In his new blockbuster book, Flash Boys, author Michael Lewis explores the phenomenon of high-frequency trading and its impact on the stock market, an arena where the difference between a millisecond and a nanosecond can mean billions of dollars.
In all modern societies, the relative importance of time is expanding, turning over traditional power structures. Practically, it means that the big no longer eat the small; the fast eat the slow.
And yet, in the Cayman Islands, especially (but not exclusively) in government, things seem to move at an interminably lethargic pace. Urgency and dispatch are not valued, or even identified, as essential components of our social, legislative or bureaucratic processes.
Let us illustrate by taking a tour of Grand Cayman, starting at the so-called “National Park” in Barkers. More than a decade after the park officially opened, and three months after government finally passed legislation providing a mechanism for a national park to exist legally, the government has yet to grant formal protected status to Barkers or anywhere else.
In West Bay, a certain vacant field was intended to be the site of the new Beulah Smith High School before government’s funds were gobbled up by the Clifton Hunter and (unfinished) John Gray campuses.
On Northwest Point Road, the Cayman Turtle Farm continues to cost taxpayers some $10 million per year in ritual bailouts, with no end in sight.
Minutes spent idling in traffic on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway present an opportunity for contemplation of the noxious odors emanating from the 80-foot-tall George Town landfill. Following decades of research on the problem by successive governments, the current government has responded — by appointing a committee to research it some more. Where is the urgency?
In George Town, congregations of sweaty, tired visitors line up at the airport and cruise port — the expansion and improvement of which, like the landfill solution, exist only in the imagination.
On the waterfront, the former site of the Tower Building is nominally reserved as the future site of a “Jubilee Park” and “Christian Heritage Monument,” yet nevertheless remains an empty lot.
Within the courtroom downtown, the wheels of Caymanian justice turn at an undetectable rate. The poster boy for judicial inertia is former Premier McKeeva Bush, who still awaits trial nearly 16 months after his arrest.
On the eastern half of the island is the proposed Ironwood golfing and residential community. How long will it take before environmental impact assessments are conducted, concluded and agreed upon? How many miles of red tape must be traversed before the first mile of the East-West Arterial highway is constructed?
However maddening, the situation is not hopeless. There is nothing real that is preventing the transformation of Cayman’s government into a quick, sleek and efficient organization.
The first step is for government to obtain metrics on its performance, so officials can see objectively where improvement is needed and where it is occurring.
The government should be measuring everything: how long the average commute takes at different times of day; how long a person must wait to see an immigration officer, or postal worker; how long it takes to process a coastal works license, or driver’s license.
Paying heed to speed is essential in preparing Cayman for the competitive fast-paced future it faces.