The Caymanian Compass online poll this week, tallying the extent of corruption in our society, reveals little doubt in the minds of half of the more than 800 respondents who describe profound disappointment in local leaders.
Opinion is cynical, angry, even bitter, citing the corrosive effects that corruption has on political and economic life, eroding civil society. Voters outline not only a pervasive distrust, but also little hope that things might improve.
“It’s a given, why even bother asking this question? Your next poll should be asking whether the sun will be rising tomorrow morning. The answer to both will be a definite ‘Yes!’,” said one of 411 voters, 49.3 per cent of the total, opining that corruption is absolutely pervasive.
“Over the last four years it seems to have become rampant, affecting many of the government departments,” said another, fearing a culture of corruption may be taking root: “If our leaders are corrupt, there will be a trickle down effect because they are not interested in stamping out corruption.”
A third opinion was, simply, “yes, yes. “It’s gotten way out of hand.”
The survey drew 835 votes, among the highest totals for any Compass poll, outpaced only by last year’s hot-button questions regarding legalisation of ganja, the so-called “expat tax”, support for Dart Realty infrastructure projects, the resignation of former Premier McKeeva Bush and locating cruise berths to South Sound.
While this week’s vote overwhelmingly favoured the proposition that corruption was “pervasive” in the Cayman Islands, a smaller group, 320, 38.3 per cent, thought the problem was “serious”, but that honest people still predominated.
“Not saying that some people haven’t used these practices as the status quo, but principled people are still the majority by far,” one said. “We are no worse than UK, USA or any other human-run country for that matter. Think that sums it up best.”
At least two more partisan respondents blamed the UDP government for recent corruption, while one of those went on to suggest things might improve after last week’s national elections.
“MCKEEVA!!!!,” was the one word answer from one voter, offering little elaboration, while another, no less persuaded of the blame for corruption, indicated that hope remained.
“McKeeva and [the] UDP made it endemic, but now, with decent people leading the country, it should be back in the ‘very little’ category. Thank goodness only [a] skeletal UDP [is] back in,” one voter said, congratulating newly elected independent West Bay representative Tara Rivers for breaking the UDP lock on power in the district.
A more thoughtful answer, however, observed that petty corruption was relatively uncommon and that Cayman remains relatively clean. Partisan sentiment intruded nevertheless, indicating a new PPM government would at least slow any excesses.
“Ask yourself: Have I ever had to slip a customs officer at the airport $25 for hassle-free entry? Have I ever had to pay an extra ‘processing’ fee in cash at Immigration? Have I ever been expected to ‘tip’ the vehicle inspector?
“I haven’t,” the respondent said, “and I think most people have experienced the same things as I have. When these things are commonplace like they are in countless places around the world, then it could be said corruption is commonplace. For now let’s just say we’re on our way and on this issue we are once being led by our leaders.”
Far fewer people, only 67, or 8 per cent of the total, were prepared to say that the issue had been blown “out of proportion by the auditor general and the media”, apparently discounting a years-long series of auditor general reports detailing ongoing problems with procurement, borrowing and construction, among others.
Fewer still, however, only 11 voters, or 1.3 per cent, said Cayman had very little corruption. In fact, more respondents, 26, or 3.1 per cent, told the Compass “I don’t know” about endemic corruption.
“Mi do no notin’ ‘bout Cayman,” ran one helpful answer, while another felt the islands compared favourably with the United States.
“It cannot be more corrupt than Washington, D.C.,” the respondent said, clearly cynical about political life.