One year progress report (not just Tara)

I have spent many days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung.
—Rabindranath Tagore

The Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs has produced a “one-year progress report” citing and celebrating the “many key accomplishments” of Minister Tara Rivers since her election last May.

The report is titled, “Progress Report, No Excuses, Just Solutions.”

Where to start?

Minister Rivers surely must know that compliments, even if warranted, must not be uttered by, and directed at — oneself. A self-compliment is not a compliment, and self-promotion appears to have more to do with vanity than it does accomplishment. (“Mirror, mirror on the wall; who is the fairest of them all?”)

Ms. Rivers would be well advised to spend a bit of time with the premier’s press secretary, Tammie Chisholm, who served for many years as the editor of the Compass. Ms. Chisholm knows a thing or two about communications, and we believe she could be of assistance to the minister in crafting her public pronouncements. As we say in the news business, “Get me rewrite!”

Putting public relations aside, however, we are more concerned with the substance of Ms. Rivers’s performance during her first year in office than her description of it.

There are four national issues, none of them particularly partisan, on which the Cayman Islands public appears nearly united and expects the government of the day to act, swiftly and decisively.

They are 1) the George Town Landfill, 2) our underperforming public schools, 3) our lack of facilities for Cayman’s mentally ill, and 4) our stubbornly high unemployment among Caymanians.

Of these issues, Minister Rivers has responsibility for two (schools and employment), and her Cabinet colleague Osbourne Bodden, the other two (the landfill and support for the mentally ill).

Both seem to confuse the issuance of guidelines, reviews, frameworks, policies, committees and task forces with real action or meaningful, measurable results. They appear to be more comfortable “studying” than actually “doing.”

Almost exactly one year ago, our government arrived for their first day on the job, fresh off the campaign trail where they had assured us they were armed with practical solutions to the country’s woes.

Since then, they have proceeded to kick nearly every major policy decision down the road. Here are some: the dump, mental healthcare, behavior in schools, unemployment, unpaid pensions, the unfinished John Gray High School campus, Grand Cayman airport expansion, “one man, one vote,” negotiations with the Dart Group over West Bay Road, downsizing the government, etc., etc.

On the one-year anniversary of his administration, Premier Alden McLaughlin has an ideal opportunity to realign his government, assert his leadership, and redirect his team’s energy away from stultifying process to the action-oriented agenda which energized the electorate and propelled the Progressives into office.

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