Where do we go from here?

| 18/07/2011

As I read, listen and watch current events in Cayman today, I am desperately trying to find a caption which adequately describes our situation. The closest I can come is the words to an old country music song, sung by my friend, the late Conway Twitty: “ We’ve never been this far before”.

I have worked through every economic downturn/recession this country has experienced since the early 1970s, starting with the collapse of Interbank, the stagflation of the Carter presidency when interest rates were 22%, the 1980-83 recession, the 1999-2002 downturn, and now the present.  All of these were serious, but what we are facing today is more than serious; in my opinion it is a crisis, particularly when you factor in the global financial conditions, especially the USA on which we depend for trade, investments and tourism. The Caymanian people should have gotten their heads around this by now and realize that sitting around hoping that things will soon get better is no longer a viable option.

I try to pay close attention to economic/political affairs both here and on the international scene. Some may remember that during the last election campaign I publicly stated on several occasions that Cayman was heading into a five year hole with respect to its economy, assuming we took the right medicine. I was criticized by some and doubted by many, but three years later we have not even diagnosed the illness much less written a prescription. I also said that there would be no “international rescue plan” for Cayman. Instead, we would have to rescue ourselves. This should now be clear to all, yet we keep looking outward for solutions when the solutions are staring us in the face. A simple exercise like inviting the best and the brightest in our community to contribute their ideas, knowledge, investments and experiences to help forge a vision and strategy to help turn this mess around has not even occurred. Instead, our policy makers continue to surround themselves with political party beneficiaries.

Let us take a quick snapshot of our crisis: we have a bloated, inefficient government which appears incapable of keeping a proper set of books; a government which is approximately US$1billion in debt, with no cash; a government management system which is in dire need of reform, operating on flawed principles with no accountability and old tired thinking; a financial industry that is shrinking daily (some say dying); a tourism industry that has been on autopilot for about 20 years; the continuous degradation of our fragile environment; an overbuilt real estate market with few new customers  and a stubborn refusal to implement any type of moratorium to help maintain values; an education system that produces more prisoners than skilled tradesmen; the highest unemployment in 30 years with no meaningful skills training despite having over 20 thousand foreign workers employed; an unprecedented crime wave; the highest cost of living in our history with fuel and electricity being the main drivers, along with high commodity prices in the USA from which we import all we consume; a gradual entrenchment of political party divisiveness which will soon become permanent, while copying the mistakes which have contributed to the demise of other countries; a shrinking middle class (the backbone of any society), an increase of the lower class and the consolidation of our shrinking local commerce by large conglomerates; small businesses and individuals losing their assets to foreclosures; and most important – young people who dare not dream because drifting is more popular and alternative opportunities are becoming scarcer.

These are just some of the challenges on Cayman’s radar, but if one had to describe their cumulative affects, “a perfect storm of trouble” comes to mind. To pull through will require a steady focus on conditions and corrections not going in circles with pronouncements and retractions that threaten to finish off what little credibility we have left.

In any discussion relating to our situation we must take a quick look in our rear view mirror. For the past 35 years we have developed a country without a vision or a plan (latest development plan 1977).  The rate of development simply outpaced the abilities and wishes of our people. We did it by “flying by the seat of our pants”, as they say, with no idea of what the final product would look like. Are we now living the final product? Serious mistakes have been made in the management of our affairs and many of these continue today. It is imperative that these be admitted and identified before we can move forward in a sustainable direction.

Forus to manage this crisis and extract the opportunities from it, we must be prepared for significant changes in almost all aspects of our lives. The challenge before us all is how we move forward with a new vision, clear strategies and plans that include all of our people – all missing ingredients in the way we currently manage our affairs. One thing is certain, we must discard the idea that past routine, past ways of doing things are probably the best ways. On the contrary, we must assume that there is room for improvement in all areas. There is probably a better way to do almost everything.  Our leadership must now consist of those who reject common thinking to accomplish uncommon results. Policies based on popularity and the next election must be abandoned for policies which are best for all. Creative thinking is hard work and it demands a willingness to be unpopular and go outside the norm.  Nothing limits achievement like small thinking; nothing expands possibilities like unleashed thinking.

For a country which has received billions in revenue both direct and indirect over the past 35 years but failed to save a dime for the rainy days, these challenges may exceed the scope and abilities of many of those who helped to drive this country into this abysmal situation. The Caymanian people must now take the lead in determining our future and our young educated should be the tip of this spear, for it is their future which hangs in the balance.

Cayman is our home, a very unique place which was founded upon the seas, and built on a few sound principles by our forefathers who worked so hard in a mosquito infested land to leave for us a better land than they inherited. Our challenge is to do the same for our children and grandchildren. I believe we can, but remember, the greatest enemy of tomorrow’s success is sometimes today’s success. What some are calling today’s successes could become our children’s nightmares. We have one last chance to get this right and that is now.

