“In the lives of nations and of people, there exist singular moments of opportunity, where fortune presents two divergent paths toward very different futures, and where decisions made determine the difference between soaring success and foreseeable failure.
“Now is such a moment for the Cayman Islands. It is high tide for our good ship, the time for our leaders to choose whether to follow the new course that has been charted for them, or to remain where we are and recede into global irrelevance.”
— Cayman Compass Editorial Board, September 2014
Today we mark the first anniversary of the Cayman Islands government’s publication of the Ernst & Young report on reducing the size, scope and cost of the public sector. Our mood on this occasion is one of solemn remembrance of what could have been, rather than of joyous celebration of arduous but necessary deeds accomplished.
Twelve months after the release of the report — when we bestowed “special praise and recognition” upon Premier Alden McLaughlin as “captain of the HMS Cayman,” deserving of his country’s support in his “defining moment” — we look up to see that the public sector has been downsized neither in size nor scope.
Throughout the halls of the Government Administration Building, and the myriad of satellite offices scattered across Cayman, the business of government remains “business as usual.”
And so here we are, in mid-September 2015, a year older and, perhaps, a year wiser.
Rather than ticking off boxes on the list of things that have been accomplished in the past year, we find ourselves referencing “Priority 1 recommendations” from the EY report that represent things our government has failed to do:
- Sell surplus property and establish a real estate investment trust
- Outsource Health Services Authority operations
- Enter into joint venture between private sector and Cayman Islands National Insurance Company
- Spin off the tourist element of the Cayman Turtle Farm
- Divest the Water Authority
- Improve transparency of operations and strategic benefits of Cayman Airways
- Privatize the Postal Service
- Sell Radio Cayman
- Outsource services provided to various government departments
- Restructure or merge Cayman Islands Monetary Authority and General Registry.
Of the 14 “Priority 1 recommendations,” the government can be said to have made progress (actual or nominal) in maybe four areas: waste disposal and collection (by continuing to commission reports on Cayman’s already well-documented landfill problems); Airports Authority (by pursuing the expansion of the Owen Roberts International Airport); Port Authority (by pursuing the cruise berthing project for George Town harbor); and education (by proposing the new Education Bill which would set up the legal framework for the establishment of U.K.-style academies, known in the U.S. as charter schools).
Even in those relatively positive instances, thus far there is little to show in the way of results except for paperwork, which we might be tempted to describe as better than nothing; except that in the absence of action, paperwork is really worse than nothing, after accounting for wasted time and effort.
In July 2014, with the publication of the EY report looming on the horizon, this Editorial Board posed the following question:
“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?”
The unfortunate answer, it seems, has become apparent.