The first Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon on Wednesday turned political when Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush slammed the spending and policies of the current government.
The luncheon, which is planned to be an annual event, brought together nine of the elected MLAs, including Cabinet Ministers Kurt Tibbetts and Charles Clifford. The MLAs and Ministers were seated separately at tables with Chamber members.
Both Mr. Tibbetts and Mr. Bush were invited to speak. Chamber CEO Wil Pineau said it would only be fair to give both the Government and the Opposition a chance to speak, but added that he hoped the commentary would not be political.
Mr. Tibbetts stayed away from the realm of politics in his address, and concentrated instead on the relationship between the public and private sectors.
‘There is no doubt in my mind that we are all interested in the same outcome for the Cayman Islands,’ he said. ‘We want to build a strong, sustainable economy that benefits locals and investors alike.’
However, Mr. Tibbetts said Government’s first priority was protecting the welfare of the people.
‘That protection must balance multi-sectoral needs, from business to agriculture, and health to the environment,’ he said. ‘While government fully recognises the important role that the private sector plays in assuring the country’s progress, we also recognise that government’s fulfilment of its broad-based responsibilities, to many diverse publics, may be seen as barring economic progress.’
Mr. Tibbetts said the private sector could still help the public sector in many ways.
‘Public-private partnerships allow the public sector to access private expertise, and in some cases even financial backing, for social and infrastructure development,’ he said. ‘The private sector can also alert government to trends, so that we can act progressively.
‘This is why I put so much stock in working hand-in-hand with business; our roles and purposes complement each other,’ he said. ‘When governments and the private sector work together to deliver solutions, the results are often win-win.’
Mr. Tibbetts gave an example of the public-private partnership that has worked well.
‘The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority’s e-filing project is benefiting both government and business by providing aggregate statistical information that will be better in quality and quantity than any other hedge fund jurisdiction,’ he said.
‘After a meeting with the financial industry, it was agreed to increase mutual fund licence fees by $500, which was set aside for the initiative. And in light of the success of this venture, we will continue to approach such revenue measures on a partnership basis.’
Mr. Tibbetts was pointedly non-political in his closing remarks.
‘If we look to the future of this country, we need not look at who will be your leader of government business, or your chief minister whenever that comes,’ he said. ‘We need not look to who that individual might be.
‘We need to look at the future of this country… namely future generations.’
Mr. Tibbetts said that acquiring wealth was not the most important thing.
‘What we do need to improve is the quality of life, not only for ourselves, but for future generations.’
When he rose to spoke, Mr. Bush also said he was a believer in working together with the private sector for the good of all.
Although he said there were some areas in which the government was doing a good job, there were many other areas where they were not.
Mr. Bush criticised many of the government’s policies.
‘There is too much borrowing,’ he said, adding that there was also a growing bureaucracy.
Mr. Bush also criticised the government for hiring too many consultants and making wrong policy decision with Cayman Airways.
If the government does correct itself, Mr. Bush warned that the Cayman Islands would once again become the islands that time forgot.
‘In the islands that time forgot, those who did have money, didn’t pass it on [to the rest of the community],’ he said. ‘There were no scholarships, and most Caymanians didn’t own much business.’
Mr. Bush said people should remember where Cayman’s wealth came from.
‘Money didn’t come from just within,’ he said. ‘It came from outside and trickled down.’
The middle class is suffering the most from the government’s policies, he said.
‘The majority of people are finding it very, very hard,’ he said. ‘I’ve never known a time before when people had to borrow just to buy groceries.’