On Friday, East End MLA Arden McLean took Deputy Governor Franz Manderson to task on the floor of the Legislative Assembly about a young man who didn’t get a job with the Cayman Islands Prison Service.
Though largely a waste of lawmakers’ precious time in Parliament, the exchange of words did serve to shed light on what is right with Cayman’s government, and what is wrong.
First we’ll dwell on the positive. According to Mr. Manderson, the recruitment process for new prisons officers was highly competitive. Out of more than 450 applications, six people were hired — including four Caymanians and two permanent residents. (To those new prisons officers, we extend our congratulations and best wishes for a rewarding and meaningful career.)
In total, Cayman’s civil service is now made up of 74 percent Caymanian employees, Mr. Manderson said. In regard to the deputy governor’s comment that that statistic is something the jurisdiction could be proud of — we concur, to a limited extent, but only in the context of an additional statement from Mr. Manderson, which is of far greater importance.
“The civil service has been criticized for not doing its job to a high standard, and the only way to change that is to do two things: We train up the people we have now, or we bring in higher-skilled individuals,” Mr. Manderson said. “Would we have liked to employ all seven [Caymanian prison officers]? Absolutely. But we have standards. We are not going to compromise those standards.”
Well said, Mr. Manderson.
We as a country can certainly take pride in the fact that about three-quarters of our civil servants are Caymanian — but only if that also means that those Caymanian civil servants are of the highest quality and professionalism.
Of what value is Mr. McLean’s ideal scenario — a 100 percent Caymanian civil service — if there is no correlation to performance? Who could take pride in such a civil service? Not us and, frankly, we would imagine not too many civil servants either.
Mr. Manderson has the proper mindset that our government should be striving toward excellence through the raising of standards, not through catering to an entitlement mentality or kowtowing to identity politics.
Mr. McLean, on the other hand, seems to believe that the civil service is an employment program for Caymanians. Not only is that the wrong view, it’s also degrading to our country’s civil servants, Caymanians and non-Caymanians alike.
The truth is, the civil service plays a very important role in providing vital services to everyone who lives here and supports the government through taxes and fees. That includes all of our residents, including civil servants, who are themselves taxpayers.
The civil service should be an aspirational career choice — one that both young and seasoned applicants alike are proud of. The compensation is at the least commensurate with the private sector, the benefits far exceed private sector standards and, we trust, upward mobility for high performers is — or certainly should be — ensured.
In short, a position in the civil service should never be denigrated by the populace and never be considered by an applicant as a career of “last resort.”