In his public address last
Thursday, Premier McKeeva Bush spoke about the need to make the welcoming
process at Owen Roberts International Airport the most friendly and efficient
in the world.
To highlight the kind of competition
Cayman faces in achieving this goal, Mr. Bush told of how a senior civil
servant recently visited Singapore. This
person was asked by a Singapore official how long it had taken to get through
immigration and customs and when he replied ‘10 minutes’, the official said
that was far too long and that the next time he visited, he should not expect
to spend more than five to seven minutes in the process.
Frankly, if Cayman could reduce the
time it takes to get through immigration and customs to 10 minutes – which
apparently is far too long for Singapore – it would be a major accomplishment. However, it simply can’t happen without many
The biggest impediment is money –
money for training, money for more staff, money to complete the airport renovations.
Right now, there are not enough
customs and immigration staff members manning the airport. Line-ups just for
immigration alone can take more than 10 minutes. Some of the customs officers
on duty are now spending valuable time going through residents’ luggage with a
fine-tooth comb to determine if they’ve understated their customs declaration
in an effort to increase government import duty revenues.
Then there’s the attitude issue,
which is no doubt a reflection of low morale.
Understaffing only makes morale – and attitudes – worse.
The bottom line is this is just
another example of an incongruent message coming from the government in which
it publicly states it wants to achieve one thing, but it doesn’t provide the
framework to get it done.
Improving visitors’ experiences in
Cayman is vital going forward and budget cuts have actually lowered service
levels at the airport. If the government
really wants to improve the situation, it will need to revisit its decision to
reduce customs and immigration budgets, and look to cut the budgets of other
departments that are much less important to Cayman’s future instead.