Bo Miller: What EY report means for Cayman

Leaders who innovate, rather than mitigate, go beyond thinking outside of the box – they rethink it, reinvent it, or get rid of it altogether. Success in this disruptive age depends not on what has worked in the past, but on new, transformative thinking that embraces change on all levels.

Government has made many futile attempts over the past 30-plus years to develop a practical vision for our small country, via a multitude of independent reviews and reports.

In fact, I participated in several: Vision 2008; the Coopers & Lybrand 10-Year Tourism Report 1992; the Tourism Report 2003; The Development Planning Review 2000-2001; Cayman Airways 1982; Beach Erosion Report 2002-03; The Economic Stimulus Report 2000/2001. These are but a few.

To date, very few of the recommendations were ever fully implemented. There seems to be a myriad of excuses why we cannot do what’s right; instead of a single good reason why we should.

Fast forward to 2013; we elected what was supposed to be the smartest, most educated bunch of representatives in our history. I, like many others, breathed a sigh of relief and felt hope and excitement.

Alas, instead of our new bright leaders having a clear sensible vision which could be rolled out on day one and in which our people could have got on board with, they hired more consultants.

But upon receiving the latest EY report, it was very refreshing to read that they had reviewed and taken into consideration many of the previous reports we had sitting on the shelves. This is good news.

Since the report’s release, a knee-jerk chorus of criticism has come from many sectors of the community – talk radio, news articles, civil servants, former politicians and other special interest groups. There have even been comments by the very leaders who spent our money on this report saying “what they are not going to do; there is no magic bullet, etc.” But wouldn’t it be more comforting to hear “what we are going to do”?

Cayman has always been a difficult place to instill change – just look at how long we been talking about a pile of garbage – 40 years? So I don’t expect this latest report will be any different. But this time I would offer a word of caution – time and circumstances are not on our side.

Many won’t take the time to review the report, but there is one fact in the report that every man, woman and child should read and store in our brains: $1.115 billion. The total debt owed by 35,000 souls which equates to approximately $32,000 each. Given the amount of dollars our government collected over the past 40 years, how did this happen? And more importantly, why are we so complacent in accepting it as normal? Many seem comfortable with this mortgage on our children and grandchildren. But if ever there was a provocation for change, the National Debt is it.

Every person who has held positions of policy making and senior management in our government for the past 25-plus years must take some responsibility for this colossal mismanagement of the people’s money. Yet we seldom hear an apology or regret. But one thing is clear; Cayman has never been in this position before and the laissez-faire attitude of non-accountability will not move us forward.

The EY report is not perfect (some have been arguing over the Bible for 3,000 years), but it is a sound analysis of our position and a road map for our future and I commend those who ordered it and prepared it. So now we had better get off our lazy comfortable butts and start implementing it while we still have a private sector with the resources to help lift this debt burden off our backs. Stop dwelling on the negatives and focus on the positives, of which there are many.

The world has changed so much since 2008, and the economic opportunities have been so diluted for our people that we must change the economic model whereby our people will become owners and investors, instead of simply beggars for a job. We have a unique opportunity to turn around some of the losing ventures now being run by government into successful business operations. Government’s role is not to run businesses (the results confirm this); instead it is to create an environment where the private sector can flourish. “Profit” is not a dirty word and only through savings and investing will we create wealth, become financially free, and reduce the debt burden and costs of living for all. In the new business world of non-stop change, there is only one way to win the game – transform it entirely. This requires a revolution in thinking.

We are at a turning point – which means we must engage in “disruptive thinking“ to transform an expired economic model into a sustainable future.

Some of our leaders advocate “the steady she goes, we have lots of time approach.” This is comfort to a fool. The crime and other social issues will soon overburden us, if there is no change in the economic model now.

I am privileged to be part of a group with some of the most talented professionals and businessmen on this island who have been working diligently for the past 15 months, in anticipation of a change of direction, such as this report recommends, to create a vehicle to help our people get back into the economic game of Cayman’s future development. This vehicle is the “Cayman Investment and Infrastructure Fund” which will be opened to one and all to invest in order to fund some of the infrastructure this country desperately needs. We have all the ingredients on island – talent, capital and a belief in ourselves. There is nothing wrong with Cayman that the people who live here cannot make right.

We are ready to act. It is now time for our leaders to be bold and make the tough decisions they promised during the campaign and which the EY report recommends. The potential for reinvention is all around us and we must grasp it now; our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.