The Cayman Islands does not have political parties which are distinguishable based on some clear political ideology, policy approach or vision for the country. The two political parties of modern times can be aptly described as “cults of personality” led by a dominant public figure or a big personality. In the case of the UDP and now CDP, it is none other than Mr. McKeeva Bush. The genesis and nucleus of the Progressives was and is Mr. Kurt Tibbetts, even though he transferred party leadership to his apprentice Mr. Alden McLaughlin in 2013-2017 political term.
These two parties hardly function as a party except in the weeks leading up to election. Since May 2017 elections, the MPs of the two parties are bound tightly together in a quest to hold onto political power.
The irony of this is that the voting and donor base of the Progressives are largely persons opposed to the decisions and actions of Mr. Bush, and vice versa. Yet in 2017, when it was politically expedient to do so and advantageous to both the leaders of the Progressives and CDP they joined force to consolidate their power and political survival; they negotiated a deal that satisfied both egos and awarded each party leader with lofty, lucrative position – Premier and Speaker. This fragile alliance holds firm today and led to the early dissolution of Parliament to avoid the Progressives having to openly show their support for Mr. Bush remaining as Speaker. Had the Progressives and the Independents on the Government bench been willing to vote to remove him as Speaker, he would not be sitting in that role today. Both sides are actively seeking a better deal or counter deal with incumbents and potential candidates for the 2021 elections. This is the definition of a government of National Unity.
It is almost certain the 2021 elections will result in another coalition Government. Voters will decide the future of the country. Voters need to educate themselves about the new candidates and incumbents putting themselves forward as candidates in April. Voters need to answer these questions as they compare candidates:
1. What values and principles does the person stand for?
2. What have they done in leadership roles?
3. Who and whose interests do they represent?
4. Does their track record line up with what you need in a leader?
5. Where do they stand on the most pressing issues facing our country: public education, cost of living, affordability of healthcare, the rapidly increasing inequality, environmental protection and management, and housing costs?
As voters, be prepared to ask them tough questions and demand straightforward answers on the key issues.
When campaigning, the incumbents are known to say and do anything to keep their positions, power, compensation packages and perks. For many individuals getting elected is like winning the lottery. Majority of them have never had it so good and couldn’t otherwise earn such a generous package based on merit or competence.
The country has a choice to make in the upcoming election.
What does the country want? Does the country want a change for the better? Does the country want qualified candidates with a proven track record of success, capable and willing to fix some of the complex issues that have been neglected and gotten worse these past 4 years?
Or does the country want more of the same policies and incompetence? Does the country want to give the incumbents another well paid 4 years to make deals for themselves, advance their own pecuniary interests and the interests of their political donors while they make excuses to the voters who live with increasing uncertainty and frustrations?
It is bad enough that the current Unity Government failed to provide practical solutions to the most pressing issues facing all Caymanians, as leaders they have failed us on the most fundamental of issues – the ability to know the difference between right and wrong. The current unity Government has shown us that when it comes to making the hard decisions, they do what is easy instead of doing what is right.
Look at their track record.
After the last 4 years, during unprecedented economic growth and prosperity for a select few, majority of Caymanians are worse off. With a construction boom that saw nearly 800 new projects approved in 2020, the Government has not ensured a robust technical and vocational training programme for Caymanians to earn trade jobs in the construction industry. The construction industry is hot as can be, yet the majority of Caymanians are still unprepared and left behind, with no practical way of getting the qualifications, the soft-skills and the apprenticeships they need.
Unemployed persons from the tourism industry cannot easily get retrained or upskilled to move into another industry. Instead, unemployed Caymanians are to be satisfied with handouts from charities and the Government relief payments, the twice a year NICE programme at $10/hour. The bureaucratic administration that doesn’t work for Caymanians seeking work or for employers looking to hire Caymanians.
Top of the list of failures is public education. All Government schools are rated weak or satisfactory. Government schools are attended by mostly Caymanians. Yet, Government spends 12.5% of its budget on education. What does that tell you? It tells what they are doing is failing our children and putting them at a disadvantage. What they are doing is not working. Not working for our children and not working for employers.
Another failure is lack of a practical way to balance environmental protection with physical development. There is no vision for the country, no national sustainable development plan and no attempt to balance the competing interests of the environment and the society with the insatiable lust for more and more development which results in construction politics.
Ask them who exactly is all of this unbridled development for? It is clear to me that it is not for Caymanians. The current Government and the Minister of Infrastructure, Planning & Commerce continues to give away hundreds of millions of dollars of current and future revenue in ad hoc grant of secret concessions via multiple Development Agreements that he has deemed to be “commercially sensitive” or “confidential information” in Parliament. This directly contradicts the precedent set in 2011 with the NRA agreement, a development agreement with the country’s largest private investor (the original agreement can be found here https://cnslibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/NRA-deal-15-December-2011.pdf and each subsequent amendment was also public, with the current third amended version also available for public viewing (see https://cnslibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/Amendment-to-NRA-deal-30-May-2016.pdf).
If we are booming but Caymanians are left behind, who is the development for? If housing prices are going up, and there is not enough affordable housing, what are Caymanians to do? From housing to education and training, this Government has demonstrated they have no plan to help lower income and middleclass Caymanians participate in the economic miracle taking place all around us. The Cayman Islands is the most attractive country in the region for foreign direct investment in almost all sectors, it has an open immigration policy guaranteeing a path to permanent residency and Caymanian Status for anyone with the right means and access, and thus accelerates the race to a population of 100,000. Is this what we want for our country?
The best part of the democratic process is we all get a chance to use our voice. Voters get the type of government representatives they choose. The power rests in the people.
Each voter has the power to be a part of the change that Cayman needs or be part of the status quo and outdated way of thinking about nation building which has exacerbated the divisions in our country.
Do we want leadership or representation that exercises the principles of accountability, transparency, and good governance, or is the political status quo that failed to follow its own constitutions and commitment to its members?
Is the political status quo that has proven to be lacking in solutions, integrity, morals and the willingness to do the right for the greater good enough for you?
On April 14th, 2021 you have the power to make the change for a better Cayman.
“We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama.