‘Well done,’ Mr. Archer, ‘Well done’

When Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush declared that he and his party would abstain from interrogating Finance Minister Marco Archer about budget items within his ministerial portfolio, the veteran Cayman Islands lawmaker was doing more for the freshman member than simply saving him the time and trouble of answering tough questions during Finance Committee.

In addition to being a practical relief for Mr. Archer, Mr. Bush’s decision was a symbolic gesture of respect for Mr. Archer and a show of appreciation for the Finance Minister’s conduct and performance.

Indeed, Mr. Archer did not have to field any questions about core government entities under his supervision, either from his own party or independents. East End MLA Arden McLean even went on the record to laud Mr. Archer for his “hard work, straightforwardness and honesty.”

While it’s not uncommon for Cayman legislators to concede the odd point to opponents, or to temper criticisms (sometimes begrudgingly) with certain concessions of concordance — it is a rare occasion when a Cabinet member attracts such universal and unmitigated praise from political opponents, in relation to a subject as important, complex and potentially explosive as the apportionment of heaps of government cash.

As we’ve written before, we’ve heard earfuls of positive commentary about Mr. Archer and his assiduous approach to public finance since his election last May. He appears to possess the skills of a professional and the demeanor of a gentleman.

His behind-the-scenes diligence paid off on the public stage, during three weeks of inspection and debate of the budget by the sometimes hostile Finance Committee.

While as a general rule Mr. Archer guided the discussion with a free hand, allowing committee members to dwell for hours on any single budget item, he also managed to keep the conversation contained, largely, to matters of financial relevance.

For example, in one Thursday meeting of the Finance Committee, Mr. Bush introduced the sensational subject of an internal personnel investigation at the Cayman Islands Airport Authority, which involved allegations of an IT employee using a government computer to access a vast amount of pornography.
The employee was suspended but later reinstated after an investigation proved inconclusive.

Confronted with this politically charged, sensitive human resources minefield, Mr. Archer maintained his composure and — preventing the meeting from devolving into a series of somewhat salacious details — prudently called a timeout. After a private meeting that night among government members, Mr. Archer announced on Friday that the Finance Committee was not the appropriate forum for such a discussion.

While we believe the accusations merit serious consideration, we also believe Mr. Archer was correct to shift this particular battle to another day, on another field.

Our support for Mr. Archer’s performance on presenting the budget, though, does not necessarily equate to support for the contents of the budget. Fundamentally, our disagreement with this government’s budget isn’t numerical (whether columns add up properly) or procedural (whether all the U.K.’s boxes were ticked), but philosophical.

Simply put, this Editorial Board disagrees with the fostering of individual dependency on central government and particularly disputes the wisdom of the public sector’s long-standing function as the “employer of last resort” for Caymanians.

Like the airport computer scandal, however, that is a conversation for another day.
For now, we’ll conclude with deserved applause for Mr. Archer. In the words of his colleague, Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden: “Well done.”

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