You know the scenario: It’s 4 o’clock in the morning, and there’s one lonely student in the school library, his furrowed brow visible in the faint glow of his computer monitor. He is concentrating furiously, surrounded by stacks of flash cards, towers of textbooks and reams of scribbled-on note pads.
Yes, the final exam is only about three hours away – and the student is “cramming.”
Today is the start of the final meeting of the Legislative Assembly to be held before the May elections. After being in charge of government for more than 3.5 years, the Progressives have about 20 pieces of legislation on their final agenda. If they pass them all (which is a good possibility, given their majority in the House), the Progressives will have approved more than 60 pieces of legislation in their last three meetings.
With politicians’ “final exam” – i.e., Election Day, May 24 – fast approaching, and considering the recent flurries of announcements of accomplishments, semi-accomplishments and new proposals from the incumbent government, it certainly seems as if the Progressives and that lonely student in the library have much in common.
The downside to “cramming” in school is that while it can help store information in a person’s “short-term memory” (i.e., enough perhaps to pass an impending test), once the exam is over and done with, that information never enters the “long-term memory” and so is quickly forgotten, forever. (And what’s the point of going to school at all if you can’t remember what you learned?)
In the context of governing, the difference is that much of what the administration is trying to get done at the last moment will have long-term consequences for the country long after the elections, regardless of who is elected on May 24.
The legislation passed in the coming days will remain law until and unless it is amended or overturned at some future date.
During this last legislative session, we are particularly concerned with a pair of bills related to Cayman’s primary economic engine, the financial services industry. In both instances, regarding the Legal Practitioners Bill and amendments to the Companies Law (to provide for a register of beneficial ownerships of Cayman entities), Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton has indicated that the Progressives’ plan is to resurrect controversial versions of the bills in the Legislative Assembly – then attempt to rewrite the bills during the “committee stage” of the meeting.
That parliamentary maneuvering means the bills’ amendments will not be available to the public until the minister reveals them at the committee stage. As the United States has learned from the rollout of Obamacare, the “pass it, then read it” strategy doesn’t bode well when there are long-term macroeconomic ramifications at stake.
When ruling legislators are writing laws, paying for projects and announcing plans, while an election stands between them and their having to deal with the consequences of their actions, it looks to us less like prudent and deliberative government, and suspiciously like politics.