Category: Viewpoint

Comments (35)

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  1. Dreadlock Holmes says:

    It seems to me politics everywhere- not just in Cayman- is designed to preserve and protect the status quo. The modern electoral process, as it also designed, is merely a means to con  people into believing they have a say in the decisions forthcoming from their "elected" representatives. These people are career politicans. They got there by making promises, not to us but to others and in most cases they are ill trained to hold the positions they end up in. Here a Finance Minister without any expertise in finance, in the U.S., a President bought and sold by Wall Street. It is an outdated and failure-prone system. Failure for the people supposedly represented that is.

    In this day and age we no longer need people warming their buns, collecting enormous salaries and making side bets in order to represent our values and wishes. And the things that will determine our future and our childrens' futures

    We have access to instant communication and the ability to be asked our opinion on matters of importance to us. The Internet has made all of us connected and has allowed the free flow of ideas. In other words – we do not need mouthpieces or the sham of political elections and ultimately corrupted and inept politicans.

    We should begin to use, as we are now using CNS, to embrace a new form of democracy and it won't be easy. But it is necessary. The old guard, the old circles of power, the old boy system will disregard or make difficult this process. They like it the way it is. Continuing to blame each other and at the same time belonging to the same club we call politics. Offering up new solutions to the problems they created, and calling it an election? 

    But it has to be done.

    It must start with us.  And – Cayman is the perfect size for this experiment let's call it Instant Electorate. Electronic Referendum. And be done with these incompetent fossils.

    Any ideas?

  2. Knot S Smart says:

    I tend to shy away from serious political debate because the thumbs down dampen my usual humorous psyche. Notwithstanding that, I wish to seriously comment on this article by Bo Miller.

    Bo – you are right on target with your analysis of our situation and the problems which led us here. I wish you had provided some answers although I believe that you are smart enough to know that the present Government would most likely castigate you for your ideas.

    One of the worst things a Government can do (and this is my view) is to disrespect the wishes of the majority of its citizens, and to adopt the imprudent attitude that they (the elected representatives) control the fountain of knowledge and new ideas, and have a right to impose those ideas on the people who elected them.

    Anyway. We know what the problems are and that solutions are difficult choices. So what is my radical solution? And do I really care about your thumbs down? No!

    1.   The U.K. needs to step in and suspend the constitution temporarily (until our next election) and dissolve Parliament. That saves a lot of money from paying legislators, and all the foolish travel and freebies expenses.

    2.   We need at least 15 anti-gang and anti-crime police brought in from wherever is the best location, whether it is the U.S., Jamaica, or the U.K., –  to clear up this crime nightmare.

    3.     The Governor needs to temporarily suspend all of these MOU’s and sweetheart contracts recently signed, and then educate the public as to the pros and cons of those agreements. Then have a referendum and allow the public to decide what the majority wants to happen for each project. By temporary I mean not more than 90 days.

    4.     Seek a stay of execution on the current Court cases against Government and try to negotiate mutually beneficial agreements with the parties.

    5.     Review the Civil Service and cut the unnecessary expenses, and set in place a proper employee performance evaluation system.

    6.     Change the system that allows Civil Servants and Legislators to receive salary and pension at the same time and             change the terms of the relationship so that in the future Civil Servants and Legislators must pay their share of their pensions and health insurance.

    7.    Remove the fuel tax and customs duties and other fees that were added since 2009.

    8.    Examine the many Government Boards and remove those who have a conflict of interest. i.e. those who stand to profit from decisions made by the board because they are in the same business that the board addresses.

    9.    The Constitution needs amending so that a simple majority vote can remove the Premier.

    10.    Allow citizens below the age of 40 to withdraw 60% of their pension and those above to withdraw 33% – so as to give the economy a temporary boost.

    Another choice is for our Government to voluntarily do items 2-10.

    You can give me thumbs down if you want but you are not allowed to tell me that my pen-name suits my post.

    Knot So Smart.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with your post except for your first point. The last thing this country needs is a TCI style takeover by the UK. That would destroy our finanial industry and our economy as a whole.Have you checked with the TCI Islanders to see how they are faring under direct British rule? Do you understand that the British have used that as an excuse to produce an amended Constitution which will give non-Belongers voting rights in the TCI? What the Governor needs to do is to dissolve the LA and call new elections.

      • Knot S Smart says:

        Thank you. I put the worst case scenario as the first point and then suggested a better alternative after the 10th point. Of course we all know that a lot more changes are needed than those suggestions.

      • Name changed by moderator says:

        We need Solutions! This is all great rhetoric, but where are the specific solutions and action plans. Caymanians, wake up, put on your thinking caps, and stop having "pity parties"….as well as other practices which are destroying families and our social balance.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well said as always Bo. 

