There is an old maxim
that suggests that no good deed goes unpunished. Until now, there has been
little truth to that maxim here in the Cayman Islands.
Indeed, Cayman is
rather special in the way its residents – citizens and expatriates alike – have
supported a wide array of charitable causes that benefit many.
It is safe to say
that Cayman’s charities relieve hundreds of thousands of dollars or more of
responsibilities for which governments elsewhere have to pay. Organisation like
the Cancer Society offer assistance to those who are ill or dying; service
clubs like Rotary take on many important community projects; sporting
organisations like the Cayman Islands Little League run youth programmes that
don’t cost the government anything; the Humane Society helps control Cayman’s
stray dog problems and promotes humane and responsible treatment of animals.
Then there are the
churches, which combined make innumerable contributions to our society.
The list of charities
that do good work in the Cayman Islands goes on and on, something for which the
government should be extremely thankful. Instead, the government proposes to
punish the good work of charities by passing the Charities Bill 2010. That
bill, if passed, will make operating a charity more difficult by creating
layers of required bureaucracy; more expensive by basically taxing them; more
risky by establishing penalties of fines and imprisonment for good Samaritans
who don’t follow the strict rules; and less viable by making it a hassle for
others to support these organisations.
The government will
argue that it’s not the one pushing for this, but instead overseas regulatory
bodies like the Financial Action Task Force and the OECD. Although it’s true
there is some international concern about charities being used to launder money
or finance terrorism, we can’t imagine anyone is really afraid of the Cayman
Islands Humane Society, the Cayman Islands Cancer Society or the Cayman Islands
Little League. Cayman’s charities are,
for the most part, small organisations that only have an impact locally. Since virtually all of the financial
transactions conducted by Cayman’s charities with other organisations or
individuals are subject to already strict Know-Your-Customer regulations in
place here, it’s really senseless to put that burden on the charities as well.
More importantly, no
other country has adopted or even proposed such extensive regulations on
charities, so we have to ask why the Cayman Government, through the Law Reform
Commission, believes the Charities Bill 2010 is even necessary.