The EY study, which considers central government, statutory authorities and government owned-companies as a whole, will pose recommendations to privatize, downsize, transfer or entirely eliminate government agencies and services. Within the next month or so, Cabinet will review the report and choose which recommendations to implement.
There’s no way for the Progressives government to sidestep the inevitability that following the consultants’ advice will bring sweeping change to the civil service — and in ways that may not be pleasing to its workforce.
The key question is this: “Does this elected government have the fortitude to challenge the 4,400 Caymanian public servants who comprise the country’s single-largest voting bloc; or will they, like their predecessors, ultimately crumble?”
No elected government in recent Cayman history has had the courage to confront the civil service, even on minor matters.
And this is a major matter.
(Case in point: The 2010 Miller-Shaw consultancy report, which in our opinion was one of the best-thought-out public documents ever requisitioned in these islands, turned out to be too politically unpalatable for our elected officials to act upon.)
As documented by Miller-Shaw, Cayman’s unsustainable, growing public sector spending is largely driven by the costs of human resources.
Put another way, there are too many people working for government, they’re making too much money (especially those in senior positions) and their benefits (such as healthcare, pensions and job security) are unrealistically generous.
But Cayman’s democratic realities are already in place, and civil servants will continue to exercise considerable control over elections (and politicians) until their numbers are significantly diminished. It’s a catch-22.
So the question remains, “Will Cabinet members put their country ahead of their political careers?”
In order for substantial reform efforts to succeed, Cabinet must align with Deputy Governor Franz Manderson who, in turn, will require unflinching support from Governor Helen Kilpatrick. This triumvirate must remain unified in both word and deed. Any dissent in public among them will be viewed as weakness and will be exploited by those seeking to perpetuate the unsustainable status quo.
So far, Cabinet’s approach, forcefully articulated by Premier Alden McLaughlin, and the deputy governor’s recent statements have been encouraging. We are especially pleased to hear Mr. Manderson emphasizing the “need for speed” in implementing the report’s recommendations.
We’ll also note that the EY study is likely to be far more than a series of bullet points on what to cut from government and what to keep. We expect it will serve as a “road map” for officials to follow when enacting the recommendations.
According to our understanding, the resources EY assembled to conduct this study — including flying in experts from its global network — far exceed the $155,000 that government has paid the firm for its services. Other comprehensive studies, such as on the cruise ship port, the airport or the landfill, routinely cost millions of dollars. Indeed, EY’s services can be thought of as a generous gift to the country.
What remains is to tear off the wrapping paper, read the instructions and put the gift to good use for the good of Cayman.