I am heartened by the topic of today’s panel and the initiative my colleagues in AmCham DR have taken in staging this event. There is a current heated conversation on corruption in the Dominican Republic, amplified by recent events, and AmCham is uniquely suited to take advantage of that momentum by bringing informed professionals together to discuss the long-term issue.
Corruption is as old as governance, and what we need to combat it, is a long game: a conversation and a strategy that builds over time. We all understand that the fight against corruptions is a long one that requires public will, education, and a commitment.
This room is filled with individuals that bear the burden of corruption in your businesses, like an excess tax raising overheads by ten percent, or preferential treatment for someone less qualified but more connected. Certainly those of you who are most ethical bear the heaviest burden. You have chosen the path of greatest resistance. For that, I commend you. Corruption is a seductive vice. It greases the wheels. It opens doors. It protects allies.
As Secretary Kerry said, “The moral and practical costs of corruption are no longer debatable. Corruption drives instability, popular protests, and revolutions.” Corruption infects every area of government, depresses development, deepens poverty, stifles innovation, and discourages foreign investment. It can also deeply wound a country’s reputation. Money laundered through corruption funds terrorism and transnational crime. It takes money from public work projects to line the coffers of kleptocrats. To remain silent on such crimes is to be complicit.
There are punitive consequences for American business people who pay a bribe, and they are often enforced. In addition to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the United States creates trade incentives for corruption reform. We support citizen organizations, journalists, prosecutors, and other government leaders who hold public officials accountable. We build capacity in the justice sector. We celebrate positive examples when appropriate. We reserve the use of our visa authorities, as well as law enforcement cooperation, as additional tools in this fight.
In the Dominican Republic, no outside force can be the key catalyst in reforming the Dominican system to eliminate corruption. Corruption in the Dominican Republic begs a Dominican response, and a Dominican solution. I’m eager to hear what you all have to say today to that end. You have my support, and the U.S. Embassy’s commitment to furthering our shared interests and mutual objectives through cooperation with the private sector and Dominican government. As I said before, I know this room is filled with the right minds to undertake such a task.