Editorial for 30 July: Cutting the civil service

The hue and cry over the next few weeks, as the Cayman Islands considers implementing its first direct taxation measures, is likely to be loud and long.

We can hear it now: “Let’s cut the civil service!”

As a local business ourselves, we feel the pain of our brethren who have watched over and over again as government has squandered precious public funds, despite warnings to the contrary, despite numerous (and costly) consultant reports that recommended reducing the size and scope of the public sector.

We believe it is fair to say that hasn’t happened. Sure, the overall number of individuals in the government service has decreased slightly in recent years, but a wholesale revamp that looks into exactly what services government should and shouldn’t be providing and which then chops out the unnecessary stuff, has not occurred. The civil service has performed its own internal review, but it has led to very little in the way of actual reductions, in our view. Nor will it, we believe, for two reasons.

1. The civil service represents the largest single voting block in this country. It is the proverbial ‘third rail’ of Caymanian politics – touch it and die.

2. Even if some government was willing to go to its political death, there is still this problem: Where would all the laid off civil servants go?

Being brutally honest, what the country would probably end up with is hundreds of people, most between the ages of 40 and 60 looking for work in the tightest job market the country has seen in decades. Some of them may be employable in the private sector, some may not; but many will simply not find work.

The reduction in the size of government must be handled responsibly and it must be done over a period of time, probably years. Slashing 1,000 jobs from the public sector all at once will likely leave Cayman in worse shape than it is now.


  1. Laying off Civil Servants would exacerbate the unemployment problem, but there is no reason why their salaries, and those of MLA’s, cannot be cut. It doesn’t matter how much they complain, over the past few years, hundreds of thousands of people around the World have had to get used to living on a smaller income, and the CS/MLA’s must learn to do the same. They have no God given entitlement to special treatment.

  2. Government needs to assert some leadership and discipline in the management of the size of the civil service. Make an assessment of an optimal size of civil service and use early retirement and attricion over time to reach for this goal.
    Those members of the government who are empire builders need to be reigned back from bloating the size for their own reasons.
    Managing the civil service can be accomplished with the will and some intelligent managment techniques although it may take a number of years to reach the goal.