Ernst & Young, we have no doubt, will provide government with a well-documented and objective analysis of which entities are most suitable for public/private partnerships or total migration from the public to the private sector.
The second function of privatizing the analysis, we believe, is both unspoken but important — that is it gives political “cover” to the party in power to make these politically charged divestment decisions. That, too, is fine with us. In this instance, we are far less interested in process than in results.
As Mr. Moxam correctly points out, successive governments have declared their willingness, even eagerness, to slim down the size of the public sector. The 2010 Miller-Shaw report — which set the platinum standard for objective advice to the Cayman government — contains a bevy of insightful conclusions and practical recommendations that government could, and should, begin implementing right away (or better yet, four years ago).
And yet, to our knowledge, no government entity has ever been truly privatized — notwithstanding the creation of quasi-public “statutory authorities” and “government-owned companies.”
Frankly, the main reason why substantial cuts to the public sector have never materialized is that politicians become paralyzed with fear when faced with opposition or retribution from the civil service, which is the single-largest voting bloc in the country.
And, therefore, please forgive us for being somewhat skeptical that the Ernst & Young engagement is yet one more example of government “studying” in lieu of “acting.”
May we suggest a scenario that would prove us wrong:
While the Ernst & Young consultants are examining and analyzing the broad scope of government (and broad it is: a huge civil service, 80 departments, 25 authorities and companies), why doesn’t the sitting government move toward privatizing just one entity?
It would signal that this government at this time on this issue has serious intent and some credibility. Call it a show of good faith.
While there are so many obvious entities to choose from, high on our list would be the Cayman Turtle Farm, or, if that’s too big for a start, how about sanitation services, vehicle maintenance, road repair or Radio Cayman?
If even those are too politically unpalatable, we would leave it to government to pick the easiest one on its list. At this point, we’re not particularly interested in an immediate exodus from the public arena to the private sector. We would just like an indication that government is serious and committed to privatizing, well, anything.