Friday, November 19, 2010

Wasting Space (Cayman's Civil Servants)

Over the course of a thirty-year career, each Civil Servant costs the taxpayers the best part of two million dollars. Half of that would be salary, the rest medical expenses for the whole family plus pensions, expense accounts, office rent and other overheads. It all adds up. Whenever MLAs are looking for ways to reduce Public Expenditure, they should close down useless positions before they start cutting wages across the board.

Of all government employees, the most useless must surely be the public-relations personnel. Every Department seems to have at least one, and GIS (Government Information Service) has a staff of twenty. If they all quit tomorrow, we would be not a jot less informed about our governance. The only genuine damage their absence would cause is to the vanity of our politicians and senior Civil Servants. Does that vanity justify adding an extra $100 million or so to our Public Debt?

The job of GIS and the Departmental Press Officers is simply to make their superiors look good. In pointing that out, I mean no personal disrespect to all these purveyors of glad tidings. They keep themselves busy, and their professional skills are adequate. Unfortunately, their work is utterly unproductive. Their press reports are ephemeral make-work, of zero value to the community. Frankly, we’d rather have the money that’s wasted on them all.

We can judge their efficacy by the reputations of the government units they serve.

Education Dept. The average government-school pupil possesses skills inferior to the average private-school pupil. Logic and common sense would therefore suggest that the private schools send inspectors to grade the government schools’ standards, instead of vice versa. The average standards of reading, writing and arithmetic in our government schools are appalling; the average standards of general knowledge of the outside world are worse. The Department’s publicity people are a waste of space.

Immigration authorities. Their reputation is quite high with native Caymanians but abysmally low with almost everybody else. They are viscerally anti-expat, and much of their famed incompetence is actually malice. What is the point of a public-relations team that aggravates the divisions within our society?

Dept of Tourism. Its public image is of an endless swarm of boondoggles, on which it wastes tens of millions of dollars each year. The tourists it brings in could be brought by a team of three on a couple of hundred thousand dollars – one per cent of the present budget. Its press releases do little more than boast of its extravagances.

Cayman Airways. Its entire budget is wasted. All its public-relations unit can do is keep this dead parrot nailed to its perch. Which it does very well, it must be said. Squeezing $1000 a year out of every man, woman and child in the native-Caymanian community just to keep the parrot looking alive, is a triumph of propaganda. Those skills would be worth a fortune in the private sector.

Protocol Office. Somebody was lucky enough to catch the FCO’s clerk-in-charge on his way from one padded cell to the next. The Cayman public is split fifty-fifty on whether to laugh or cry.

Financial Secretary’s Portfolio. I’m not sure that it still has a Press officer; if it does, he learned his communications skills from the Trappists. It is left to our Auditor General to tell us that there are no timely internal audits or checks of any significance, no up-to-date Financial Statements, no reliable Budget figures, and no responsible management of Public Revenue, Expenditure or Debt. Total chaos.

As for the Police, well, hmm... What good has a public relations officer ever done for the Police’s image?