Premier’s travel detailed

Premier McKeeva Bush, publicly
responding to a Freedom of Information request, detailed his travels since
taking office last year.

“To be honest, anyone who knows me personally
knows that I am not fond of flying and I do make every attempt to ensure that
my travel is kept to the bare necessities, especially in these austere times,”
he said during a press conference last Thursday. “It is extremely taxing on the
body and mind and I do not enjoy spending extended time away from my family.”

But Mr. Bush said that part of his
duty as premier as to ensure that the business of the country was conducted and
Cayman’s interests overseas were well represented. 

The FOI question, submitted by
Nicky Watson of Cayman News Service, asked “How many days has the Leader of
Government Business/Premier McKeeva Bush spent in the Cayman Islands between
the elections on 20 May 2009 and today, 17 February 2010.”  A second question asked “Since the elections
on 20 May 2009, which countries has the Leader of Government Business/Premier
McKeeva Bush visited, what were the dates that he was in each country, the
purpose of the visit business or pleasure or both, who accompanied Mr. Bush on
each trip.”

Ms Watson did not ask about the
costs of the travels.

In responding to the request,
Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development Information Manager Samuel Rose
said the request was only granted in part because “no records were found with
regard to a portion of your request”. 

“The ministry does not hold records
related to the premier’s personal travel,” Mr. Rose wrote.

Mr. Bush read detail of the
response to all media members at last Thursday’s press conference.

 
In June 2009, he said his travels included trips to London, Washington
D.C., Germany and Paris. During the trips that month he said he signed Tax Information
Exchange Agreements with the UK and Ireland; attended the annual Caribbean
Tourism Organization Meetings; attended OECD meetings; and began to assess the
Department of Tourism’s budget cuts.

The following month, Mr. Bush said
he travelled to Paris, the Netherlands, New York and the UK for more OECD and
tourism-related meetings, and to sign another TIEA with the Netherlands.

In August 2009, he went to Washington
D.C. to sign a TIEA with New Zealand. 

“With this signing we achieved the
important goal of getting on the OECD white-list, which was one of my main
priorities when I took office,” he said. “So clearly my efforts to travel
extensively in my first three months paid huge dividends for the country.” 

Later in August, Mr. Bush said he
travelled to the Bahamas to support Miss Cayman at the Miss Universe
Competition and to attend meetings with the Bahamas Investment Bureau, which he
said assisted Cayman in the development of the National Investment Council.  He then went to Miami to host an awards ceremony
for long-standing Department of Tourism and Cayman Airways employees.

 “These people have been pivotal partners in
supporting our tourism industry even though they are based overseas,” he said.
“I felt that the least we could do was acknowledge and publicly thank them for
their many years of dedicated service to our country.”

In September 2009, Mr. Bush said he
travelled to London to attend meetings with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
and Michael Foot; to attend meetings with Cayman’s London Office in regards to
a new lease agreement; to attend meetings to engage a new public relations consultant
in London; to attend interviews with the Financial Times, BBC Caribbean and the
Alternative Investment Management Association; and to hold meetings with Virgin
Atlantic Airways.

In November, Mr. Bush said he
embarked on the HSBC Bond Road Show, which took him to various cities in the
US, London and Asia. 

“This raised awareness of Cayman’s
Financial Industry and was successful in obtaining a bond issue of USD312 million,”
he said.  “The travel related costs
during this trip were covered by HSBC.”

In December 2009, Mr. Bush said he
travelled to London for the annual Overseas Territories Consultative Council
meetings. Afterwards, he went to Dubai, where he visited the branch of the
Cayman Islands Investment Bureau and delivered remarks relating to the official
opening of that office.   He also said he
attended various interviews and meetings with Dubai media and various
government officials.

“I then went to India for the
launch of a phase of the Narayana Health University,” he said. “I continued
onward to Bali, Indonesia as I was invited to attend meetings in regards to the
possibility of boutique hotels, specifically the Bulgari Hotel chain, coming to
the Cayman Islands.”

In the first month of the New Year,
Mr. Bush said he attended meetings in Miami related to tourism and the port.

In February, he attended
Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association meetings in Miami, and then the Winter
Olympics in Vancouver.

The following month, he visited
Cuba to meet with that country’s minister of tourism to discuss tourism
partnerships, including possible future cruise links, shared culture programs
and multi-destination vacation packages.  He also met with the president of the Cuban
Chamber of Commerce to discuss the possibilities of opening a tourism/airline
office in Cuba; and with the Cuban minister of culture.

Later in March, Mr. Bush said he
travelled to London to meet with Colin Roberts of the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office to discuss the budget, specifically discussing additional revenue
measures and cost cutting measures.

Also in March, Mr. Bush travelled
back to the Bahamas to meet with the new owners of Sagicor General Insurance “to
ensure that Cayman’s interests in the company were personally and officially
represented.”

In late March and early April, Mr.
Bush travelled to Washington D.C. to sign a Tax Information Exchange Agreement,
on behalf of the Cayman Islands, with Australia.

“I also met with Sidley Austin,
Cayman’s new public relations firm, during this time.”

Later in April, Mr. Bush attended
meetings with Moody’s in New York to address Cayman’s debt position and “to
ensure our credit rating remained the same.

Late in the month, Mr. Bush said he
travelled to Miami to discuss budget cuts for the Miami and US Department of
Tourism Offices.

In the first week of May, Mr. Bush
said he travelled to Puerto Rico to attend the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism
Investment Conference, where discussions were held with various investors about
inward investment projects in the Cayman Islands, including that of the Hyatt
Hotel here.

Mr. Bush said that if his wife
accompanied him on any of his travels, his policy has always been that it was
at his personal expense.

“Government does not pay for any
expenses related to her accompanying me on official business,” he said.

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1 COMMENT

  1. FOI works! But only if questions are asked and answered.
    Of course any government leader has the right to withhold information deemed to be sensitive in nature to the interest of the country.. Tourism is a very competitive industry with all destination trying to increase their market share. If the premiere is being proactive in soliciting partnerships, this information could be held close to the chest.

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