Too much profit in Cayman politics

| 20/02/2012

Do you know of any Caymanian politicians who have significantly increased their personal wealth while “serving the people”? How do they manage to do that, anyway? It’s a fair question. How is it that we see people with very little personal wealth take office and then, after a few terms, seem to be far richer than their salary can account for? We can’t assume that they took bribes because everyone is innocent until proven guilty. 

Many of these career politicians have businesses so maybe that explains it. In many cases, however, it’s clear to everyone that not all of them possess elite business minds capable of turning thousands of dollars into millions in a few years. So that doesn’t explain it.

A recent book by Peter Schweizer, “Throw Them All Out”, describes the blatant unethical and unfair practices of many elected politicians in the United States. Schweizer documents how members of both parties routinely become entrenched in power and then use their positions and connections to make lots of money for themselves. They do this in ways that ordinary citizens can’t. 

The most outrageous aspect of this is that the people who are responsible for writing the kinds of laws that would prevent such unfair profiting are the very people who are cashing in and don’t want anything to change. It’s a catch-22 only a politician could love. So they keep cashing in, not because they are smarter or luckier than everybody else, but because they share and receive privileged information and tailor laws to please those who can add to their bottom line in some way. If they behaved this way in the financial industry they would face criminal charges and likely end up in prison. But in politics, it’s business as usual.

It sounds crazy but it’s true: Handing a politician $50 for a favor is called bribery and somebody is likely going to jail. But when a politician learns things in closed meetings and then immediately rushes out to buy or dump millions of dollars in stock accordingly, it’s all legit. The people’s interest, be damned, individual profit triumphs. Legal or not, it clearly is the path of a scoundrel and shouldn’t happen.

So what does America’s problem have to do with us? Everything, because the situation can only be much worse here! Who exposes it? Who fights it? Who cares? Cayman’s news media is far less aggressive and capable due to limits of manpower, resources and legal protection. And, sad to say, the Caymanian public seems reluctant or incapable of working up much outrage about politicians who abuse their office in selfish ways. Maybe they don’t recognize it or, if they do, feel it’s impossible to reform. Or maybe they are too busy trying to figure out how to become a “servant of the people” so they can get rich too.

If anyone has doubts about how political office in the Cayman Islands is often profitable far beyond base salary, just look at how hard people fight to win elections here. Why would any normal person do that? You would have to be kicked in the head twice by an old East End mule to willingly embrace such a demeaning circus. If anything, people should be reluctant and even fearful of taking on such a job with so much responsibility, so much public criticism and such a relatively small paycheck. We should see only the most intensely patriotic, unselfish and compassionate among us vying for office—with a few megalomaniacs here and there, of course. But, no, we see hordes of people charging full speed toward it as if they really do love begging for votes, making empty promises and reading legal documents. Isn’t it obvious what they are really chasing?

Still not convinced there is a mountain of shady money at the end of Cayman’s political rainbow? It’s common knowledge that some voters have been given washing machines, free home renovations, even had driveways paved leading up to past elections. Why? Why would candidates fork out so much money, so many goods and services in order to “serve the people” as an elected representative? It might be because they love the Cayman Islands, want to improve our schools, reduce crime and build up tourism. But it’s probably because they are aiming to use your votes for access to big bucks. 

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Comments (22)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    When every economic activity requires government permission from multiple bureaucrats and politicians, this is what you get. Delivering the government's permission becomes a very valuable power. I don't see it changing because more Caymanians profit through the government side,  and it doesn't matter to them if normal economic activity is damaged and diminished (by normal, I mean activity that doesn't depend on government protection against competition.)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Two words:  Crony Capitalism.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Don't blame the politicians, they are only human.  Blame the people who voted them in, these are the ones without a brain.


  4. Chris says:

    Great article! Lets widen the net a bit more.

    In addition to politicians, how many Customs officers, police and immigration officers are living well beyond their salary?

    Anti-corruption commission you have your work cut out for you.

    Time to get to it!

