Remarks- U.S. Presents The Bahamas Government with $1.4M for Anti-Corruption Efforts

Official remarks by U.S. Charge d’Affaires Stephanie Bowers

Signing Ceremony at  the Office of The Prime Minister

Nassau, The Bahamas

August 8, 2018

The Most Honorable Prime Minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis; Attorney General Bethel; Minister of National Security Dames, Minister of Foreign Affairs Henfield, and other distinguished guests.

It is an honor to be here today for such an auspicious and important purpose.  For the last eight years, the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs office at the U.S. Mission to The Bahamas has provided nearly $14 million dollars in foreign assistance to our Bahamian partners.  We specifically focused this assistance on law enforcement professionalization, counternarcotics, and rule of law programs.  Today we are signing an amendment to the letter of agreement through which this funding flows.  This amendment expands the scope of this assistance to provide technical support, training, and equipment in furtherance of the Bahamian government’s transparency and anti-corruption efforts.

Taking on corruption is a tremendous challenge for any government.  It takes unwavering leadership and resolve to push for increased transparency.  In any system where there is corruption, there are those who gain from it.  These corrupt individuals stand to lose a great deal when a government decides to tackle corruption.  But when a government succeeds, the people of that country do too.

Eliminating corruption is not quick, and is not easy, but it is necessary.  The fight must be open, transparent, and – most importantly – apolitical, focused ultimately on the benefit of all of a country’s people.

In April, Vice President Pence spoke about corruption during the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, where the leaders of the Western Hemisphere assembled to discuss democratic governance against corruption.  At the Summit, Vice President Pence stated that “corruption emboldens vicious criminals and endangers public safety.  Corruption corrodes the foundations of democracy as well, and undermines trust in government.  For we know as corruption grows, freedom and prosperity wither.”

In fact, corruption takes on many different forms which negatively impact society.  When corruption leads to a failure to enforce the regulations or laws on the books, it is often the people who suffer.  Whether it is a firearm that makes it onto the streets because someone looked the other way; or a government contract that cost twice the amount it should; or even a good business idea squelched to protect an individual from competition, everyone feels the effects of a lack of transparency and accountability.

A lack of transparency also discourages foreign investment in a country.  If companies feel they will need to pay additional hidden fees for a permit or a plan, they will invest elsewhere.  If they feel they will not have a fair day in court when things go wrong, they will invest elsewhere.  Put simply, corruption costs a country jobs and economic growth – and it forces a government to compensate for lost revenue by raising that revenue through other means.

These issues also directly affect the United States and the security of our people.  As the United States increases border security, we must also have trust in the systems of our partners.  Liberal travel procedures are predicated on the integrity of our partners’ systems – whether travel documents, police records, or the justice sector.

President Trump demonstrated the importance he places on tackling corruption by issuing Executive Order 13818, which underscores that corruption undermines the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; has devastating impacts on individuals; weakens democratic institutions; degrades the rule of law; perpetuates violent conflicts; facilitates the activities of dangerous persons; and weakens economic markets.  Under the Executive Order, the United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.  Individuals designated under this order will not only have their assets blocked– they will also find their entry into the United States suspended, among other consequences.  Imposing such entry restrictions on corrupt individuals is just one additional tool the United States will seek to employ to fight corruption.

This signing ceremony today marks the seriousness of our purpose.  The U.S. government is now making available our foreign assistance funds to support transparency and anti-corruption initiatives in The Bahamas.  We know that increasing transparency and tackling corruption take time – and that a lot of hard work is required, as well as a lot of patience.  However, the United States will be a steadfast partner to The Bahamas as it takes on these challenges.  Thank you.