenda.