Yes, it’s that time again, the time when politicians will say just about anything to try to ingratiate themselves with voters.
Although we might hear claims to the contrary, much of what was said Monday in the debate of a Private Member’s Motion about the need for a manpower survey was just pandering to voters.
On the face of it, a survey that accurately detailed the jobs held by Caymanians and work-permit holders would be a useful tool to determine employment demographics. It would also help educators and student counsellors know where there were needs that could possibly be filled by Caymanians willing to acquire the necessary training to fill the positions.
But those who listened to the government backbench debate the topic would probably think the manpower survey was more about expatriate bashing than anything else.
They would have heard statements about Caymanians who train expatriates to be their bosses; statements about big companies manipulating the immigration system just so they didn’t have to hire Caymanians; statements about how there should be a moratorium on new work permits until all Caymanians had jobs; statements about how brilliant Caymanians in the financial sector ‘run the show’ at their offices, but don’t have high positions simply because they don’t have a ‘piece of paper’, which is apparently all a university diploma is to at least one MLA; statements about how most people in the banks on Friday are happy expats counting hundred dollar bills that they rush out and send to families in other countries; statements about how qualified Caymanians can’t get the jobs they’re qualified for, forcing them to leave the country to seek employment elsewhere, creating the real ‘brain drain’ in the Cayman Islands.
The statements probably resonated with a certain segment of the population, but they no doubt created an opposite effect to another segment. In the end, statements like that only serve to divide the country without adding any benefit beyond personal political ambitions.
To his credit, Minister Alden McLaughlin, speaking on behalf of the government, did not go the divisive route of his backbench, and instead spoke about the challenge of balancing the needs of Caymanians with the needs of employers and the country’s economy.
As Mr. McLaughlin pointed out, there are areas that need improvement on both sides of the issue, including the paramount need for better education and training of Caymanians and the need for employers to be fair on issues like the paying of overtime.
That Caymanians should have every opportunity to share in the economic success of the country is indisputable. Every effort should be made to see that happens. But insinuating that it is not happening because of expatriates is not helping anything, and is actually very dangerous to the harmony of this society.