Thursday, April 12, 2012

One man, one vote

For a voter in George Town, it’s been nice to have had four votes in general elections all these years. I understand that as the proposed Elections Law currently reads, we will have six each next time. Wow. The only real problem is, what will we do with six new fridges? I rather regret the prospect of being limited to a single vote, as some killjoys want. Only one vote per person? It’s the end of democracy!

I also regret that our lives will be managed (i.e. micro-managed) by eighteen elected MLAs, three more than we have now. For 15,000 voters? Amazing! What can have possessed the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London to approve such an obvious jobs-for-cronies idea?

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the FCO has absolute authority over all our Laws and practices. Yet the FCO’s clerks are Cayman’s colonial masters; constitutionally, we are merely their serfs. Their apathy simply encourages our local politicians to act as though the opposite were true, and that the pollies are the masters of their own destiny, and ours. How is that good for Cayman?

It’s only a few months ago that the FCO mustered the courage to chastise our MLAs for their woeful fiscal management. The message was loud and clear: Don’t do all the stupid things Britain has done, or you’ll find yourselves in as big a mess – excessive borrowing, bloated Civil Service, more waste than you could shake a stick at, shameless over-governance, and not a clue what to do about any of it. Yet, now, just these few months later, there has been no follow-up to the warnings. Our local rulers have given the FCO the finger, and the clerks have backed down.

That is irresponsible colonial governance, and short-sighted. As an Offshore tax-haven, Cayman is very valuable to the FCO and its intelligence agency (MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA). We are MI6’s major money-conduit, after London. Yes, our local politicians’ busy little hands are kept well away from tax-haven operations, but that’s not enough to protect British interests worldwide. Offshore tax-havens succeed or fail on their reputation for competence and integrity. By kow-towing to our parish-councillor-level MLAs, the FCO has compromised the credibility of its whole regional base of operations.

Our “international finance centre” loses a bit more credibility with every unchallenged political initiative. It’s silly enough that our leader of government business was re-titled “Premier” – as though our collection of small-island villages were on a standing with a Canadian Province or an Australian State. It’s silly that our Constitutional Bill of Rights, approved by 7500 unsophisticated dopes, outranks every International and European Convention relating to civil and human rights.

It’s hugely silly to exempt (as the FCO has done) our parish bookkeepers’ ledgers from professional audit since 2004, and to exclude our Civil Service pensions liability from the official Public Debt. It is sheer negligence to allow hundreds of millions of dollars of Public Revenue to continue to be frittered away and replaced by borrowed money. I sat on the Accountable Government Committee of the Vision-2008 exercise in 1998, and we came up with infinitely better recommendations than that!

The latest irresponsibility is for new government-owned cruise-ship piers to be financed by diverting budgeted Public Revenue to the piers’ builders. It doesn’t take an accounting genius to know that any disappearing tax has to be matched by either cuts in Public Expenditure or increased taxes somewhere else. Since government payrolls are untouchable, we are doomed to either higher taxes (Import Duty, for example) or new taxes (on Income or Property). Why doesn’t anybody protest about that?