“We are examining what agencies and services could possibly be privatized. There are no sacred cows.”
— Premier Alden McLaughlin, February 2014
“We can’t fall down on this.”
— Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, July 2014
“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?”
— Cayman Compass Editorial Board, July 2014
“The country must recognize that privatization is not a panacea that, when poured down upon a public service, will miraculously cure all ills … We also want to emphasize that, like any other government initiative, in order for true success, it is the individual civil servants that must make it happen. Thus, our involvement is critical.”
— Civil Service Association President James Watler, September 2014
The Cayman Islands government’s partnership with Ernst & Young to reduce the size, scope and cost of the public sector held special promise, in part because it was endorsed by Premier Alden McLaughlin, whose administration commissioned it, and was supported publicly by Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, who would be central to its implementation.
The EY Report proposed (note that we’re speaking of it in the past tense, much as one does of the deceased after the funeral) to cut public expenditures by reducing the number of government entities and, by proxy, shrinking the number of civil servants. The report was touted (we believe correctly) as a roadmap directing Cayman toward long-term fiscal sustainability.
Now more than six months since the press conference at which this report was introduced, little of substance appears to have been accomplished — and it appears we have another “dust gatherer” in the making. We refer our readers to Page One of today’s newspaper for a depressing recital of what was proposed in the report (plenty) and what to date has been accomplished (almost nothing).
Take for example, Radio Cayman, the government-owned broadcaster which the consultants suggested should be sold to the private sector. Not only did officials decide not to sell Radio Cayman, they also appear to be reconsidering their own “Plan B” — merging Radio Cayman with government’s other communications entities, including GIS and CIG-TV.
The government’s responses to other recommendations in the EY Report — such as selling certain public assets, immediately outsourcing some 200 government jobs, establishing U.K.-style academies to deliver public education, creating public-private partnerships for the cruise dock and airport projects, privatizing waste disposal and shuttering the Cayman Islands Development Bank — have ranged from “no” to “maybe someday” to “we’ve got other consultants working on that.”
Former Education Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues was appointed in mid-August to lead a four-person unit charged with carrying out the EY reforms approved by Cabinet. Since that time, she has been both inaudible and invisible.
In response to an emailed request for comment from a Compass reporter on the progress (or lack thereof) of her team, Ms. Rodrigues deferred to Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, who is off island until next week.
Which leads us to ask: What, exactly, have Ms. Rodrigues and her cohorts been doing over the past seven months?
Perhaps that is a question for the deputy governor, after all.