The red tape fiasco

| 04/09/2018 | 25 Comments

red tape, Cayman News ServiceGilbert Connolly writes: The PPM government recently had a photo op with Acting Governor Franz Manderson, a minister of Cabinet and several senior civil servants to announce that government was implementing measures to cut red tape in government. Why would the PPM government go to such lengths to put on a sideshow that everyone knows has no substance? Do they believe that the public would be fooled with such shenanigans? With all the bad publicity the government has been getting about excessive red tape, they must have felt that they had to do something, even if it was only symbolic.

However, it is sad to see politicians and senior civil servants being used to stage a “reality show” fiasco that was so poorly conceived and written.

All societies require some form of regulations or rules to function effectively. However, in the Cayman experience, successive governments have taken the country from a jurisdiction of little regulations to one of over regulation. Former Governor Anwar Choudhury was on the island less than three months when he realised that the government and the country were suffering from over regulation.

Simply stated, Cayman has too much red tape. Here again in 2018, we had to wait until someone came from overseas to tell us the government has too much red tape!

You don’t have to be a governor or a rocket scientist to figure out that the islands are awash in red tape. Just go to the Government Administration Building, or any other government office, to conduct a simple, routine transaction and it becomes a nightmare wrapped in red tape.

The governor had made this a number one priority to address in order to bring some normalcy or commonsense back to the governance of the Cayman Islands. Unfortunately, he did not have the opportunity to clean up the bureaucratic mess that the government finds itself in today.

The PPM government is responsible for escalating and exacerbating the problem of too much red tape. The PPM’s mission to maximise government’s red tape seems to be based on its apparent confusion that good governance means over regulation, so they continue to pass hundreds of laws that affect all areas of our lives.

Herbert Grubell, in his writings on the Canadian government, said “Governments should pass regulations only if benefits exceed costs”.  A very simple but powerful principle that the PPM government should adopt if they are going to stop this destructive mission of over regulation, which if it continues, will only bring more misery to Caymanians.

The term ‘red tape’ had an honourable beginning but today has gone to the dogs. So, what is red tape? It can be defined as laws, regulations or rules that are poorly drafted or designed, costly to businesses and individuals, repetitious and counterproductive, thus causing delays and frustration to customers. Simply stated, it is a request by government for additional information or documentation that serves no useful purpose, just to satisfy a redundant rule or policy.

In the Cayman context, over regulation has two important consequences for Caymanians. Firstly, in most cases, the laws and regulations that are passed eliminate Caymanians and Caymanian small businesses from competing in the market place and ultimately put more Caymanians out of work.

Perhaps one of the best examples of this phenomenon is the Revised Planning Law. Based on the onerous requirements added to the law, individual Caymanians and small Caymanian businesses in the construction industry have effectually been phased out.

In addition, professional Caymanians are suffering under the heavy burden of unreasonable regulatory requirements. Secondly, the more complex the laws that are passed, the more foreign experts will be needed to interpret them, at least based on the approach that we have seen this and other governments take.

The PPM government should be credited for owning the problem of too much red tape, but that is hardly a plus when they themselves have created the issue in the first place. Acknowledging the problem is one thing; doing something about it is quite another, and the recent photo op to announce measures to reduce red tape just does not cut it. What we learnt from the photo op is that government needs to develop a proper and comprehensive plan to reduce red tape and put us back to a position of normalcy.

First, they need to put a moratorium on passing any new regulation that will increase red tape. Secondly, the government should appoint a committee of five Caymanians (including an attorney) from various industries, including the construction industry, to advise on the laws that need to have excessive red tape removed.

The committee’s remit should be to: a) advise on how the burden of red tape on Caymanian business can be reduced b) recommend how Caymanian businesses can be grandfathered into new laws to avoid red tape, and c) make it easier for Caymanian businesses to do business with regulatory departments.

We do not need someone from overseas to tell us how to fix this problem.


Gilbert Connolly is a retired Cayman Islands senior civil servant.

