Irrespective of which party or group or coalition forms the government after the intriguing April 14, 2021 election, the society owes a debt of gratitude to those who contested. In doing so, they made the many elements of a democratic society come alive- the free and public discussion of issues, the right to run for office, elected officials, free and fair elections, etcetera. It does take a level of belief in self and society, and a strong desire to make a positive contribution to energize persons to put their name on the ballot.
Those who did not win a seat in the Parliament must know that their efforts were not in vain and that there are several other ways open to them to continue to contribute to the welfare of the Caymanian society.
The new government is expected by the electorate, and indeed the entire society, to effectively take on the multiple issues that need attention. Some of these were identified during the campaign and summarized by James Whittaker in the Cayman Compass of April 13.
The phased opening of the economy after most adults have been vaccinated is uppermost on the agenda. The continued careful management of the economy with emphasis on the welfare of those at the lower socio-economic levels of the society is vital. Even with economic growth, too many persons are hurting, many, Caymanians. There must be renewed focus to rectify this reality. There must be a conversation on how to reduce the high levels of inequality in the island.
Getting the right equation between development and preserving the environment is a challenging but critical issue with dire consequences for the future. Other issues have to do with the amount of traffic on our roads, the cost of living, health care and improved school performance, among others.
Improving the quality of governance will be a task of the new government. This is so even though the quality of governance offered in the Cayman Islands far exceeds many other countries, both developed and developing. But all over the world citizens are desiring and expecting improved governance.
As the World Bank points out, policy makers and academics agree that good governance matters for economic development. Scholars have discovered that high-quality institutions have the power, over the long run, to raise per capita incomes and promote growth in all parts of the world. In fact, research done by the World Bank estimates that, ‘when governance is improved by one standard deviation, incomes rise about three-fold in the long run, and infant mortality declines by two-thirds.’
The Worldwide Governance Indicators project defines governance as the set of traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. According to this project, the quality of governance is best evaluated by examining three critical aspects of government’s use of authority.
The first is how governments are put in place. This aspect looks at the input citizens have in the election of their leaders. In democracies with transparent and well-functioning voting mechanisms, citizens have a great impact on determining the direction of government. On the other hand, incidences of voter fraud, vote-buying, etc. hinder the value of elections. The second is how well the government can make and implement sound policies.
According to the Word Bank’s project on measuring governance, a way to measure this aspect would be to, ‘Figure out whether political leaders are accountable to the citizens they represent. Do political leaders follow through with the promises they present during their campaigns? Do they consider the perspectives of their constituents above their own personal interests? Are government policymakers knowledgeable about the governance process? When government is not well skilled in policymaking, people lose trust in their government leaders and governance quality suffers.’
The third is how much respect people have for the government. Again, the World Bank project explains that this factor also helps evaluate whether there is corruption in a country. ‘Is there confidence in government systems? Can constituents easily access their policymakers for information, questions, or concerns? Are policymakers inaccessible to people who are not in positions of power? Is information about them, their office, and their positions on items of debate fully available to public scrutiny? The stability of the government or the amount of violence in a country can help us measure corruption since these can be used to evaluate whether people think the government selection process is legitimate.’
Considering these government authority aspects, the World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators track and measure good governance through six specific indicators arguing that these capture the political, economic, and institutional dimensions of governance.
The six are voice and accountability which measures the extent to which citizens can participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and a free media. The category ‘Political stability and absence of violence’ considers perceptions of the likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means, including domestic violence.
The third category – Government Effectiveness measures ‘The quality of public services, the quality of the civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to such policies.’
The final three are regulatory quality, rule of law and control of corruption. By regulatory quality is meant, ‘The ability of the government to formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development. The rule of law relates to the extent to which have citizens have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence.
The final category in the measurement of good governance is the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as “capture” of the state by elites and private interests.
Citizens would do well to take the government to task on all these measures of good governance.