Cayman Water CEO Rick McTaggart has raised a serious and concerning issue with the Cayman Islands government: namely, that lawmakers are preparing to vote to overhaul regulation of the country’s utilities (including water), but nobody bothered to consult with Mr. McTaggart’s company, which is one of Cayman’s two water providers.
This degree of legislative ignorance, arrogance, or, to be charitable, carelessness is difficult for us to comprehend.
We simply cannot understand the mindset of a government that wouldn’t call, email or approach Mr. McTaggart to ask him what he and his company think of a bill that could dramatically alter the competitive landscape of the industry in which they are operating.
We don’t know who specifically, amid the sprawling bureaucracy, would be responsible for contacting Cayman Water, though plenty of people would have had the opportunity during the drafting process, including legislative staffers, government lawyers, elected members, responsible Minister Kurt Tibbetts, chief and deputy chief officers, civil servants or even interns.
It is worth mentioning that the government-owned Water Authority-Cayman does double duty as Cayman Water’s – and its own – government regulator. (That’s an odd relationship, isn’t it, where your competitor is also your regulator?)
Cayman Water and its parent company Consolidated Water have been providing fresh drinking water to the people of Grand Cayman for more than 40 years, not only to the residents of this island but also to our tourists. One of the questions that nearly all new visitors to Cayman ask is, “Is the water safe to drink?” In Cayman, in large measure thanks to Cayman Water, the answer has been a resounding “Yes.”
In addition, parent company Consolidated Water is a publicly listed company on the Nasdaq Global Select Market (entailing high standards for transparency and accountability), and recently won a 40-year, $500 million contract to supply 100 million gallons of desalinated seawater per day to markets in northwest Mexico and extending into San Diego.
We only mention those two facts to illustrate that, at this point, it is not inconceivable that Cayman’s private water company enjoys a superior level of communication with the Mexican government than it does with Cayman’s government.
What were our officials thinking?
Bringing Cayman Water into the loop on utility regulation is no mere trifle. In the realm of correspondence, there is a category for niceties and courtesies, such as thank you notes, invitations and Christmas cards. This is not that.
The government’s omission casts the entire Utility Regulation and Competition Office legislation into doubt. If the people managing this bill didn’t think to contact Cayman Water, then what else didn’t they think of? (In his letter of protest to the government, Mr. McTaggart points out several apparent flaws in the legislation that, from our layman’s perspective, certainly deserve review or re-evaluation.)
If the absence of communication was intentional, then the government has some serious explaining to do. For more than four decades, Cayman Water has been a valued contributor to a mutually beneficial public-private partnership.
The question cannot be avoided: If this is the way the government treats its “partners,” why would any investors want to partner with government?