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Comments (25)

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  1. Anon says:

    Hello Everyone
    No problems. We just closed our account. The banks in GC are impossible. On line and credit card is the way to go. Pay it off at end of Month. Get even with your damn banks and close it out. Workers cash out and deal in cash only. Most of their money is sent overseas.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Not everyone has to endure the proverbial red tape, at least the sticky kind anyway. Like Shibli said, the Lodge are in every pot, and they slide through red tape like it’s teflon. Even people who’ve only been here 3 months can see that our islands are run by a chosen few SOBs that operate like a star chamber.
    This crap is going on in plain sight and it’s not about to end as it has become the norm. Majority of the local population either accept it because they feel helpless, scared or are simply too apathetic to force a change.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The biggest culprits of red tape are the banks. We need more competition at the Class A banking level. Allow more banks to come in and let’s get back to good customer service with banks fighting over our service as opposed to us begging them for a bank account or to withdraw our own funds.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Vacuous superficial quasi-populist drivel.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Rubbish Gilbert ….think of how much red tape you created.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think all this so called red tape must really be just a way to create jobs. I mean what would we do if we got rid of half the civil service. Thats why it will never be done.

    • Chris Johnson says:

      Good to see Gilbert has become more proactive than normal and much of what he says is spot on. At least by writing articles he is bringing it to the public’s attention. However what is everyone else doing that is positive in bringing about changes. From what I see, not a lot. So all those who are anonymous, why not be constructive and do something positive rather than moan.

  7. MM says:

    I believe the problem with this is that everyone is simply throwing around the words “red tape” without any substance to back it.

    Telling the Government to “reduce red tape” will do nothing without being very, very specific. As we should all realize with our subsequent Governments – things have to be spelt right out in order for them to know what to do and which way to turn.

    Our elected officials were not particularly elected by constituencies laden with individuals of superior intelligence I fear – in fact many voters are disenfranchised Caymanians trading votes for a 6-pack of beer and a turkey.

    How can anyone expect things to change in this country if the citizens who can understand are outnumbered by those who are not educated enough to care? Or, those whose impoverished living conditions make them so vulnerable that ANY form of hope for betterment is worth the wager?

    Whilst I agree with all you have said – it is useless to tell the public to demand the reduction of red tape without explaining exactly in what areas, within what departments and precisely how leaving the particular red tape in place is negatively affecting the Caymanian society.

    I will take it a step further and explain that when there is unnecessary, excessive steps to be taken when an individual or business is utilizing a public service, it increases Government’s operational costs which is paid for by us, joe public. When such expenses climb, so does the cost of living, because Government levies higher duties on businesses in order to recoup costs. The businesses in turn must increase fees/prices so that they do not sink too – this is what also causes the mom and pop shops to struggle and eventually diminish.

    An example of unnecessary red tape is having applicants produce police clearances for a T & B license when there could more easily be a central database that an employee of T&B can quickly check from the office and print the report to submit to the Board with the T & B application.

    Or the fact that one must first go to the planning counter to have an invoice stamped for BCU fees and then be sent to the lands and survey cashier who will issue the receipt that must be sent to the BCU and then entered in to their system and will take up to 3 days to update and confirm payment.

    There is also the confusing case of customs codes that average people are expected to figure out with several duplicate descriptions in the database of customs fee categories – but the actual codes for each differ – which one should we pick? And picking the wrong one risks your package collection application being deferred and then you have to resubmit for another review – and that takes up more time and money on the Gov operational side because staff are having to spend time reviewing and explaining.

    Let me not get started on the Customs Tariff Law and the fact that it takes entire teams to decipher it for the supermarkets who must import – why can’t a fruit just be a fruit and the duty be the same? Why are apples in a category and there is a category for fresh pears, dried pears… etc, etc. The increased duties have caused a spike in cost of living and then going from a 20+ page law to 120+ page document increased workload on grocery providers so manpower had to be added with all the fixings (salary, work permits, health insurance, pensions…) and of course – joe public must pay for it!

    Whilst these may not all specifically be what we would call “red tape” – they emphasize the idea that we must make the civil service more efficient and stop having multiple persons and agencies conduct a single task before it can be deemed “complete”. Reduce the excessively lengthy laws without removing their substance wherever it can be done. And I still feel 19 representatives is an unnecessary expense.

