In 1999, Vision 2008, the planning process that led to the creation of the National Strategic Plan, was released.
It began in March 1998 with a series of meetings along with interviews, focus groups and public polling to identify the Cayman people’s key issues of concern.
“From the outset, Vision 2008 caught the imagination of the people of the Cayman Islands and beyond,” Vision 2008 Executive Director Joy Basdeo wrote in her introduction.
“The Vision 2008 Office received many calls, letters and visits, and numerous electronic communications through our web-site. It was very obvious that the people of the Cayman Islands were ready and anxious to take part in the long-term planning necessary to ensure the prosperity and quality of life for which we are known.”
While the plan was never implemented, the large majority of the ideas it brought forth still remain relevant to Cayman today.
A thorough process
In June 1998 a 30-member planning team was appointed, and met for three days, developing a statement of beliefs, a vision statement for the Cayman Islands, parameters, objectives, and strategies.
Following a recruitment drive, Round Table leaders were identified and trained. Sixteen round tables, one for each strategy, began meeting in early October. Two hundred and fifty individuals continued to meet over the next four months to come up with the action plans required to implement each strategy.
At the end of January, the planning team met for a second seven-day session to assess the 230 action plans, which had been submitted by the round tables.
“During this time the action plans were carefully scrutinised, some were rejected, some sent back for revision, but most were accepted in their entirety,” wrote Mrs. Basdeo.
“This was a tribute not only to the careful and comprehensive work of the round tables but to the planning team members who were determined to recommend a plan of the highest quality.”
The third session to make final revisions ended on 29th March, 1999.
The planning team then selected a small task force to pull together some common strands. Known as the Key document, it attempted to set out how the Vision 2008 could be prioritised.
“We were determined that Vision 2008 would be the people’s plan, and that its credibility would be unquestionable. We wanted wide political ownership to ensure a lasting commitment to successful implementation,” wrote Mrs. Basdeo.
Achieving the vision
In the Key Document, the team outlined the hoped-for outcomes.
“If government follows this process then in the year 2008 the Cayman Islands will be developing in harmony and prosperity through:
• a workforce equipped with 21st Century job skills
• a diversified economy developing in a sustainable manner
• a health system focused on wellness and disease prevention
• optimal infrastructure for our community
• prudent management of our natural environment
• social harmony built on traditional Caymanian values
• planning for contingencies
• lifelong education for all
• an information system which facilitates decision making, transparency and accountability in government
• enhanced programmes for drug abuse prevention
• enhanced programmes for Youth Development.”
The 16 strategies
Vision 2008’s 16 strategies were intended to cover as many areas concerning Cayman’s development as possible. These strategies all provided recommendations the team had developed for each issue.
In chronological order, the strategies addressed crime and drug abuse, youth, the educational system, families, Caymanian culture, and the special needs and concerns of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
The strategies also called for promoting open and accountable government, as well as the issues posed to infrastructure, including the development and implementation of a growth management plan to achieve and maintain a balance between the natural and built environment.
Protection of Cayman’s natural environment also featured, as did development and implementation of an information technology plan.
It also cited the need for government to partner with the tourism and finance industries to support their continued success while identifying opportunities for diversification.
A comprehensive healthcare plan, comprehensive contingency planning for natural and man-made disasters and incidents, and lastly, a comprehensive immigration policy which protects Caymanians and gives security to long term residents complete the list.
The Vision 2008 document was intended to provide a model for achieving balanced economic policies by addressing the kinds of expectations its authors envisaged for the 10 year period.
It was developed in recognition that tourism and finance are what had brought the nation prosperity in the years leading up to 1998, but that prosperity had been accompanied by unwanted consequences in certain types of commercial developments.
The Vision 2008 document contends economic development needs to be “in balance with the needs of our natural and built environments, the Caymanian workforce, and the social fabric.”
Specifically, the document mentions several internal pressures created by the type and rate of large scale development.
It states that such development “is not sustainable and does not produce benefits to the Cayman Islands population commensurate with the cost to our natural and social environments.”
Strategy Xlll, which focused on the economy, outlined plans designed to:
1. To sustain the current level of economic success of the
Cayman Islands through proper management of the economy, ensuring all future developments primarily benefit the
Caymanian people and their quality of life.
