Editorial Year in Review Economic prosperity, education

“New Dart deal: Cayman’s next ‘Golden Age’,” Feb. 6

Premier McLaughlin’s verbalization of support for Dart’s intended US$1.3 billion investment in Cayman over the next 20 years, and perhaps more importantly, his government’s facilitation of that investment, are welcome developments worthy of applause ….

While the Dart companies are the largest and arguably most adept developers in the Cayman Islands, they are far from alone in their financial expressions of confidence in our future. …

We cannot escape the distinct impression that Cayman is positioned on the cusp of another “Golden Age” of prosperity.

As the private sector steps up its investments in Cayman’s future economy, our government should similarly step up its investment in the future of the Caymanian people. That means education, public safety and infrastructure.

“Cayman’s coming ‘Golden Age’ requires gold-standard schools,” Feb. 10

Although Cayman is presently positioned on the cusp of another phase of economic growth, the impending boom is not going to be like the ones that started in the 1970s. This time around, the money will come neither so easily nor so cheaply.

When Cayman’s financial sector first blossomed, our country’s leaders failed to plant the seeds to create a world-class educational system. As a result, for decades many Caymanians have graduated from public schools without ever receiving a real “education,” without having been taught critical thinking skills, or without even achieving functional literacy. …

Taking advantage of the opportunities that will present themselves in what we’ve called “Cayman’s coming Golden Age” will require nothing short of a metamorphosis of the delivery of education in Cayman, which in itself will require a total rethinking of the allocation of Cayman’s governmental budget. …

If we do not rise to this ultimate challenge, if we do not transform fundamentally our inadequate and underperforming school system, then any harvest Caymanians will reap from Cayman’s coming future prosperity will be enjoyed by the few, not shared by the many. Far too many Caymanians are already beggars at their own country’s economic banquet.

“A budget-busting boondoggle in school construction,” July 10

The construction of three new high schools to serve the students of Grand Cayman could have been a crowning achievement of government, to be shared by successive administrations, for the benefit of future generations of Caymanians.

Instead, through reckless mismanagement, the government’s largest capital project ever ventured has degenerated into perhaps the single-greatest public sector economic disaster in the history of the Cayman Islands. …

Massive cost overruns, undue political interference and, what is most loathsome of all, a contempt for the physical health of children. Add in the ministry’s enduring attempts to obfuscate missteps and cover up misdeeds, and it all begins to add up to … dare we say it … “a class action” – to be pursued by the Caymanian people, if not at the courthouse, then at the polling station.

“Red ink, wastepaper: Clifton Hunter’s book value,” Nov. 2

Clifton Hunter High School was intended to be a monument to Cayman Islands education. Instead, through mismanagement, poor planning and an absence of accounting, the sprawling campus in Frank Sound has become a memorial to governmental waste. …

A team of inspectors concluded that the school’s open-plan classroom layout posed an “urgent problem” and “adversely affects students’ concentration.” …

Ultimately, education is about people – primarily teachers and students – not structures. That is where investments should be concentrated, on nurturing the active pedagogical process that takes place every day, not on the trappings that surround it. On learning, not “learning spaces.”

After all, education and knowledge are for the benefit of the living – pyramids and other monuments are built for the dead.

“Government and the EY Report: Why even bother?,” Nov. 4

The verdict is in: “Project Future” has no future.

More than a year after the unveiling of the landmark 2014 Ernst & Young consultant report on reducing the size and cost of the Cayman Islands civil service, Premier Alden McLaughlin, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and other leaders have settled on an unambitious to-do list that neither reduces the size of the civil service nor reduces its cost ….

At this newspaper, we had nothing but high praise for this government which, after all, commissioned the EY Report. We especially singled out Premier McLaughlin for his courage in putting into motion a politically risky plan that would, finally, address the oversized and underperforming civil service.

So much for that.

“How a wealthy country can be so broke,” Dec. 1

Q: Why cannot our emergency responders have nice things?

A: Because our public officials keep spending the money on other stuff. …

Instead of purchasing new vehicles when the old ones reach the end of their useful lives, officials are paying for pricey repairs to keep older vehicles on the road for a long time after that strategy has ceased to be cost-effective. …

Our government’s problem with misallocation of resources (with nearly $1 billion in annual revenue, “scarcity” is no excuse) goes far beyond service vehicles. …

[M]oney for public infrastructure and assets does not just fall from the sky. Rather, cash reserves are grown over years and decades, through careful stewardship by conscientious leaders with foresight.

When it comes to financial resources, Cayman is a wealthy country. When it comes to fiscal discipline, prudence and long-term planning, Cayman is coming up short.