Monday, November 12, 2012

Cayman’s political impasse – and its solution

There is a strong desire here to vote out all the present MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) at the next general election. It won’t happen, of course, but it makes for some interesting speculations.

The people we have now comprise two political factions of our sole political force: namely, the unofficial Protectionist Party. The UDP and the PPM are not distinguished by anything that can be called a policy. They differ only in the personalities of their leaders. The only political promises our candidates make are 1) “We will do the same things as our opponents, only better!” and 2) “We will stick it to the expats harder than our opponents would!”

Both factions are fiscally incompetent. Both are in thrall to Cayman’s special-interest lobbies – the beneficiaries of our protectionist and indentured-labour system, and the beneficiaries of our ever-expanding central government.

There are regular calls for independent candidates, not members of the usual gangs of egotists. Those of us with Cayman’s best long-term interests at heart are desperate to persuade businessmen of proven ability and trustworthiness to do their civic duty.

Unfortunately, “trustworthiness” at election time means “can be trusted to protect all native-born Caymanians against better-qualified and better-motivated foreigners, in commerce and the workplace”. The protectionist system that has kept wages low for the unskilled and uneducated, and productivity low for everybody, must continue. That is not up for negotiation with people who would vote as a bloc to protect their permanent affirmative-action program.

“Proven ability”, in prospective candidates for public office, means “proven ability to succeed within the protectionist program”. Sigh. What can you do?

The problem is this. The prospects best qualified to run our Islands’ government include expatriates. Yet the thought of having expats in the Legislature and on Statutory Boards is abhorrent to the bulk of the electorate. It’s not expats’ birthplaces that handicap them: it’s their ancestry.

Individuals born in Cayman of non-Caymanian parents are and always will be regarded as expats; persons born overseas with even one native-Caymanian parent are and always will be regarded as Caymanian. “Real” Caymanians inherit their qualifications, which out-rank all other qualifications. It’s like the Church’s doctrine of apostolic succession.

MLAs must be “of the blood”. In theory, there are plenty of independently minded bloodline-Caymanians who could unseat the present MLAs; but in practice, no there aren’t. Most of the independents have served on government committees or boards whose members are appointed by MLAs. They are thereby tarred with the brush of association with one or other of the present Parties. Government by cronies is our tradition, after all. Very, very few individuals escape such service with their reputations intact.

So here’s the thing. If we rule out all expats as inherently untrustworthy, and all bloodline-Caymanians as compromised, who is left? Nobody. Only the British FCO can help us out of this mess, though I doubt if it will make the effort.

Two years of direct rule from London would allow our system of parliamentary representation to be re-set. During those two years, some responsible and carefully selected long-term immigrants could be encouraged to become public figures by serving on important public committees – appointed by the governor, not by local politicians. Some responsible and carefully selected “non-politicals” among our bloodline Caymanians could be similarly appointed. For them, two years ought to be enough for their past associations to be forgotten, or at least forgiven.

That solution would give us hope. Nothing else will, I fear.