The irony of politics: transparency is for others

| 22/12/2008

Those in the community who value the democratic process in action will be disappointed and saddened by the way in which the Legislative Assembly last week enacted the amendments to the Tax Information Authority Law (TIAL).

Remarkably few were aware of this as no Bill was published and available in the official Gazette  (not even on the GIS website), there was no broad public consultation and even the usually alert media seems to have been caught napping. Why this should have happened is puzzling and concerning.

The amendments are designed principally to permit cross border exchange of information with foreign tax agencies (as yet to be identified). This goal is desirable in itself and (combined also with formal bilateral agreements and privacy safeguards) is also much needed as part of Cayman’s efforts to fend off the threats to the financial services industry from various international quarters such as the OECD, EU and the USA. Whether these amendments contain the right privacy safeguards and yet will also prove to be the silver bullet to pacify Cayman’s foreign attackers, time will tell.

Doubtless, the Government proceeded with the best of intentions. But the first irony is that a Government elected overwhelmingly based on its commitment to transparent government and good governance has fallen victim to the same lapses as many of its predecessors. The second irony in this case is that the amendments to the TIAL are designed to enhance transparency to meet international standards, yet the process followed by the Government was anything but transparent.

Surely it was entirely unnecessary to have disregarded the normal rules of parliamentary democracy on this occasion? It is rare, if ever, except in the case of emergencies such as natural disaster, war etc, that the usual legislative procedures need be suspended or rushed. Dilatoriness in preparing the draft legislation should never be a justification. Openness, timeliness and public discussion (however tedious that may seem to any government in power) are vital safeguards and should not be sacrificed on the altar of “we know best”. The expression, “O Tempora, O Mores” was never more apt.


  

 

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Comments (6)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I really wish Cayman’s politicians took their jobs more seriously.  To abandon procedure and consultation on a passage of law of this importance is alarming proof that the current government is not adequately prepared to represent the interests of the people, and speciifcally those in the financial services sector. 

    While there is agreement that foreign tax evaders with holdings ledgered here should not be shielded from homeland consequences, there must be a discussion of the circumstances and application of how and when an exchange is made.  No need to re-invent the wheel, Cayman’s own STEP professionals have been discussing this in lectures and papers for 10 years+.

    Further it is essential to demonstrate stablity, good governance, and adherence to procedure when selling this as a territory for business.  This is becoming increasingly difficult in light of recent Banana-grade Police/Politician scandals…now this.  Could we get some adults at the table please?  

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have worked in the financial industry for over 32 years and I have never seen a change done in such a way that seems offensive to the stakeholders in the financial services sector. When are governments in the Cayman Islands going to understand that industry input and consultation is a complement to their efforts and not harmful? 

    (sorry I posted this comment yesterday to the wrong article..i meant to respond to this one regarding the changes to the Tax Authroity Law)

  3. Anonymous says:

    the last poster missed the point totally. The Opposition did not know about this until last Monday morning. the entire process was kept under wraps by the Government for months.

    standing orders were suspended by the current Government so that the usual 21 days advanced requirement for bills to be brought to the LA/Opposition and debated etc  was not followed.

    this is what the Oppostion is complaining about. lack of transparency in this case applies to both the industry and the other side of the house. Records in the LA show that the bill was brought down on Monday and essentially passed by Wednesday!

    That is the whole point of the complaint…

     

  4. Anonymous says:

    OMG…forget about the irrational spending habits and flimsy accountability ofthis country, you start messing with our lifeline of the financial industry and we will all be standing around (unemployed) and wondering what ever happened to the good ol days.  Can we get a FEW smart people to be MLA,s please?!? 

  5. Anonymous says:

    Good point. so much for good old Government transparency!

    by the way can soemone tell me: is it the Financial Secretary that is responsible for doing things like this? or is Minister Alden Mclaughlin?

    eitherway one of them should explain why this secret approach was taken..

  6. Anonymous says:

    Please be reminded that the Opposition were also complicit in any lack of transparency as they are also MLAs.