Time is not on our hands

Much has been said of the mess our Government is in financially.

Years ago it would have taken months for the information to reach overseas. Today, it is a great story, so it hits the air waves immediately. By the same token, there is still a small window of opportunity.

Much has been spoken on direct taxation and indirect taxation. We all agree, I believe, that direct taxation would send the Cayman Islands in Bartlet’s Deep (this is a very deep area of the ocean between Jamaica and Cayman). It would completely return these islands to the Isles that Time Forgot.

Everything we strove to build over the last 50 years or more will vanish overnight. Can you imagine what Sir Vassel would say – the architect of our financial services – if he could speak to us!

I happened to have had the privilege to work with Sir Vassel in the 1950s and we tabled the first audited account for this Country. This started the successful Cayman Journey.

We all must make a stand now for Cayman has been a leader in many ways to the world. Although small in number we must and can lead again.

All the countries of the world are in a great financial crisis, this includes the US and England.

So we again have to think big like the great ones of our numbers who have gone on, namely Sir Vassel, Mr. Jim, Dr. Roy, Mr. Willie Farrington, Mr. Ducan Merren and Mr. Ormond Panton.

To name a few of our wise men who were pillars and the strength and doers for this country. They were our men of iron; they too faced many challenges. We must stand together and not let direct tax come to this haven of ours.

So here is my suggestion as the way out. No direct tax. Indirect tax scan be implemented once agreed on very quickly with a programme for the computer. Supposedly there is 1.9 trillion dollars and could be more on deposit in this country and that includes the deposits of Caymanians, expats and overseas accounts, I would think. Let the banks charge (must be a onetime fee) a service charge of one thousand of a per cent payable to the Cayman Islands Government. This would give Government approximately $950 million.

This will not cause Government added expense for more staff and the money will be collected.

Let’s erase the national debt and steer the good ship Cayman to safer waters. The person having a $10,000 deposit would give $5; $100,000 – $50; $1,000,000 – $500.

Nobody is going to run from Cayman for a one-time fee. Remember Cayman has been one of the best places in the world to do business and let us keep it that way. People have increased their wealth here. We will continue to be one of the best environments for offshore business and will attract new businesses. We will make sure it will remain a safe place because we must adapt stiff laws as good business sense that Cayman never finds itself in this runaway spending episode again. A law must be put in place to curtail future expenditure being kept in check. We must use the old adage of cutting the cloth to suit the garment – living within our means.

In this financial crisis our conscience should want us to return a small part of the pie to Government for our thanks for the way our assets have increased over the years with no direct tax. Think of the countries with 28 per cent and higher tax, people losing their jobs, then losing their homes and becoming homeless with young children!

A decision was made to increase custom duty by 2 per cent to include garbage fees as it was not being fully collected. This fee collected by banks will be collected and paid to government. Our future debt servicing should never be allowed to exceed 5 per cent of our revenue. The Government has agreed on indirect tax. This is indirect tax and the banks don’t have a problem with charging increases in service charge when they want to – customers pay. This can and should be done now.

Then Government takes the duty off of diesel for CUC and makes everyone benefit from a minimum of 25 per cent reduction in their utility bills instead of increasing the cost of living, which is already too high.

A 10 per cent decrease in work permit fees.

All Government employees must contribute to pension and health in the same manner as the private sector. There should be no preferential treatment. They are being paid well. This will save Government a fair amount of money. Make off the Government authorities pay to Government dividends. Government then streamlines expenses and lets the extra revenue go to attract subsidiaries of well known universities, e.g. Harvard, Princeton, Yale.

Education is the key to our success.

Yes, Cabinet should be willing to do this. Yes, together we can. They have agreed on indirect taxes, so I trust they will agree on this one.

So that our way of life in these Islands can be protected not for a window of six months or a year, but for generations to come, free of direct taxes.

So historians may read, ‘Here were three small islands found in 1942 by Christopher Columbus with less than 60,000 people faced with a debt of approximately $900,000,000 according to published information and were able to erase their debt with a unified meeting of their legislature with a onetime decision to collect an indirect tax surcharge of one two thousand percent on all deposits in the Cayman Islands to keep from having direct taxation implemented, which would ruin, the islands.’

Imagine the conversations that will surface when history is written that the Cayman Islands has led the world again. They were wise enough to figure out how to steer the good ship Cayman away from the financial reefs of destruction.

We want all of our legislators to rise and be united in this. Yes, Cayman, we have to think big. We must again be a world leader.

Government should employ one person to head a creative revenue department, bring new revenue in and the means on how to do so.

God bless you and may God continue to bless these beloved Cayman Islands like the song written by the late Mrs. Leila Shirer whose name I trust will be added to our National Heroes.

Elita Soto

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