A lot of images might come to mind on hearing the pejorative phrase ‘banana republic’, but one persistent notion for many people living in industrialised, modern countries would involve corrupt governments in developing Caribbean and Latin America nations.
The phrase has been used about the Cayman Islands, usually by smug foreign businesspeople who automatically assumed the way to get things down here was to ‘grease a few important palms’.
No doubt, some things did get done that way in the past and, perhaps, some things still get done that way.
That is why is it vitally important the Anti-corruption Bill tabled in the Legislative Assembly last week as a discussion bill gets enacted as law.
The Cayman Islands is nothing the like stereotypical banana republic. It has a democratically elected stable government; it has enforced laws that apply to everyone; it has a fair and impartial judicial system that is based on established law; and it has legislators and public servants who are held accountable for their actions.
But that does not mean the possibilities for official corruption do not exist in the Cayman Islands, and being held accountable for their actions does not equate to criminal liability for legislators and public officers.
Although sections of the current Penal Code do touch on official corruption, they only do so in a cursory manner and they mainly deal with public servants, not legislators or public officers.
The government and the Cayman Islands financial services industry have gone to great lengths to make this jurisdiction as legitimate as possible when it comes to banking and other investments. Despite that, stereotypes persist, often fuelled by films like The Firm and Haven.
There are probably foreign investors in the world who think they can bring a wad of money to Cayman, bribe a legislator or two and do whatever they want here.
By having a comprehensive anti-corruption law in place that holds everyone in government legally accountable, it gives the rest of the world another example of how the Cayman Islands intends to do things the right way.
The Anti-corruption Bill has languished for several years for some understandable reasons. But it is now time to ensure this important piece of legislation is enacted as soon as possible.
And afterwards, if some foreign investor does come down here with a wad of money and tries to bribe a legislator or public officer, he might find himself facing 14 years in prison for doing so.