Bush calls SPS ‘same old, same old’

Says financial services neglected

Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush called the Strategic Policy Statement issued by the government last week a mockery during his debate on the motion to pass the document.

‘The minister’s speech brought no surprises,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘A bundle of self-congratulations, a raft of promises and plans to borrow, tax and spend – same old, same old as we have had in the past three and a half years.’

He called the SPS a mockery because although it sets a broad outcome framework for the 2009/10 budget, the government has yet to submit many of its accounts for auditing, going back several years.

‘For us as responsible legislators, the crucial budgetary process of having audited financial statements on a timely manner has not been fulfilled by the government, which in effect nullifies the benefit of having the glossy SPS read to us, without the tools to keep the government accountable and transparent.’

Mr. Bush said pronouncements of ‘all is well’ by the government in relation to the government finances did not provide any remedy to the uneasiness of the matter.

‘The fact is, we need to know the true state of government finances,’ he said. ‘The people of this country need to know. The time has come for no more excuses.’

He pointed out that more than $1.5 billion had been approved in government budgets without the supporting audited financial statements.

Neglected finance sector

Mr. Bush was particularly critical that the SPS did not include specific support of the financial services industry as one of its 11 broad outcome strategies.

‘It fails to tell us what they are going to do to support the financial services sector,’ he said. ‘They say they’re going to Washington. Who is going to Washington? Who are they going to see? And what will they do?’

In his speech supporting the SPS, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said it was government’s intention ‘to dispatch a high-level delegation to the US capital to talk with the new administration as soon as practical from the DC perspective to do so’.

With regard to the possibility of ending up on the OECD’s black list, Mr. Tibbetts said the government intended ‘to continue with our policy of constructive engagement in relation to the OECD exercise – and others.’

Mr. Tibbetts said the government was monitoring developments regarding the EU Savings Tax Directive. He also said that government had had a ‘productive series of meetings and discussions with the private sector, not only on international developments, but also on issues and trends within the local industry and ways of moving in partnership to address matters that can secure our continual success.’

Mr. Bush said the financial services sector had been neglected by Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin, which was causing, among other things, the outsourcing of many jobs to other jurisdictions.

‘Key things need to be done and they have not been done,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘And we haven’t seen the licks we’re going to take yet.’

Mr. Bush said the neglect of the financial services industry had led to unwarranted criticism of the Cayman Islands by the international community and made the sector vulnerable to increasingly aggressive competitors.

‘Our [financial] industry has been pleading for years for the necessary legislative support in the form of new or revised laws to support its activities… and new institutions such as a commercial court… and these have been largely ignored by the PPM.’

Mr. Bush also pointed out that the financial services industry, despite being a major employer of Caymanians and generating more than 30 per cent of all government revenues, received a marketing and promotion budget of less than 10 per cent of the marketing and promotion budget for tourism.

‘The reputation of the financial industry is under attack internationally, and the jurisdiction faces increasing competition from other international financial centres, and these issues must be addressed urgently and effectively.’

Mr. Bush also said the PPM Government had done nothing to actively encourage or support international firms in establishing physical offices in the Cayman Islands.