According to our flag, the Cayman Islands was founded “upon the seas.” Cayman’s modern economy, on the other hand, was founded upon something else — speed.
You see, the “Cayman Miracle” was predicated upon the fact that, once upon a time, it was incredibly easy to conduct business in our country.
Lawmakers were quick to pass legislation to enable the growth of the private sector, within the bounds of “common-sense” regulations that were not designed to be onerous or punitive. Decades ago, for example, we used to brag that a person could set up a company in Cayman within 48 hours, which for the time was an astonishingly quick turnaround.
Speed was a key selling point for our country. It was valid — and it worked.
Skip ahead to the present day. How did a country that used to be so effortlessly fast, evolve into a place where everything is so painfully slow?
Part of the reason may be that the rest of the world has sped up. (In New Zealand and Macedonia, for example, you can set up a legally operating business in less than 24 hours. Several others have broken the two-day barrier.)
Additionally, the international financial sector has grown much more complex and scrutinized over the years. Funds and banking aren’t as simple as they once were.
However, in our opinion, the primary factor for Cayman’s lethargy isn’t external; it’s internal, even self-inflicted. Over the years since Cayman has entered the international stage, our country has created thousands upon thousands of civil servants, boards and regulators, each standing in the way between you and what you need. In many, if not most, instances, it’s not that those individuals don’t want to help, or they aren’t trying. It’s that collectively our unwieldy systems have become so clogged up that almost nothing can be done in a timely and efficient manner.
Where to start? How about the lines at the Department of Vehicle and Driver’s Licensing … or the Department of Immigration … or the Needs Assessment Unit?
Departing from physical queues to paperwork pile-ups, consider the hundreds of people stuck in legal limbo for years as the government ponders its own legislation on permanent residence applications. Meanwhile, Caymanian applicants for social welfare often wait weeks or even months, just to get an appointment with an assessment officer. In our courts, delays and continuances can push back hearings and verdicts on even small cases for months, if not years.
Moving up in magnitude from “individual customer service” to larger public projects, the government’s processes are equally congested and congealed, if not more so. We’re not just talking about traffic congestion, but the 25-plus years lawmakers have spent talking about, but not acting on, the George Town Landfill; the decades spent discussing ideas for cruise berthing in the George Town harbor or elsewhere; or the years that have elapsed without a true expansion to Grand Cayman’s airport (or permanent relocation).
The last time we went downtown, the country still does not have a new courts building, despite years of pleading from Cayman’s judges. On Elgin Avenue, the Glass House still stands, despite suffering irreparable structural damage in Hurricane Ivan in 2004, being vacated in favor of the new Government Administration Building in 2011, and lawmakers’ targeting it for demolition by January 2016 (a deadline that obviously has come and gone).
And so on.
The “world of Cayman” is not the world in which everyone else is living. In the wider world, it’s not the big that eat the small: It’s the fast that eat the slow.
Our country — with its 5,000 distinct flavors of work permits — seems increasingly ripe for consumption.
If the next elections are called according to the usual schedule, that means the Progressives government has about 12 months to take care of the country’s business.
Our readers have surely heard the age-old adage, “Carpe diem” — “Seize the day.”
Our government would do well to adjust the Latin, and adopt a new motto, “Carpe annum” — Seize the year.