The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce has expressed its support for the development of cruise berthing and mega-yacht facilities, and the relocation of cargo facilities.
The announcement came in a joint statement issued after representatives of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce met with government officials last week. In the meeting, which both parties described as extremely productive, the Chamber presented ideas to reduce costs, decrease debt and to enhance revenue.
Leader of Government McKeeva Bush, who has bucked heads with the Chamber in the past, welcomed the exchange.
‘The Chamber represents hundreds of local businesses, so it is important for the Government to seek their views and suggestions on how to raise additional revenue while at the same time reducing expenses and creating an environment to attract investment,’ he said. ‘The Government intends to meet with the Chamber regularly to discuss issues candidly, to share ideas and to develop strategies to improve the economy, create new jobs and business opportunities for the Caymanian people.’
The Chamber welcomed the level of cooperation and pledged its full support to work with government to develop solutions to the current economic challenges facing Cayman.
Chamber President Stuart Bostock thanked the government for the opportunity to share ideas.
‘Chamber members and the wider community are experiencing challenging economic times, but with great challenge there is great opportunity and responsibility,’ he said. ‘This is an ideal time to introduce novel approaches to new business development and to reform the way in which the public sector operates.
‘We must all accept that in order to address some of the challenges that are facing us we must work in partnership and accept that there will have to be some sacrifices by businesses and residents.’
Government and the Chamber leaders are in agreement that Cayman can move forward without the need to introduce income or property taxes. Methods of controlling expenditure and reducing debt featured prominently in the discussion.
To reduce government debt, the Chamber recommended assets be identifies that that can be sold outright or can be offered for investment through privatization or the issuance of an initial public offering. By using this approach, residents and businesses could become direct shareholders of important national assets and government would reduce its operational costs.
The Chamber urged the Government to control costs and proposed commissioning an independent review of all Government services, departments and statutory authorities to be completed by January 2010.
The Chamber also suggested methods of increasing in ways that would have minimal impact on business development and residents including: returning stamp duty on property to rates of 6 per cent and 7.5 per cent effective 1st December; introducing a national lottery; allowing Sunday trading to increase customs duty collections; introducing a fee on individual money transfers out of the country; and introducing legislation to receive money on accounts that have been dormant in retail banks for five years or more.
The Chamber also suggested increasing miscellaneous fees and fines, particularly those that have not been adjusted for several years.
Although the Chamber supported the idea of additional revenue measures, it did so only there were done in combination with a definitive plan for government to cut costs and reduce debt. The Chamber expressed its opposition to any corporate taxes, in addition to fees or taxes on, income, interbank transactions, payroll or property.
In expressing its support for a mega-yacht facility, the Chambers did not specify were that facility would be located. However, Mr. Bush has made it known he wants to dredge a section of the North Sound to facilitate this facility.
The Chamber also expressed support for the relocation of the cargo facilities, currently adjacent to the Royal Watler cruise dock. The government has scrapped plans to move the cargo facility a little farther north to a man-made island near Burger King on the waterfront, and instead has said it wants a new cargo facility in the Eastern districts.
In the financial sector, the Chamber suggested efforts to attract the reinsurance industry and additional private trust business.
In addition, the Chamber said it was prepared to work with government to address crime; to develop a ‘red carpet approach to attracting new investment to the Island’; to recommend revisions to the immigration policies; to strengthen its cooperation with the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau and the Department of Tourism; and to support small business development.
The Chamber also offered to ost an economic forum to discuss and develop an implementation plan for the proposals that are approved by government.