Private enterprise in the Cayman Islands must shoulder its share of the burden if the effort to downsize the territory’s civil service is to succeed, Chamber of Commerce President Johann Moxam said this week.
Although it questioned some of the methods being used by government to effect a headcount reduction in the public service, the Chamber Council – heading the largest business representative group in Cayman – agreed that the private sector would bear a heavy responsibility if the recommendations in a recent consultant report are implemented by Cabinet.
The Ernst & Young study recommends the outsourcing of hundreds of civil service jobs, as well as jobs in statutory authorities and government companies that operate separately from central government. If the full recommendations in the report were put in place, more than 1,000 public sector jobs could be affected.
The EY report also recommends the closure or amalgamation of more than a dozen government agencies.
“The [Chamber] Council … would not support the wholesale dismissal or firing of large numbers of public servants,” Mr. Moxam said. “We expect the private sector and our members to do their part to assist those that are impacted by the civil service rationalization.
“It is unrealistic for the business community and our membership to expect that individuals who will be impacted can survive without employment.”
According to government statistics for 2013, the latest available, more than 1,800 Caymanians were unemployed. Simply cutting another 1,000 jobs from the public payroll without putting those individuals in other jobs could drive up the unemployment rate from the current 9.4 percent to 15 percent or more, depending on the size of the workforce.
“We all have a responsibility to the country to ensure that those persons that are suitably qualified and have the required skills, experience and drive are able to find placement and transition into the private sector,” Mr. Moxam said.
The EY report identified more than 200 jobs in central government that could immediately be outsourced to private sector companies with little impact on public services.
Most of the central government areas considered for outsourcing by the EY consultants employ fewer than 15 people, with the exception of two: information technology and public works. The government employs 54 people in IT in the Computer Services Department and in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“There is no reason why government should continue to provide IT services in house,” the EY report states, citing the potential exception of IT procurement and strategy areas.
“Many governments around the world are selling or winding up centralized IT departments and outsourcing. [There is an] active IT market in Grand Cayman or [in] the greater Caribbean market.”
Other areas where a significant number of jobs could be outsourced, according to EY, are in the public works and parks, recreation and cemeteries departments.
Some 50 full-time equivalent positions could be considered for outsourcing in public works areas of project management, construction oversight, quantity surveying and mechanical, electrical and plumbing work, the report states. The report also assumes that 18 of the 22 jobs in the parks unit could be outsourced.
“Many [of these] activities are already outsourced to the private sector,” the EY report notes.
Other central government functions with fewer employees identified as potential targets for outsourcing in the consultant report include: prisoner transport and catering, security services and serving of warrants, debt collection, planning surveys and building inspections, vehicle inspections and maintenance and roads maintenance.
Although no final decisions have been made on which EY recommendations might be accepted by Cabinet, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has said companies that agree to take on transitioning government workers could be required to sign a fixed-term contract to employ individuals for a certain period. In return, the company could receive a monetary consideration from government. After the expiry of the transitional contract, the former government workers would be on their own to maintain that employment.