    • Anonymous says:

      And each and every one of these was justified to and approved by Cabinet or the LA as a whole. So stop blaming the Civil Service just because you’ve never bothered to ask why something is the way it is. There’s usually a reason. You can argue with the reason – that’s what your MLA is for, to change things if you’re right that the reason isn’t good enough. But just throwing around ‘red tape’ as if that justifies removing regulations useful to someone else for some reason is not helping the discussion.

  8. David Shibli says:

    Mr. Gilbert, you know the problem.
    Everyone is afraid of mentioning it, but politics will never change in Cayman until honest Caymanians actually have the balls to vote out the Lodge.
    These SOB’s have their stinking fingers in just about every pot.
    Is that clear enough?

    • Anonymous says:

      And your evidence is where? The lodge has been here 50 years and many hardworking and honest Caymanians have been and are members. Perhaps you were blackballed. I think you are over the top on this subject.

      • MM says:

        Why not let the lodge speak for itself on the matter? Allow the public to form its own thoughts versus tossing yours as facts.

        Our local lodge is a part of the Jamaica Grand Lodge; their website at boasts its brief summary of what Freemasonry means to all who have taken oath (including our local very high politicians); it says:

        “Freemasonry: a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”

        Why on earth should MORALITY be… peculiar?

        Why should a group of educated men who deem themselves highly noble find it necessary to indulge in veiled symbolism and adopt a peculiar opinion of what morality is or should be (morality is the principles of distinguishing what is RIGHT and WRONG – that is it and no way around it – why should their thought on this be peculiar, strange, odd or unusual)…

        Why do these men (mostly in positions of great power) uphold this concept so highly that it is the quote of which all their dealings revolve?

        These are questions that could only be answered by the lodge, but cannot be because all of its dealings are dealt with in a manner “veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”

        We can only hope that their “peculiar” thinking on morality leans more in the direction of what is right over what is wrong for all those whose lives they take responsibility for in their high-tower positions.

        • Anonymous says:

          Guess you and David couldn’t get in could you? Usually that’s the reason why persons object to an organization who have been around from the beginning of time.

          They are known to take good men and even make them better. What’s wrong with that for building a society?

          • MM says:

            Lol! That’s funny.

            I have several lodge friends, I like them as people; I just do not like their definition of “Freemasonry” or what it is now being used to achieve.

            I fully understand the origins of Freemasonry and at the time it first emerged its codes and secrecy were, perhaps, quite justifiable (it was very often a life or death matter for members msgs were not coded).

            However, like all good things that form a breeding ground for power – corrupt individuals with ill-intent penetrate the system, climb to the top of it, uplift like-minded devils, outweigh the good ever done and eventually destroy any chance of recovering from the bad reputation they finally provide.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why not blame Rotarians and Lions as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wonder which planet you are on? Guess the Lodge is always a convenient scapegoat
      for persons who don’t know the difference about the good they do.

    • Ed Bagwell says:

      I could not have said it better, David!

    • Anonymous says:

      I recall you claiming to be a Christian……are you allowed to say SOB?

  9. Anonymous says:

    The only thing that’s worse that Government red tape is articles that are so everlastingly long that nobody can be bothered to read them!

  10. A. Caymanian says:

    Well said Gilbert. With the PPM it’s all about smoke and mirrors. This country is in real trouble if they are not held accountable for the poor decisions that are being made to aid a select few to the detriment to the masses.

  11. Anonymous says:

    But Mr. Connolly you assisted with putting a fair bit in place? Do you think that this red tape is new? Seems to me that from the 70’s no one was really considering government processes and how these would work as the population grew.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Well written and you are right. We don’t need anyone from overseas to tell us how to fix the problem but apparently we need someone form overseas to fix the problem.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I spent 2 hrs at red bay licensing department for a simple suspension of registration. Took the lady 5 minutes. I had to wait 2 hours to get a 5 minute job done.
    6 windows and 2 tellers….. Drowing in RED TAPE


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