  5. SKEPTICAL says:

    Same shit – different day. It has gone on here, as it has everywhere else, since time immemorial, – and it ain’t ever going to change.

    • Anonymous says:

      I disagree.  Go back fifty years here and see honerable decent men.  It is the cronyism and greed of the past twenty fice years that is soiling our government and it CAN change.  Demand better and ask for accuntability.

      • T.L. Haranguer says:

        Bring back the elders, no salary, 18 distinguished succesfull Caymanians who are only in it for they children and Grand children, get rid of the money grubbing crowd we have in now.

        We will call then "The other way"

  6. Like It Is says:

    Lynden Pindling is a role model.

  7. nauticalone says:

    Very well said!

    Shouldn't take too much of an objective "Investigation" to see and prove it either…yet it continues…


  8. Anon says:

    It's not just the actual MLA's either although God knows they've been blatantly self-serving for a great many years XXXXXX


    No, not just the MLAs, it branches out through well-worn connections in every branch of Government and the Boards,and even into private industry who work in collusion. Consider why members of the XXXX Board have in the past given up a great deal of their time, poorly remunerated, to sit on the Board? Because of the local power that gives them.


    The corruption is deeply entrenched throughout Cayman, right down to the immigration worker who loses a file as a favour, or the civil servant who tips off a crony about a bid, or who destroys evidence of mis-use of funds. It will take a long time to erradicate. One way to help do it is to carefully legislate, and where possible take away the power of unelected Boards to make subjective decisions.


    But ultimately it will come down to whether or not the overriding will in Cayman is to do what is morally right, or to carry on doing what has been done for so long, everyone grabbing a little bit when they can. 

    • Anonymous says:

      "Consider why members of the XXXX Board have in the past given up a great deal of their time, poorly remunerated, to sit on the Board? Because of the local power that gives them".

      While there have no doubt been and may be corrupt Board members some of us have done so simply as an act of service to our country at significant personal sacrifice.

  9. Anonymous says:

    No political party in Cayman is demanding that our anti-corruption laws and enforcement agencies are strengthened and neither is any political party demanding stronger rules against conflicts of interest. So far not a single politician is demanding these things even though they are clearly needed. That says it all.

  10. Whodatis says:

    Great post and also clearly demonstrates why I often remark that "democracy" is an absolute farce and joke today – regardless of nation or government.

    For goodness sake, the greatest and oldest examples of "democracy" are the most corrupt and obscene today.

  11. Anonymous says:


  12. Anonymous says:

    Amen.  Totally correct.  Who can add anything to that?

  13. Wessex says:

    In this system, anyone you see, seeking for absolute power, is already corrupt or greatly deceived. Once they get in, the thought of power and prevelege, drives them mad!  Because this system here, is not a real democracy for the people and by the people, but for the Uk' FCO and by the Uk' FCO, the power is too centralized in the hands of a few. Everyone in Cayman is disenfranchised by these elite politicians. Just voting in general elections, give the system an "appearance" of being a democracy. Once, the candidates are chosen to serve the country, they end up swinging their allegance from the people to a few individuals; moreover, the constitution of the Cayman Islands, gives the Uk's Governor, the power to dissolve cabinet or remove the people's elected representatives whenever he is ordered by the FCO (on the behalf of her majesty's interest) to do so. Hence, tokeep the people more deluded in thinking that this system is a democracy, the two-party system in order to divide the country and promote an atmosphere of the right choice from the wrong choice, was implemented . Thus, you got UDP and PPM. Really both parties are about their own party more than they are about their own country. A very unfortunate situation for the people of Cayman, who are stuck it seems between the power heads.

    • Castor says:

      With all due respect, I don't think your problems lay with the UK or the FCO. It may be time to look in the mirror.

      • Caymanian born and raised says:

        What???  Castor oil, the UK and FCO are behind every so-called "good governance" program you see happening on this island. They are just a sleeping dragon waiting to awake and do their thing!  Don't be so naive, know your history of the west indies…

  14. Anonymous says:

    Respectful effort Conscience, but who is it you're targeting to enlighten with such a post ?