Reply to 101: Learning Lessons
101 is eager to ridicule our two political parties, to say there is nothing to choose between them and to throw both in the bin. I do not think 101 can be faulted for wanting to get rid of UDP government. It is clear to all of us that the UDP offers one thing only – Bush rule. We have all seen Bush rule in action, and there is no reason to think that it would improve if Bush were re-elected as premier.
On top of his failings as a ruler and the question whether we want a ruler or a government, there are strong suspicions of large-scale corruption, made worse by his explanation of the Thomas affair. So it would indeed be a grim day for the Cayman Islands if voters chose four more years of Bush rule.
On the other hand 101’s suggestion that a PPM government would be no better than Bush rule is facile and unworthy – if this is meant to be a realistic assessment of the situation. The explanation may be that the Viewpoint is really propaganda for an independent candidate.
In order to slam the PPM government of 2005-09, 101 repeats the UDP propaganda about financial mismanagement. This was the propaganda that won the election for Bush and his team in 2009. But I suspect 101 understands that the truth is not so simple. And I hope 101 recognises that it is important for the country’s future that the truth be understood and the lessons of the financial crisis learned.
The PPM government was elected in 2005 on a manifesto that made plain that it would give first priority to the country’s education system. Our existing system was suffering from neglect, it was inadequate and over-stretched, and this was having very serious long-term effects. The government set out to overhaul the system, change attitudes to education and provide the best facilities that the country could afford. Thus far I do not think anyone would fault the government.
The mistake was in not making their own assessment of what the country could afford. The financial secretary gave the project his thumbs-up and there was no reason to doubt his assessment. Under the Constitution (then) it was the financial secretary’s responsibility to make the assessment, and he had the data and the expertise to make it. We still do not have reliable figures but we do know that the financial secretary made a radical reassessment after the 2009 election. And from his explanation to the LA it emerged that he had a very restrictive view of what his responsibility entailed. He just passed on figures given to him by others.
It does not matter now whether the FS was wrong about his responsibility. I am not talking about blame but about the lessons the financial crisis teaches us. One of the most important lessons is that in future the elected government must ensure that large projects are undertaken only with a reliable assessment of affordability – and of feasibility, cost, impact and benefit. Those who make the assessments and advise on financing must take responsibility for what they say; and the elected government must satisfy itself that the assessments and advice have been given properly and carefully, with due regard for margins of error.
I am not suggesting that the elected government should ignore what the civil servants are saying. Far from it. We have seen in recent years the mess that is created by a premier who thinks he knows best on all subjects.
This is only one of the lessons that the financial crisis should have taught us. Another, underlined by the Miller/Shaw report, is the absolute necessity of bringing the operating costs of government under effective oversight and control. This was the responsibility of the civil service itself. When the Cabinet was told there might be an operating deficit for ‘08/’09 it immediately put pressure on the civil service to cut costs. But with hindsight we can see that this was not enough. With the new Constitution the responsibility for government finances is in the hands of the minister for finance.
Another lesson is that raising taxes to make up the government deficit can do more harm than good. The key thing in a financial crisis is to support and encourage private business, especially our pillar industries, and to restore confidence. This was emphasised in the PPM’s 2009 manifesto. It is increasingly recognized by governments around the world as the global crisis continues.
I think it is fair to say that the Bush government has ignored all of the lessons. The premier sees such lessons and the ordinary principles of good governance as obstacles to be evaded when doing what he wants. So we have the embarrassment of the UK forcing our premier to sign an agreement to observe some fundamentals – not that there is any sign that he truly accepts any of them. He prefers confrontation.
In my opinion voters need to choose a team, one that could form a government with its leader as premier; and it should be a team that believes in good governance, shows that it understands the lessons of the financial crisis, and will restore confidence and the rule of law. That is the only way voters can obtain a government that will take care of them and the country.
The PPM is assembling such a team. That has been the main mission of the PPM since the first members came together ten years ago. The PPM team will certainly include new faces; it already has a new leader. I hope voters will examine the team and its manifesto with care before making their decision. Of course the performance and achievements of the previous PPM government should be scrutinized, but where mistakes were made the question should be whether the lessons have been learned.
101 exhorts voters to vote for individuals regardless of party affiliation, if any. This is how we voted in 2000, and it led to the first Bush government. A lot of people used some of their votes this way in 2009, and it gave us the second Bush government. Let us not make the same mistake in 2013. Another lesson.
Independent candidates should be pressed to say who they would vote for as the next premier. Voters should choose their government, not leave it to the MLAs to make deals and compromises to suit themselves.
- George Town Landfill to close early
- Grand Court Juror Report Date Changed
- Government Schools Begin Registration
- Church Street Closed to All Vehicular Traffic
- On Sales : Samsung Galaxy SIV / Apple iPhone 5 64GB
- Sales On: Apple iPhone 5 32GB, Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III / Galaxy S4 Buy 2 get 1 free
- Affordable South Side Home for Sale
- house for rent
- car for sale
- Samsung Galaxy S4 19500 16GB Unlocked
The comments posted do not necessarily reflect the views of CNS or any individual staff member. All comments are posted subject to approval by CNS. Read more
- After voting they will
3 hours 37 min ago
- Yes, but then the PPM scare
3 hours 53 min ago
- Don't allow yourselves to be
3 hours 58 min ago
- Like to generalize much?
4 hours ago
- It is the evening of the
4 hours 43 min ago
- Kent I agree with your
4 hours 53 min ago
- Good luck Cayman - we'll be
4 hours 55 min ago
- And now for the most
5 hours 18 min ago
- So if this true then why is
5 hours 19 min ago
- What is done in the dark
5 hours 20 min ago