EDITORIAL – Is OfReg becoming a troubled – and troubling – regulator?

OfReg, Cayman’s “super-regulator,” wants an emergency infusion of one million dollars. Government shouldn’t give it to them. Regulators should be starved, not fattened.

In fact, OfReg would be well advised to follow the “Franz Manderson model”: A healthy diet, daily exercise and an emphasis on agility, flexibility and high performance – certainly not on girth-expansion and weight-gain.

Let us be clear: Over-regulation clogs business arteries, restrains growth and impedes economies. Subsequently, societies suffer as their quality of life diminishes.

All business leaders and economists know this intuitively, but President Donald Trump and his advisers know it empirically.

The American economy is booming – unemployment is at its lowest rate, 3.9 percent, since 2000 (the lowest in history for African Americans and for Hispanics in a dozen years). Wages, cross-sector, after having stalled, again are rising. The stock market, of course, regularly reaches record highs. Much of this renewed vitality can be linked to the deregulation of the marketplace.

“In the history of our country, no president, during their entire term, has cut more regulations than we’ve cut,” Trump said recently. And the slashing and defunding of the regulatory red tape continues. Looking forward, the Trump administration has “killed or stalled” 860 pending regulations by withdrawing 469, designating another 109 as “inactive” and relegating 282 to “long-term.”

Unfortunately, Cayman appears to be going in the opposite direction.

Let’s have a closer look at OfReg:

Vice President Alee Fa’amoe told members of the Public Accounts Committee last week that the utilities and commodities regulator was forced to dip into cash reserves – including monies that had been earmarked to fix the territory’s 911 system – to fund operational costs. His reason: funding streams from previous fuel and water regulatory agencies had not been sorted when the agencies were merged. Why not?

Yes, this is the same group that, for the better part of a year, has been trying to insinuate itself into private business. Whether it be coffee shops that provide wireless internet “hot spots” for customers or telecom companies allegedly too slow to establish fiber optic networks, it seems no group is too big or too small for its interference.

This is classic “mission creep,” big government getting bigger.

If OfReg is short on cash, its first call should have been to the government entities that apparently have not been paying their annual licensing fees.

At that PAC meeting, Mr. Fa’amoe revealed that some licensed government entities were “of the opinion” that they should not have to pay their fees. He said that while he disagreed (the entities are, in fact, required to pay the fees), it was “not worth starting a war over.”

Yes, Mr. Fa’amoe, it was, if you want your agency to have the confidence and support of the public.

Remember, OfReg is the same regulator that is planning to lay a national fiber optic network – a multimillion dollar infrastructure project – and try to force telecom companies to pay the bill. And yet, it cannot even collect the modest fees it is legally owed by government broadcasters because it is unwilling to “start a war?” A small amount of money, but a very large principle, is at stake.

This comes on the heels of last month’s admission that the regulators consider it “futile” to attempt to enforce a licensing requirement for cable companies to provide local content over a “free-to-air” public channel.

Then there was last month’s unexplained 10-cent per gallon jump in the cost of unleaded gasoline. (To his credit, OfReg President J. Paul Morgan did tell PAC members that increased competition – not price controls – was the appropriate market mechanism to establish prices. We emphatically agree.)

When government commissioned Ernst & Young to recommend public service and regulatory reforms, OfReg cannot have been the future the consultants, or legislators, could have possibly imagined.

1 COMMENT

  1. The editorial is spot on , and this should finish summing OFRig up . I have to believe that it is over powered and out of control and no respect for government and the consumers and should be starved to death . But this is what happens when you put someone to run your company that is smarter than you the owner.