Not all that long ago, if you asked any of the social and economic architects of the “modern” Cayman Islands (Sir Vassel Johnson, William S. Walker, “Truman” and “Haig” and other pioneers) what was the secret to the “Cayman Miracle,” their reply would be predictable:
“There’s no secret at all. What we have is mutually beneficial cooperation between the public and private sectors, with everyone working together to support the other, and always in constant communication.”
What set aside Cayman from its Caribbean neighbors (indeed from most nations and territories) was this spirit of togetherness, this public/private inseparability, this “all-in-this-little-lifeboat-together” mentality.
With the passage of time, however, we fear the dynamic that made Cayman great, indeed exceptional, is not just dissipating but is in danger of disappearing.
In the recent past, our leaders in government and our leaders in business shared common interests, including but extending beyond economics. During the day they conversed on matters of substance. In the evenings they mingled in the same local milieus. On the weekends they engaged, oftentimes together, in the same recreational activities.
In full awareness and appreciation of each other’s respective motives, talents and trustworthiness, Cayman’s public officials and private professionals willingly met at the altar, and, more often than not, said, “I do.”
We admit to being influenced somewhat by the sepia tones of nostalgia. Of course, there were disagreements and disputes, evanescent lows tempered by long-term highs. That being said, at the very core of Cayman’s economic efflorescence was the synchronized heartbeat of government and business.
And so, with the successes of the past as our benchmark, we now look to the state of the present – when legislative officials, crafting an omnibus regulatory bill encompassing the activities of diverse vital sectors, including energy, water and telecommunications, did not trouble themselves with consulting any of the business entities being regulated. We cannot help but gasp, and ask, “What has happened?”
The utilities commission bill deals with arguably the most significant industries in the country, including, literally, the fuel that powers not only our vehicles but also the economic engines of our economy.
Surely any concerns our vital industries may have about this transforming legislation should warrant more than the formal (and obligatory) 21 days of consideration before lawmakers are scheduled to debate the proposed bill.
These stakeholders and shareholders should have been there “at the creation,” not treated as an afterthought as the “ribbon-cutting” approaches. Frankly, these private sector practitioners know far more about their businesses, and how this legislation will affect them, than governments and their “regulators” ever will.
Consultation, or the lack thereof, aside, lawmakers have not adequately justified what in the utilities sector is “broken” that combining the distinct regulatory agencies will “fix.”
It’s not just the utilities bill. We are sensing a disturbing pattern, over the longer term, of a voracious and expanding government aiming to exercise greater control over an increasingly complex economy.
As our society continues to develop, we urge that our country revert to the “Cayman Miracle” model – constituting a mutual vision and respect between the public and private sectors, rather than the idea of competing interests and an “us vs. them” mentality.