As time draws closer to the next general elections, I would like to weigh in on the political landscape and share my thoughts on what I am seeking in candidates and the issues that I think need to be addressed.
I had high hopes of the former UDP political administration, but I am rather disappointed and dismayed at their lack of performance, transparency and disregard for due process.
The former administration wanted people to depend on them for everything. While the public education system is free, there is a perception from some that healthcare should be free; then there is the Nation Building fund. It is hard to believe with a population of around 55,000 people that close to 9,000 people receive some form of financial assistance from government. This leads me to think that the cost of living has outpaced the growth of salaries and jobs, or some people have their priorities wrong.
It is time we tell people they need to be accountable, fiscally responsible and that they should not demand every thing from government.
The actions of both PPM and UDP administrations have made Cayman less business friendly and less competitive. The fund administration business has significantly been reduced and moved to other low cost, business friendly destinations. The actions of both administrations have been to grow the government and shrink private sector jobs, small business and the middle class. We need a smaller government, growth in the middle class and increase the number of small business. This cannot be achieved if we continue to increase the fees, licenses, and permits for business. This does not encourage current businesses to grow or new business development, nor is it sustainable. A big challenge for the next government is to figure out how everyone can contribute to funding the maintenance needs/infrastructure of our country.
Political candidates: It is very encouraging to see new names and faces enter the political arena. I think it is also a step in the right direction to have more than two choices when it comes to organised politics, so I applaud the introduction of the C4C and hope they will endorse candidates of substance. I would now like to outline some of the qualities I am seeking in the next elected government. I would like someone with character, integrity and substance. Someone who is passionate about Cayman and will give hope to people that everyone can become successful. Someone who will put the country’s needs before their own pockets and is not afraid to be held accountable.
I want someone who cares about families, community and bringing this country together. I want someone with a strong moral compass that will stand up for everyone, not just their party constituents. While I expect the candidate to be pro-Caymanian, I do not want them to be anti-expat. We should be proud and capitalise on the fact that we are the friendliest country towards expats.
I would also like to see the next government select the best available persons to serve on government-appointed boards and not just because they are party members. I would also like to see government have more consultation with the private sector.
Government finances: One thing is for certain, whoever makes up the next elected government has a gigantic task of putting the country’s finances into order and will have to make some tough decisions and cut, slice, and chop expenditure.
Whoever becomes the next premier, will they discontinue some of the nice amenities and perks (chauffeur, press secretary, cook, etc.) that go with the position?
I would like to see government upgrade its accounting software and be able to provide accurate accounts in a timely manner.
Decrease the amount of subsidy provided to statutory authorities and government companies such as Cayman Airways, the Turtle Farm etc. Institute an over-arching body that regulates and monitors the salaries and expenditure of these statutory bodies and entities. Discontinue the Nation Building Fund.
As of 31 October, 2011, there were 3,570 civil servants employed compared with 3,651 as of 1 November, 2012. I am informed that there is the intention to reduce the civil service by 360 posts over the next five years. While this is a step in the right direction, there also needs to be a mind-set change for central government to become a performance-oriented organisation that rewards and recognises outstanding staff.
There are approximately 160 civil servants who are age 60 and older who continue to work while collecting their pension; this should change.
I would like to see all discretionary travel especially by politicians discontinued. If travel is required, does one really need to fly first class and stay in five star hotels and include a large entourage?
I would seek opinion from the Civil Service whether the current budgeting system of outputs is working or needs to be changed.
Review the need for a government TV channel.
One man one vote: I would like to see the next administration change the electoral process to a one person one vote system.
Minimum wage: I would like to see the next administration implement a national minimum wage. This might encourage some Caymanians to seek employment in certain jobs and occupations where the wage is so low they can’t afford to survive.
Immigration reform: I would like to see the next administration implement the Term Limit Review Committee’s report and abolish the Key Employee and increase the term limit rollover to 10 years.
West Bay Road closure: I would like to see the next administration renegotiate the deal with Dart and stop the West Bay Road closure.
Cost of living and doing business: Over the past 12 months both my electricity and water bill have increased just like everyone else. I would like to see the next administration do more to decrease the cost of living.
Development of port and airport: This has to be a high priority for the new government. I have travelled around our region and just about every country has a more modern airport and port facility. While I am glad that the project did not proceed with China Harbour, due process and transparency must be followed.
Environment: The underwater marine life was the pillar attraction for divers and tourists, we must take the necessary steps to upgrade and protect our marine parks. I would also like to see legislation enacted to encourage more recycling and separation of garbage and waste products. I would like to see the proposed dump in Bodden Town stopped until they have exhausted all options and looked at various sites.
If government cuts its expenditure and creates an environment that encourages private sector growth, it will better enhance the job opportunities available for Caymanians. As Caymanians we need to have a vision for what we want our future to look like and not elect short-sighted politicians. I would like to see the next government come up with a long term vision for Cayman, similar to Vision 2008 where Caymanians will have a voice for our future. Kudos must be given to the Chamber of Commerce for the Future of Cayman initiative they have started. Hopefully, the next elected government will learn from the past mistakes and shortcomings of recent administrations and not continue to make the same mistakes.