Government-owned media face merger

Radio Cayman, Government Information Services and government television channel CIG-TV 20 will be merged into one entity, Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin announced Thursday.

Mr. McLaughlin said the government’s decision to merge the operations “into one unit” derived from recommendations in the Ernst & Young consultancy report presented to territory leaders earlier this year. The report actually recommended selling Radio Cayman and absorbing GIS staff into various ministries, but the premier announced earlier that the government wouldn’t sell the public radio station. The EY report noted that a merger of the entities could be considered if the radio station sale was not pursued.

The new unit will have responsibility for “the dissemination of government information and messages,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

The premier said he did not know whether all 35 employees working in the various government media operations would keep their jobs. The government TV station is a part of the GIS operation, while Radio Cayman operates out of its own building and is supervised by a director of broadcasting.

The merger is expected to take “months, rather than years” to complete, according to the premier.

Following his speech to the government’s Professional Development Conference at the Marriott Beach Resort on Thursday morning, Mr. McLaughlin was asked when government intended to decide on changes suggested in the EY report. The premier seemed to indicate that decisions would be made in a staggered fashion and that the wholesale civil service revamp suggested in the 240-page report would take more than one government term to implement.

“We have made some notable decisions … we’re not going to sell Radio Cayman, the Water Authority or the Government Administration Building,” he said.

Other projects related to the Owen Roberts International Airport redevelopment, construction of the George Town cruise berthing facility, and the George Town Landfill are already under way. Mr. McLaughlin said government intends to proceed along its current path regarding all three of those works.

Proposals for the privatization and outsourcing of certain government functions remain under consideration, but require more scrutiny from Cabinet and the Progressives political party caucus, Mr. McLaughlin said.

“We have to decide what businesses should government be in, and what we should not be in,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The cost of the public service cannot be continued to be allowed to grow as it has over the past decade. The Cayman Islands government will be in a real pickle if we allow that to happen.”

Mr. McLaughlin said civil servants should also realize that their own opportunities will be reduced if government costs aren’t brought under control, not only in the area of pay hikes, but also in pensions and healthcare benefits.

However, no decisions will be made hastily, the premier cautioned.

“It can’t be that we’re ‘just not doing this anymore’ and leave the civil service to scramble and let the country wonder how those services are going to be provided,” he said.

“All of this can’t happen in one [government] term. We can’t go through that amount of change management without creating chaos.”

The EY report, made public in September, proposed the potential sale of $65 million worth of government land, the outsourcing of all public sector medical operations along with a number of other government law enforcement and public works functions, and the elimination of more than a dozen government departments and appointed boards.

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