2. To create an environment conducive to the collection and sharing of comprehensive statistical data in order to facilitate management of the economy.
3. To create and environment conducive to the development of Caymanian owned and controlled businesses.
4. To ensure the maximum utilisation of Caymanians in the workforce.
5. To establish a tourism authority to oversee tourism
management in the Cayman Islands.
6. To ensure that Caymanians receive maximum economic benefit from the tourism industry, taking into account the special needs of each island.
7. To ensure effective supervision of the financial services
industry of the Cayman Islands.
8. To provide an effective legislative, policy, research and
management framework in order to facilitate a responsible
approach to tourism development.
9. To promote sustainable tourism by ensuring that protection and conservation of Cayman’s natural and built heritage is achieved through best management practices, and increased public education and awareness.
10. To strengthen the economic base of the Cayman Islands through diversification.
The document recommends Caymanian quality of life should not be sacrificed in the name of economic prosperity, and thus it recommends a focus on balance, with an emphasis on relying on imported labour only as a supplement to what the Caymanian workforce can supply.
The document also refers to “certain international tax initiatives” aimed at preventing local tax competition which were anticipated to threaten the financial services industry.
It proposed that Cayman:
1. Establish integrated long-term economic management policies
2. Enhance business and commerce education and training for Caymanians
3. Create a long-term development plan for the financial services industry
4. Strengthen the economic base of the Cayman Islands through diversification
5. Create a comprehensive statistical database to facilitate policy development and economic management.
Among its recurring objectives, the authors noted that strengthening Cayman’s sense of community, and modernizing the process of governance where top priorities.
The study also found that the public wished for there for there to be greater coordination and integration among Departments and Ministries in the development of policies and in their implementation.
This was in specific reference to the environment, economy, infrastructure, human resource development and social policies.
What needed to be done
Vision 2008 found that specific information would be required to achieve economic prosperity:
1. General statistics for the Cayman Islands
2. Revision of the Manpower Development study
3. Establishment of a National Human Resource Development Council
4. Feasibility study on eco-tourism
5. Carrying capacity determination of the marine environment
6. Study on economic diversification
Phase One, which was to take place between 1999-2001, included adopting and implementing Growth Management and Change Management policies, creating the necessary legislative and regulatory framework for implementation, building the information base required for prudent management, and building human resource capacity.
Further recommendations to inform the public, integrate medium and long term financial planning for phases two and three, and integrating public sector reform were also included.
Phase One’s suggested objectives were diverse and comprehensive, with implementation of phases 2 and three dependent on the achievement of Phase One’s objectives. These were to:
Formally adopt and implement integrated growth management as an overarching policy
• Identify and appoint key personnel responsible for the management of change, charged with guiding the transition to integrated growth management within a fixed time frame
• Integrate Vision 2008 with existing government initiatives
• Re-prioritize the legislative review process to give priority to legislation required to initiate implementation
• Enact legislation to create the boards and authorities to apply the integrated growth management policy across and within existing ministries and departments
• Enact legislation to modernise the process of governance and to provide for greater community participation
• Enact new immigration, financial reform and other specified legislation
• Enact comprehensive environmental legislation
• Enhance programmes aimed at crime and drug abuse prevention
• Develop the human resources required for implementation within Government through a training and development process
• Develop strategies for low cost housing, economic diversification, and improved health insurance
• Develop a national cultural policy
• Develop an integrated information resource to facilitate integrated policy making and planning.
A Vision in limbo
While the long process involved in creating the document resulted in a successful outcome, its implementation never happened.
Its wide mandate may have been a factor, given that so much was expected to take place in so few years. The devastation of Hurricane Ivan posed further challenges to its implementation.
Some strategies have been addressed, like the creation of the Cayman Islands Drug Rehabilitation Court to deal with narcotics offenders, and the passing of the freedom of information law.
At the same time, the hoped-for policy of integrated growth management is particularly notable in its absence, while the still nonexistent Conservation Law, and the lack of an updated Development Plan, are evidence Vision 2008 was not able to gain traction in critical areas.
Other issues like education reform have been met head on within reason by the latest government, and with an election on the horizon it is possible the new government will continue to take on implementing Vision 2008’s ideas piecemeal. But for the time being, it seems that Vision 2008 was a massive effort sunk by its own ambitiousness.