In a response to Premier McKeeva
Bush’s recent speech to the country, Opposition Leader Kurt Tibbetts has lashed
out in a lengthy address, which took Mr. Bush to task for financial services
industry woes as well as what he called ‘ill-considered’ laws that were
affecting Cayman’s financial industry.
The address was broadcast on Radio
Cayman and Cayman 27 Wednesday night.
Mr. Tibbetts said recent statements
from the premier that called into question Cayman’s position in the
international business world were “a gross exaggeration” and “seriously
harmful, especially if the world’s press get hold of it”.
These statements, coupled with what
Mr. Tibbetts called “the recent flood of badly drafted, ill-considered
legislation affecting the financial industry” were having a major impact on the
confidence of the people making decisions in the country, the opposition leader
“Some of this legislation is an attempt
to respond instantly to every demand from the international organisations,” Mr.
Tibbetts said. “Some of it is to meet the Premier’s desire to get his hands on
unclaimed funds in banks.”
The last comment was made in
reference to the recently-passed Dormant Accounts Bill (2010), which has been a
point of contention with opposition party members. One member referred to the
measure recently as an “unmitigated disaster”.
Mr. Bush’s government has said some
changes would be made to the proposal in the coming weeks, but Mr. Tibbetts questioned
in his speech why that would be needed if the premier had actually consulted
with the local banking industry before implementing the measure.
Mr. Tibbetts said those statements
about banking industry support were “more deception” from the Premier.
Mr. Tibbetts also wondered about
the premier’s statements regarding Cayman’s immigration policy “as the main
reason why we see persons leaving the country, contributing to the downturn in
our local economy”.
In his 16 September address, Mr.
Bush did note that changes in the country’s “overly nationalistic” policies
would be needed to attract more business here. However, he has also acknowledged
that the world’s financial state over the past two years has played a major
role in Cayman’s economic troubles.
“Ironically, the present
Immigration Law was introduced by the Premier and the previous UDP (United
Democratic Party) government in 2003,” Mr. Tibbetts said.
Mr. Tibbetts noted that his party,
the People’s Progressive Movement, made changes to the Immigration Law passed
in 2003, which included shortening the period that foreign workers must leave
the Islands before being allowed to re-apply for work permits. Under the 2003
law, that break was two years; the PPM reduced it to one.
Mr. Bush has recently said he
wished to cut the break in stay period to as little as 30 days.
Mr. Tibbetts said the PPM once
considered reducing that break in stay period to six months, but was advised
that a court might not consider that six months a true break in a person’s
“We are perplexed as to how the
premier can announce that advice from the United Kingdom says that we can make
the break following rollover as limited as we want in our legislation, and I call
on him to make that advice public,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “We caution that this advice
be acted upon guardedly, particularly in light of a recent report by the UK
Parliament, which advocates that the right to vote should be given to not just
citizens of the Overseas Territories – but to residents as well.”
The “rollover” referred to by Mr.
Tibbetts is the point at which foreign workers must leave following seven years
of continuous residence under the Cayman Islands Immigration Law – unless they
obtain the ability to stay longer via key employee status or marriage to a
Although the rollover policy took
centre stage in Premier Bush’s 16 September address, Mr. Tibbetts said
Wednesday that equal attention should be given to a slew of new fees introduced
by the UDP government – including those on work permits and additional levies
on the financial service sector.
“Indeed, it can be argued that the
policies of the UDP since taking office, particularly the failed tax packages
imposed over the last 16 months, have also contributed to the relocation of
businesses from the financial industry to other jurisdictions,” Mr. Tibbetts
Mr. Tibbetts said large increases
in the cost of work permit fees have likely influence many local business
owners to simply not renew those permits.
As he has on many occasions, Mr.
Tibbetts has asked Mr. Bush to roll back various fee increases to assist small
businesses and the financial services industry.
“The plain truth is that the
premier is hoping that the recovery of the world economy will save Cayman’s
bacon and then he will take credit for that,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “But the
unpleasant fact is that the world economy, especially in the USA, is not recovering
in a hurry.”