Getting the country back on course: The Progressive View

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Above all the new government must put the interests of the country first – no more self-interest, no more misguided personal loyalty to a leader who is unfit, no more control behind the scenes by financial backers or special interest groups. 
 

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The first challenge for the country is to choose a new government. Hopefully voters will use their votes to get the right kind of government, not just to get a good district representative. And hopefully those who have several votes (for the last time) will use them all to get the government team they think will best serve the country.

It is imperative that we get a government of a very different kind, one that recognizes the necessity of encouraging business, investment, and employment, one that recognizes that increasing taxes is counter-productive, one that recognizes the necessity of reducing government’s operating costs, one that can be trusted to act in the country’s interests. This is vital for the health and survival of our society and our way of life.

The task will not be easy or quick. Our problems are inter-linked. There are no silver bullets. We need an effective 4-year plan, developed by the new government with the help and support of the civil service and the business community, and approved by the UK. Such a plan will go a long way towards restoring much-needed confidence on the part of businesses and investors that Cayman is back on the right track. And then the plan must be put into action, and regular progress reports issued. We cannot afford another four years of drift, mismanagement and unfulfilled estimates.

To do this the new government must be trustworthy and open, and it must be fully committed to the principles of good government. We cannot afford to have the stench of corruption or patronage in the corridors of power. An untrusted government cannot lead the country out of its problems.

The new government must function effectively as a team with an agreed leader, working together on the basis of agreed objectives, principles and priorities, discussing and developing plans and solutions. We cannot afford to have members of the government pulling in different directions, disagreeing on fundamentals, or continuing to struggle for more power as they did in 2001.

Above all the new government must put the interests of the country first–no more self-interest, no more misguided personal loyalty to a leader who is unfit, no more control behind the scenes by financial backers or special interest groups. The government must not be in anyone’s pocket.

Though we should not be making definite decisions now about the 4-year plan, before the process of assessment, consultation and negotiation, we can and should be talking in detail about the plan requirements, the things the plan must address and achieve. The Progressives will lay this out in their manifesto. But briefly, the plan must

  • take best care of our pillar industries, financial services and tourism, and encourage further development.
  • encourage new pillar industries to get more consumers and investment from abroad.
  • take care of our other businesses and give encouragement to entrepreneurs and investors; non-pillar businesses generate much of our employment, and they have been suffering badly in recent years
  • provide essential infrastructure, such as the cruise-ship landing, a revitalized George Town centre, and airport improvement
  • recognize that our economic problems cannot be dealt with in isolation from other problems, especially the training, employment and advancement of Caymanians and the cost of living
  • include environmental protection
  • eliminate wasteful government expenditure, review the cost effectiveness of government policies and the ways they are carried out, review the Public Service Management Law which has not worked as well as everyone hoped in 1999,
  • review the decentralization of functions, complete the internal civil service reviews that have been ongoing for some time, examine opportunities for privatization,
  • continue the reduction of employees through attrition and non-renewal but not engage in wholesale firing.

A central component of the plan must be the rolling back of the tax increases that are doing most harm to the economy–as well as pushing up the cost of living.

Though the economy, jobs, and government finances must take centre stage, there are many other things that the new government must do.

The Progressives have made their position clear on single member constituencies, and there are several other Constitutional issues demanding attention: beefing up anti-corruption measures, disclosure of interests, ethics in government, and the enforcement of the Constitution itself. The government must be subject to the law; and the law must enforce the principles of good government.

The Progressives have made their position clear with regard to the Dump and the closure of the West Bay Road. The financial strength and commitment to Cayman of the Dart Group is a great asset, but the government must be more open and efficient in its dealings with them–to get the best deals in the short and long term interests of the country, and to take the heat and fear out of attitudes to the Dart Group.

The PPM has always put education and training at the top of the country’s needs in the long term–not just the provision of more and better facilities, and improving systems and standards, but also the development of greater appreciation by parents and children of the importance of education and training–on an ongoing basis. No one is owed a good life; it must be earned.
One of the unfortunate effects of so many years of UDP government is that many people now suspect that all political parties are a bad thing, and many people think all politicians are as bad and untrustworthy as each other.

That is very unhealthy for the country. We can never overcome our problems and achieve economic and political stability, in a fair and just society, if the country distrusts its government. The Progressives demonstrated in 2005 to 2009 that the country can have the right kind of trustworthy party government.

It is up to the voters to recognize what is the right kind of government and to make sure they get it.
 

 

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