    You had a good number of votes last election and hopefully additional  voters will see the light the next time around and vote in a fresh face with fresh ideas.  Enough of this two party crap.

    Mike

  4. Anonymous says:

    It is clear that the current government is out to kill free enterprise.  There is now an entry fee.  With it you get beifits and duty concessions the rest of us don't.

    I ask you is this fair?????????

  5. Anonymous says:

    Bo's problem has always been that he is a really wonderful talker but a woeful deliverer.

    • Anonymous says:

      there must be some value in that

    • Darrel Evans Jr says:

      unlike our vanguard of career politicians that have had MANY chances to get it right ; Bo is a successful business man in a hand full of industries. these politicos that you blindly follow in some instances never saw big checks till they started getting them from us. the close minded thinking bo is refering to in his viewpoint represents ya thought process. we have to get back to our free society that people were not afraid of being victimised because they have an opinion. if you wish to support which ever gov for whatever reason go right ahead but dont feel it necessary to attack any one that doesnt share the same brain you do

  6. truth says:

    With your obvious intelligence and experiance you will do well with anything and fix anything of yours but.  Give unto caesar etc.etc.  Cayman right now belongs to people like the self serving Premeir and his civil service tribe.  They will fight any and all change.  What is good for Cayman is bad for them.  Does Cayman have enough people like you and will they stand up and fight tooth and nail for a better Cayman?  That is what it will take to make a change.  I hope so.

    • Darrel Evans Jr says:

      there is many that will stand for what we feel is right; PROBLEM is we cant identify each other  with 'anonymous' and 'AKA' lets start to break the system control and through ourselves out there for whatever is to come after all the truth is only truth wheather you believe it or say it.

      by conforming to the system of control we give our power away we need to break away from the old IDEAL of its not my problem and remember that they need us to continue to conform otherwise the system of control starts to crumble

      -imagaine a world that 80% of the population pays for the lifestyle of 20%

      you have children that cant afford to eat food in schools but the governing body doesnt care about how much there spending

      etc etc etc lets start the gears turning; we need to ID eachother and stop being AFRAID.

      in ever pyramid the bottom holds the top not the other way around

       

      • truth says:

        I'm with you in that but as a person on Cayman who has everything to lose in this current regime of back channel deals and no accountability for any actions good and bad I am sure I am one of the many that cannot afford to take that risk.  Hence for now you can call me by my alias.

        There is no need in Cayman to imagine a world where 80% pays for the lifestyle of the other 20%.  There is no better example than the Cayman islands of right now.  Be aware that the reason for this continuing is that the 20% will fight much harder to keep things the way it is than the other 80% can because the 80% is made up of expats with no power whatsoever and Caymanians with no power whatsoever themselves.

        • Darrel Evans Jr says:

          i gave you thumbs up for this statement (truth) i appreciate your input and you know what you are right. there is a transformation taking place not only here but on a global scale and things are not going to remain the same much longer. humanities natural desire to be free is whats going to turn the tides.i'm out the gate and drawing a line in the sand everything that happens after is meant to be.

  7. Forelock says:

    The key to Mr. Bo Miller's discussion is in the following statement:-

    "[invite] the best and the brightest in our community to contribute their ideas, knowledge, investments and experiences to help forge a vision and strategy to help turn this mess around"

    We need to stop the brain drain, widen the political base by allowing long term residents to vote, even those who don't have Caymanian Status. If they have been here five years, they should be allowed to have a say.

    That is the way it used to be in the good old days, even as late as the mid eighties, when Caymanians were enjoying their meteoric rise in standard of living.

    When Cayman was growing back then it held its arms open to outsiders who could and did help to make the jurisdiction a financial success.

    It's also time to seriously consider allowing those with Status but not "born Caymanians" to stand for election. Those among us with proven private sector leadership skills and with a serious stake in the society, and who also have the financial wherewithal to make the tough but fair decisions that will not be popular in the short term, but will make a big difference in the long run.

    In other words, we need leaders that will lead without needing to win their next election. Those that don't need to feather their own nest whilst in power.

    Single member constituencies are also a vital reform that is critical to the improvement of our political condition. With no disrespect intended to Mr. Ezzard Miller and Arden McLaughlin, its nonsense that North Side and East End members are elected by so few voters. The ratio's are wrong. The goal ought to be that every constituency has about the same number of voters.

    • Anonymous says:

      East End and North Side are the only two districts that have got the voting system right. One man one vote single member constituencies. The ratios can be fixed with the increase in the number of MLAs. BTW it is Arden McLean (not McLaughlin).

      If status holders want to run for office they need only (1) become naturalised as a BOTC; (2) renounce any other citizenship they may (exactly what is required of a generational Caymanian).

      It is ridiculous to suggest that people should be given the right to vote simply because they have lived here for 5 years.  They may be here to day and gone tomorrow. Why should we give them the right to determine our destiny? The right to vote is rightly the preserve of citizens.   

