Andre Iton has written an incredible article for Cayman NetNews. Incredible because of what he says. Incredible because he has the courage to say it in such a place.
Having reviewed the role of Cayman in several recent news stories, such as that relating to Tesco's tax, he says:
What has given the Tesco case resonance is both the timing of the revelation (a number of other similar revelations are currently centre stage -- the German action against some very prominent citizens who have used Lichtenstein as a tax dodge, as well as the Julius Baer Cayman First Amendment tussle) as well as the obvious contradiction which such action suggests for a self-professed responsible corporate citizen. (A current buzz phrase amongst the good and the great is "socially responsible capitalism")
Many see its actions as being closer to Hemsleyan (Leonora) crassness (let the poor stiffs pay the taxes) than that expected of a self-professed responsible corporate citizen. As one commentator pointed out, the sums forgone by the public purse from the Tesco deals were sufficient to fund 50 hospitals to the UK's national health system.
As he adds:
To suggest, as many self-interested parties repeatedly do, that the "tax efficiency" machinations of the wealthy and the mega-corporations is, at worst, benign to the social wellbeing of the average citizens (of the offended country) in the face of such opportunity losses as identified in this single occurrence is indeed a stretch.
As the facilitating jurisdiction, it is essential that we use such incidents, which inevitably attract the opprobrium of large segments of the global community, as moments for serious introspection and honest self assessment.
And then he adds an interesting dimension:
There is nothing short of unanimity amongst the people of these islands that these are communities rooted in Christian values. As we reflect we would do well to remember Jesus' response to those who sought to query him on the matter of obligation to the state.
He advised them very clearly that what was due to Caesar should be rendered unto Caesar.
Do we truly believe that it is consistent with our value system to provide succour to the greedy, the gluttonous and, on occasion, the malfeasant who would not render unto his/her Caesar what is rightfully due to him?
And as he rightly notes, there is a dual standard at play here:
At the level of our domestic society our Government consistently ensures that those of us who reside here, render unto our Caesar, all that is due to him.
Every fee, every licence that is required of each of us is rigorously pursued, collected and enforced.
As he says, this duality is
both morally indefensible and unsustainable in the long term.
And he goes on to explore the problems this activity is imposing on Cayman, saying in conclusion:
The time is quietly approaching when we as a country will have to address the question of the centrality of this type of activity to our economic purpose.
Can our moral compass be maintained in the face of such fundamental contradictions for so little returns?
Is this where and how we wish to position the economy for the next generation?
Whether we like it or not the convergence of external forces may well force us to address these matters much earlier than we might have wished.
I think he's right.
I applaud his courage for raising this question.
But if ever there was a time to do it, Holy Week is a good one.