Being in the news business, we understand a thing or two about assignments. And, as is the case with the governmental responsibilities given to Cayman Islands ministers, we know daunting ones when we see them.
In the Compass newsroom, our assignments are typically of a daily nature. (“Go to the scene of the fire and bring back a photo,” “Profile that young scholar from Bodden Town,” “Write the editorial for Thursday,” etc.)
The ones doled out to the seven members of Cabinet on Tuesday, on the other hand, are four-year commitments. While that may seem like a lengthy tenure – given the complexity, range and diversity of each minister’s portfolio, encompassing many hundreds of personnel and millions of dollars – a mere four years seems hardly time enough to get one’s bearings, much less to create, issue and carry out most executive decisions, not to mention visionary initiatives for these islands.
Arithmetically, with about 6,000 public employees spread across ministries, departments, authorities and government-owned companies, and with government’s revenue approaching $900 million per year, each of the seven Cabinet ministers, on average, oversees a staff of nearly 1,000 employees and an annual budget of about $125 million. (Think about that. There are very few CEOs in the entire country charged with running operations of that magnitude.)
On top of the ministerial responsibilities, add in the lawmakers’ general obligations to provide constituency services, caucus in order to produce policies, discharge ceremonial functions, and – don’t forget – meet in the Legislative Assembly to make laws, it seems there are very few people anywhere who could perform all of those duties to a satisfactory level.
We understand there is a line separating ministers’ responsibilities for “policy” and chief officers’ (and other civil servants’) responsibilities for executing those policies, and that this Progressives-led coalition government intends to carry on the practice created by the last Progressives administration of deputizing certain other lawmakers as “ministerial councilors” to assist the ministers in specific subject areas.
However, with everything stacked up on the ministers’ plates, and with ever-present political pressures, they might want to seek out – in addition to “councilors” of the ministerial variety – “counselors” of the psychological type, for their own mental well-being. We want our legislators in peak mental and physical condition.
The sheer magnitude of the public sector – and the policy and management oversight it requires – seems to be an inevitable product of Cayman’s system of government and the vast number of functions and services it has accumulated. It also seems inevitable that, with so many responsibilities, ministers will be compelled to prioritize their portfolios and where they will allocate their time and deploy their available resources. The challenge requires managerial acrobatics worthy of the Flying Wallendas.
We, along with the rest of Cayman’s public, will be in the seats below, watching the show, eating peanuts and popcorn, and hoping our elected ministers execute their high-wire performances with precision, skill and success.