  8. Darrel Evans Jr says:

    great article Bo excellent viewpoints. always refreshing to read your articles and hear your viewpoints. these guys we got ya love to go overseas looking for so called 'consultants' they should look you up. amazing that some people see nothing wrong with exhuberant charges and out of control spending on behalf of our elected e.g $50,000 for a budget speech ouch!!

    where to start?

     

  9. Anonymous says:

    Step 1: Get rid of or reform the indentured slavery laws (aka work permit system).

    Hard working Caymanians cannot compete in the job market against indentured slaves. Unfortunatedly, too many employers in Cayman like indentured slaves because indentured slaves work for peanuts and put up with abuse.

     

     

    • peaceful protest man says:

      Well said!  I am glad that there is someone other than me who can see this. 

  10. Anonymous says:

    The root of the problem is clear, look deep.

    Sounds good all talk, heard it all before.

    Everyone wants to talk, who is doing?

  11. Anonymous says:

    @Philosopher, I hear once that " he who buy's your vote, will sell you"

    Very well said hope the gang bangers will read and ponder.

  12. Philosopher says:

    One has to wonder why intelligent, articulate and well respected individuals like Mr. Bo Miller are never listened to by those who purport to be upstanding civic leaders and who claim  to be good citizens of our island and yet with all that's happening Civically, Socially and Financially not one of them will open their mouth to say the things that Mr. Miller has so aptly done. The reason for this I believe is summed up by a quote from the Greek philosopher Plato where he said:

    " What happens to public affairs when love of money leaves no one the smallest space in which to deal with other things to such an extent that the mind of each citizen, passionately absorbed in this one purpose, could attend to no other business than the gain of each day. Politics also was a business concern; the most honest worked for the people, the others sought for themselves alone the "Profits of Power" and barely concealed their venality. We are dealing with a time when "riches and rich men are being held as honorable and virtuous and honest men are at a discount," when no one can become rich quickly if he remains honest. 

    "Listen to these words uttered at a tribunal in 399 B.C. [2400 years ago]

     Those who, citizens by right of birth, hold the opinion that their country extends wherever their interests are, these obviously are people who will desert the public good in order to run after their personal gain, since to them it is not the city [island] which is their country "But Their Wealth".

  13. Anonymous says:

      Please run again!  We need people like you Mr. Miller in the LA!

  14. Anonymous says:

    I wish Bo was the North Side leader, his economic plan for North Side are more bed & breakfasts.

    • Anonymous says:

      nothing wrong with that…

    • Anonymous says:

      No a bad idea.  I'm not willing to visit SMB or Georgetown anymore, but I'd probably still go stay on North Side until the crime wave moves up there.

  15. Just Commentin' says:

    I have a caption and a song that better describes the pitiful state of this land and its people; a song by the band Suffocation, entitled "The Beginning of Sorrow". The satanic ambience of the music and the ominous, angry, growling vocals tell the story of our land in the hands of our current government:

    "The beginning of sorrow has come.
    You cannot build but can destroy with what is left on earth.
    Damage, now permanent, is yet enhanced day by day by unstoppable greed."

    How appropriate.

    The unstoppable greed in this territory is surpassed only by the unfathomable ignorance of its people in allowing things to go this far:

    "We'll play the unknowing yet all are aware tribulation is here now,
    for sure."

    How sad.

    ""The beginning of sorrow has come…"

    How true.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Good article – You hit the nail on the head.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Brilliantly said and well-put.

    Its refreshing to hear some sensible discussions, although I would like some solutions — part 2 please Mr. Miller?

    • Anonymous!!!!!! says:

      Solutions? 15 years and nothing yet. Just another full of themselves with outsolving the problem. Run Forrest run.

  18. Nicholas B Robson says:

    Excellent article. The trend that Mr. Miller describes cannot be allowed to continue. The Cayman Islands future is at stake. For those that are interested in what may lie ahead you may like to read the following book;
    The End of Growth: Adapting to our new economic reality РBy Richard Heinberg РISBN: 9780865716957

  19. NorthSideSue says:

    Brilliantly written, Bo!  I hope folks pay attention,

  20. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Miller, in terms of creative thinking and projects, exactly, what is it that you recommend for the Cayman's economy?  I am hearing alot from the Opposition, but no solutions just talk, and talk about the good ole days. Do you rate this government as a bad government?  And if so, what policies will make it into a better one?  It appears Opposition is silent on recommendations. Just talk that appeals to people's emotions.

    • Anonymous says:

      All of this talk about the Opposition bringing policies is just a red herring. That is not the role of the Opposition. We can hear what everyone's policy prescriptions are for the country once we dissolve the LA and have new elections. That is the stuff of political campaigns.   

  21. Anonymous says:

    you forgot that mckeeva saved us last year with his 90 day plan!