Debate on two bills passed in Legislative Assembly last week led to strong incriminations from one legislator about the way the government has handled the financial services industry.
Rolston Anglin, the second elected member for West Bay, argued it was his prerogative to challenge whose responsibility the Cayman financial services industry is – a topic that surfaced during the debate of two commercial bills at the Legislative Assembly on Friday.
Speaker of the House Edna Moyle twice tried to rein in Mr, Anglin, but he persisted.
‘I have not finished what I have to say…and that is my prerogative,’ said Mr. Anglin, during a heated debate over who is overseeing financial services before and after the vote on the constitution, May 20. ‘I have not finished and that is my prerogative. I need to say what I want to say.’
The two bills were designed to simplify winding up procedures for companies and partnerships.
‘I’m happy to see these pieces of legislation finally reach us,’ said Mr. Anglin. ‘This has been a quite impressive last few weeks because it seems whatever lacks of resources that existed have, in large measure, been overcome.’
Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin accepted that the financial sector had been waiting too long for the legislative changes to upgrade insolvency practice.
‘The government acknowledges that these two bills, in particular, are two bills we would have liked to have passed quite some time ago,’ said Mr. McLaughlin, ‘and we don’t try to say otherwise…’
However, the politicians couldn’t agree on what had led to the delay and whose job it had been.
‘The issue is one of resources generally, specialist knowledge of these important pieces of commercial legislation,’ said Mr. McLaughlin, explaining the delay. ‘That’s what government does not have enough of. We do have some really, really good, really critical people but they are stretched to the max because of other judicial responsibilities.’
Claims of inadequate funding for a financial- services sector, which generates CI$1.2b or 55 per cent of GDP a year, according to figures out this month, agitated Mr. Anglin.
‘The huge contribution that the sector makes,’ he said, referring to the Oxford Economic study, ‘one would think that more resources should be allocated to ensure that legislation is passed in a timely manner.’
This led to exchanges about who should have oversight of financial services and what may emerge after the May referendum on the constitution.
‘One of the benefits, Madam Speaker, of a new constitution, should we get one, will be the ability to have a minister with specific responsibility for financial services,’ said Mr. McLaughlin, ‘to have a directorate or a unit directly under him – or her as the case may be – with necessary personnel.’
For the time being, Mr. Anglin countered, it was up to Mr. McLaughlin to look after financial services, a claim that the minister partially disputed.
Though the claim of responsibility was, Mr. McLaughlin said, not ‘misleading, I have constitutional responsibility for international financial services, but I don’t have responsibility for these types of products.’
That, he said, fell to the third official member.
‘He has to produce these bills,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘He has constitutional responsibility, but that is, in no way, my attempt to duck the Government’s responsibility.’
While Mr. Anglin told the assembly he accepted the explanation, he said Mr. McLaughlin could have done more to speed up the bills and to have prepared Government for recent challenges to offshore status, an issue likely to resurface at the G20 Summit in London next week.
A Cayman Islands Financial Services Association task force formed only March 13.
‘The member’s wrong, he knows he’s wrong, but he’s good at that,’ he said. ‘What we needed was for him to have paid attention to these matters that were raised over time by the sector, over two years that I know about, Madam Speaker, so he is absolutely wrong. So they’re running for cover at this late stage.’
Mrs. Moyle then reminded Mr. Anglin to return to consideration of the legislation before the assembly – the Exempted Limited Partnership (Amendment) Bill 2009 – which was passed.
Its sister statute, The Companies Amendment (Bill), 2009, was also approved during the session.