Social security

| 18/07/2008

Posted Friday, 18 July 208

In 1987 our Chamber of Commerce mobilised public opinion against the
proposed Cayman Islands Social Security scheme (CISS). The proposal
was based on a system that was quite unsuitable for Cayman, and it was
abandoned when the public realised that it would have brought about
the introduction of Income Tax. We called it “the CISS of death”, and
that was the end of it.

Article 22 of the Universal Declaration declares the right to
social security for everyone as a member of society
. As usual,
there are no definitions. Who is and isn’t a “member of society”, for
one thing. In our case, the society in question would be not our local
society but the extended society of Britain and all her possessions.
Britain it was who subscribed to the Declaration on our behalf, back
in 1948.

What is “social security” and what isn’t?  Chambers of Commerce
may interpret the term one way, local governments a different way. The
history of the original drafting of the Declaration tells of long
arguments between the Soviet participants and the Western. The latter
preferred some kind of levy to fund a kind of “national insurance”;
the former insisted that the state provide it for free as per the
Communist model. Result: no definition at all!

The onus is on Britain as a signatory-State to provide access to this
entitlement – rather than on any of her individual overseas
territories or domestic boroughs. In the overseas territories the FCO
delegates the job to local legislatures, but London must surely be
having second thoughts about the wisdom of that. The local governments
in Bermuda, Caymanand Turks & Caicos are all becoming notorious
for their disdain for civilised standards behaviour in various fields.

Would it be acceptable if immigrants and transients in the British
Overseas Territories were to be formally excluded from the category of
“members of society”?  Maybe; maybe not.  Cayman’s migrant
domestic workers are regularly denied the protection of the law in
general. However, the situation might not sit well with the United
Nations, if they ever found out about it.  It might set a
dangerous precedent. Several European nations have already been pulled
up for treating gypsies in this way. 

The Universal Declaration allows for no distinction between peoples –
native-born, immigrants, transient migrants and refugees. That’s why
it’s called “Universal” and not “Selective”. Even in Africa, refugees
from Darfur aren’t sent into the desert without food and water just
because they are ruled not to be “members of society”.

In England until 1834, each parish was required by law to look after
its own poor people. In times of hardship, immigrants (except women
married to local men) were sent back to their parishes of
origin.  In that year, the Poor Law made neighbouring parishes
band together in Unions to take care of all the poor of those
parishes. The poor of other parishes were expelled to their Poor Law
Unions of origin.

I don’t know what rules applied in Jamaica when Cayman was a Jamaican
parish. However, the old British arrangement is present today in
Cayman. Our three Islands in effect comprise a Poor Law Union, taking
care of its own poor but nobody else’s. The fear of becoming
responsible for non-parishioners may be a factor in the FCO’s
continuing decision to allow our native-Caymanian Immigration Board to
grant only revocable citizenship (Status) to long-term
immigrants.

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