Government’s decision to stop forcing inbound travelers arriving at Cayman’s airports to fill out customs forms if they have nothing to declare seems like small change – and it is. But we hope the policy shift signals a sea change in government’s heretofore exuberant embrace of unnecessary paperwork.
More than an inconvenience, Cayman’s proliferation of forms, lengthy applications and other assorted annoyances represents significant lost time, increases the cost of doing business, and drives the general population, well, generally nuts.
The policy of requiring customs forms from the half-million-plus international air travelers arriving at Cayman Islands airports each year provides one micro-example of the ways that all this paperwork shuffling adds work — but not value.
Her Majesty’s Customs’ requirement that all incoming travelers complete a goods declaration form might not seem overly burdensome – until one begins to think of it at a system-wide level. First, there is the cost of designing and printing the forms, themselves. Then there is the time it takes to distribute them to arriving air travelers, plus the time it takes them to fill them out.
Once the airplane has landed, a representative from each family must relinquish their form and talk it over with a customs agent. Only then will the agent, having satisfied him or herself that the traveler had made a truthful declaration, wave the traveler through and add their declaration to a towering pile of collected forms.
In the best of circumstances, each part of the transaction takes only a few minutes. In the worst, travelers find themselves having to untangle a mess of red tape before heading home or to the beach.
A great mystery, of course, is what happens to the millions of forms that have been collected even though no duty was required? To which administrative purgatory are they relegated? Are there warehouses full of moldering non-declarations somewhere, waiting for a purge or natural disaster to seal their fate?
Thankfully, not for much longer. Customs officials have announced that beginning June 30, only visitors who have items to declare, and residents who have exceeded their $350 allowance for dutiable goods, will be required to fill out enumerative paperwork. Tourists and residents, we expect, will appreciate the change, as will customs agents. It’s a win-win.
This small but meaningful victory should prompt administrators across government to examine every process and piece of paper, asking: “What value does this paperwork contribute? If the answer is little or none, it should become a candidate for elimination.
(Who can forget, in earlier times, walking into the old Immigration Building and witnessing waist-high piles of folders rising from the floor. “Oh God, please don’t let mine be in there,” was not an irrational thought.)
One thing about forms: If you’re going to rely on them, you’d better be good at creating them. The Cayman government, along with its myriad of departments and regulatory tentacles, is not.
In far too many instances, the questions are unclear or repetitive, the grammar is atrocious, and the spelling is worse. Misspellings make newspapers, and countries, look, frankly, stupid.
Let the legacy of Governor Anwar Choudhury’s short tenure on our islands be his blessedly blunt directive: “Shred or burn policies or bits of bureaucracy. Literally, burn them.”
This is one instance where no one should call 911 or the fire department. Let the bureaucratic bonfires blaze!