Grey listing is bad

It is sad that the Cayman Islands have been put back on the bad OECD list of 35 countries which are jurisdictions that have committed to the agreed tax standard but have not yet substantially implemented and not on the good list of 40 countries where we had been since May 2000.

The PPM and UDP governments have failed to keep the good position on the good list, which our Government negotiated and was completed in mid 2000. Our successful negotiations got Cayman off the bad list about two years before any other country and gave Cayman a good head start on good business.

The UDP government sadly did not continue the Private Sector Consultative Committee comprising the presidents of the entire professional and finance related associations of over 20 specialists, which met monthly with Executive Council. PPM did not revive it either.

This is sad because these professionals gave freely of their time. The present and previous Leaders of Government and of the political parties since the year 2001 have failed miserably in the few negotiations they did. To sit in Cayman and write to the President of the USA (who was going abroad for the G20 summit) as the Leader of Government Business did is a joke.

The last minute knee jerk reaction of the Minister of Education responsible for negotiations to hurry through several international tax information exchange agreements (after the bad list had been drafted) was too late and was a bad example of how not to run a country’s foreign affairs.

In March 2008 we wrote a letter to the press as follows;

‘Some positive advice to this and the last Leader of Government Business and their cabinets: if you do not meet with the UK,USA,EU,OECD and others often you will not know what is going on internationally. Cayman’s reputation is hurting internationally because of this. Since the year 2000 only a handful of talks have taken place. Complacency can be a harsh teacher’. We saw this coming. Our words went unheeded and Cayman suffers.

Foreign negotiations were always under the Financial Secretary but are now under the Minister of Education. This is an example of political failure when you transfer power from the competent and experienced Official Members as the new constitution will do. The previous Financial Secretary George McCarthy is a well qualified professional accountant with international standing and international contacts built up over many years compared to the Minister of Education who entered Government with little (if any) experience in international negotiations.

Our negotiating team prior to November 2000 consisted of the previous Financial Secretary, the highly qualified Attorney General, Tom Jefferson former Financial Secretary (with a relevant masters degree from George Washington University in finance), Mr. Linford Pierson a professional accountant and opposition member (a good example of how independent members of Government and Opposition (then called backbench MLAs) worked together for the good of the country before the political parties divided up the Legislature and the Caymanian people) and myself all professionals and with extensive international standing and relevant experience. Talks were often and were wide ranging, including the proceeds of criminal conduct legislation, the financial action task force, Caribbean FATF, OECD and the EU as well as high level talks with the USA, UK and Europe on other matters.

Despite being all professionals we consulted the Private Sector Advisory Committee (discontinued in 2001) and made timely joint decisions and were proactive and not reactive as at present.

To be blunt neither the Leader of Government Business nor the Leader of the Opposition are sufficiently qualified to effectively lead complex international negotiations against highly qualified foreign negotiators

There are no shades of grey on the bad list as the LOGB says. The bad list is bad; Cayman is in bad company and it is bad for business and will hurt us. We should not have been on it if the LOGB and Minister responsible and PPM were doing their job effectively. Our main competitors in Europe, Jersey, Isle of Man and Guernsey are off the bad list. The political parties sometimes elevate incapable politicians to great heights. The running of the country is the only job that can be held without the necessary qualifications or experience.

Unless voters put sensible educated and independent candidates with successful experience in business (especially the politicians own business, those who have a business) as leaders and legislators in the Legislature who can exercise their independent judgment in running our Cayman Islands we are headed for the disastrous effects experienced in the other Caribbean Islands. Followers are normally only as good as their leaders so look carefully at the two political party leaders’ education and ability when assessing the candidates who are bound to follow the party policy lines and are subject to the party whips who enforce policy.

Please vote for the best independent candidates on 20 May for a better Cayman.

Truman Bodden

John McLean