Consequential factors of Development
Today Cayman is known for its natural beauty, tourism and financial industries. For a longtime, politicians have attempted to portray Cayman as a paradise with no problems.
One of the problems they have denied is the existence of any poverty in the Islands. Anyone who has paid attention would know that there are far too many Caymanians living in poverty and suffering just to survive the daily challenges of life. Between the glitter of new buildings Cayman’s poverty becomes the “invisible poverty”, unless you know where to look. In many regional countries, poverty is clearly visible through the existence of shanty towns, or slums. Cayman’s poverty and suffering are not concentrated in just one area; therefore, it is less visible to the unknowing eye. Those of us who have been around long enough to remember having to use outside toilets, cook on the ground, and sleep on plantain leaves mattress would know that poverty has always been part of the Cayman experience.
However, there is a difference between poverty then and poverty now. Then, Caymanians did not go hungry or lose their dignity because they were poor. Today, poor Caymanians have lost their dignity, and far too many go hungry.
I have had the opportunity to work for the Elections Office during four elections and in the discharge of my responsibilities, I have visited hundreds of homes in the George Town District. I have seen the new kind of poverty and suffering on a larger scale than most people. This kind of poverty and suffering is not restricted to George Town but is present throughout the islands. Many more Caymanians would go to bed hungry at nights if it was not for charities that deliver food on a regular basis. How many of our children go to school hungry? In a recent article “Effects of Crime on Society” it is stated “Numerous government studies have shown clear links between poverty and increased crime levels. These studies show that people exposed to poverty and the inherent challenges are more likely to commit crime”
Cayman’s prison is overflowing with prisoners and the government will have to find additional space to house them. In today’s Cayman society we have gangs and a growing drug culture. Published statistics state that in 2017 the police processed 2,500 criminals. The politicians approve an annual budget of CI$60,000-70,000 to maintain each prisoner at Northward Prison and CI$16,000 per year scholarship for our young Caymanians to go overseas to get an education. In other words, Cayman is better at producing criminals than educating Caymanians to be productive citizens and grow our middle class. What if, the government was spending CI$70, 000 per year on scholarships for deserving young Caymanians to attend the best universities possible? This budget allocation is indeed a misguided prioritization of national needs. I believe that this fact alone is enough to indict our politicians for political mismanagement.
We know that once you are criminalized your chances of playing a full and productive role in society is significantly reduced. Why are young Caymanians choosing a life of crime? This is another complex question which deserves a full and complete answer. I argue that it is largely due to the lack of planning by our politicians. Politics is not an exact science, but that is not an excuse for not planning for the future of the Caymanian people. I acknowledge that family and discipline play a role in this problem as well. It is interesting to note that on a per capita basis, Cayman is producing criminals at a faster rate than most industrialized nations. Do our politicians really understand the causes of these deviant social changes in our society and why we have gone from a law-abiding society to a lawless society? Does the government have a national plan to address these issues?
So why have Caymanians stood quietly on the sidelines while politicians give away their birthrights and mismanaged the government? This is a complex question which demands in-depth research by social scientists. In a 2007 paper titled “Colonialism and Psychology of Culture” by Nancy Abelmann, she states, “Although still rare, there are emerging efforts to identify and examine ways in which the psychological functioning of individuals has been affected by their own or their nation-colonial past”. The research shows that there is a direct correlation between colonialism and the colonized individual’s psychological mindset. In most case studies, the colonized individual has exhibited an inferior mentality when compared with outsiders. In Cayman, it is common knowledge that Caymanians believe that anyone or anything imported from abroad is superior to anyone or anything Caymanian. Based on the research on this subject, I have concluded that the underlying factor contributing to Caymanians’ lack of involvement in the political process is the colonial experience. In other words, our colonial masters have taught us to depend on foreigners for leadership and management of our affairs. Whatever the reason, my argument is that where a group of people considers themselves inferior or believe they are incapable of managing their own affairs, they will look to the outside for someone who is considered superior to manage it for them. In the interest of clarity, let me hasten to add that an individual’s inferior mentality due to colonialism, is not limited to Caymanians, but includes other nationalities that suffered the colonial experience. Needlesstosay, there is no evidence to support the notion that Caymanians are mentally inferior, although they are conditioned to believe that.
If this assumption is true, then it could explain why Caymanians have allowed politicians to give away their birthright and mismanage the influx of foreign workers, while Caymanians are unemployed and suffering.
It is unconscionable and indefensible that a government can issue 25,000 work permits to foreign workers while thousands of Caymanians are unable to find work. Particularly troubling are young Caymanians who go away to get their academic qualifications only to be told when they return that there are no jobs. This is yet another example that politicians are more concerned with protecting the interest of their rich business friends than caring about the needs of the average Caymanian. This also demonstrates that politicians are driven to protect the needs of special interest handlers and the family business not the needs of the average Caymanians.
What role does Caymanians play in today’s society? Anyone that is knowledgeable about Cayman’s private sector will recognize that Caymanians do not hold key decision-making positions. This is also true of the Civil Service, but to a lesser degree. For example, if you look at employment agencies and HR positions in the large private sector organizations, with few exceptions, these are all held by foreigners. They are by default the gatekeepers to Caymanian jobs. Who do you believe that the foreign HR staff are hiring? If Caymanians are not owners and managers of businesses in this country they are no better than “modern day slaves”. Caymanians keep the utility companies, the supermarkets and other businesses going. Those Caymanians that have jobs and can find the financial means to fulfil the role of consumer are being limited due to the high cost of living. Of course, foreign workers must consume these goods and services as well.
Added to this is the fact that unscrupulous professionals and businesses are ripping Caymanians off left, right and center -what I call “legalized robbery”. The individual who seals CI$10.00 is sent to prison but unscrupulous businesses can steal thousands of dollars with impunity, foreclose on people’s homes and politicians look the other way. Where is the protection for Caymanian consumers?
On the subject of Caymanian unemployment, the PPM government had five years to fix the problem however each initiative has failed, simply because their solution focuses on creating systems with unnecessary red tape. Instead, their focus should be on implementing a system based on commonsense and proven techniques. The majority of unemployed Caymanians do not want handouts they just want jobs. Our government is good at fixing global unemployment but is clueless on how to protect jobs for Caymanians.
The views expressed in the article are not necessarily the views of the Caymanian Times.
About the author
Gilbert Connolly is a retired Cayman Islands senior civil servant. He is a graduate of Pace University, New York with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He also holds a post graduate Diploma in Insurance Management from Nottingham University and City University London, and an EMBA from UCCI and the University of Toronto.