Premier Alden McLaughlin and Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller may sit on opposite sides of the Legislative Assembly, but in their New Year’s messages, they appeared to be singing from the same hymnal.
In statements that appeared in yesterday’s Compass, both men identified improving education as one of government’s top priorities in the coming year. The Compass would like to add its voice to that choir.
Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Miller also, correctly, highlight topics such as the public sector’s responsibility for safeguarding vulnerable citizens (such as the elderly), fighting crime, meeting physical infrastructure needs and addressing problems facing Cayman’s workforce.
Mr. Miller, in his statement, articulates and enumerates a bold and praiseworthy agenda of addressing what in the past have proven to be intractable social issues, including the provision of affordable and effective healthcare for the populace, as well as revising a wholly inadequate pension scheme.
However, there is an important distinction between the messages from Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Miller.
True to form, Mr. Miller’s statement carried a strong dose of the populist and parochial perspective that characterizes his politics. Mr. McLaughlin articulated a broader (and, in our opinion, wiser) view.
Mr. Miller vowed to work to “improve job security, satisfaction and reward for Caymanians” … “provide an improved quality of life for all Caymanians through proper physical and economic planning” … by placing “Caymanians at the forefront of both the financial and tourism industries” … and “returning the Good Ship Cayman to the control of Caymanians, for the benefit of all Caymanians, and of giving each and every Caymanian the opportunity to fully participate in the Cayman econowwmic miracle in line with their full potential and God-given talents.”
But Mr. Miller’s depiction of born-Caymanians as victims, rather than beneficiaries, of the “Cayman miracle” is factually inaccurate and ultimately divisive and destructive. As has been demonstrated in Cayman for the past 50-plus years, a rising tide lifts all boats. Conversely, a receding tide can cause shipwrecks.
The disconnect between Cayman’s workforce requirements and the skill level of too many in the local population presents a real issue that must not be papered over by political rhetoric featuring a message of “victimization.”
The twin pillars of our economy – financial services and tourism – are global, not local, by definition, and both require highly educated, highly motivated professionals to keep them locally viable and globally competitive.
Premier McLaughlin understands this. As he wrote in his New Year’s message, “This optimism and confidence in Cayman does not happen by chance. It is the result of a responsible and responsive government coupled with an innovative private sector and an efficient and effective workforce.”
Mr. McLaughlin knows, and has so stated many times in the past, that it will be the partnerships between government and the private sector, between Caymanians and expatriates, between all who espouse harmony and goodwill that will lead these small islands to far greater successes than our forbears could have ever imagined.
The model that has worked for Cayman and Caymanians in the past, and will continue to work in the future, is based on inclusivity, not exclusivity.
In this New Year, our country should be encouraged that our premier and opposition leader share many of the same priorities. We encourage both to elevate the good of the country above political partisanship as we enter the new year.