What is the future of Cayman?

The Cayman Islands is looking toward a difficult future
unless it moves away from “thinking of issues in silos” and embraces modern,
interconnected data delivery systems, an IBM manager advised a Chamber of Commerce
forum last week.

Gary
Austin, brought in to head the combined Chamber-Cayman
Islands government forum on the Islands’ future, calls it “the new normal”.

“For most of us in the room, we don’t want to have your
grandfather’s Cayman anymore,” Mr. Austin said. “You’ve had a good ride, but
the new normal is here to tell you that ride is going to change.”

First point, Mr. Austin said, stop thinking that the global
financial crisis is going to go away.

“The
current downturn is fundamentally different,” he told the audience of about 100
at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort on Thursday. “We may think the economy
is rebounding, but the debt is not going away. We’re not going to avoid that.”

“We are
experiencing a restructuring of the economic order. It’s about globalisation.
Often on small islands we don’t think about globalisation, but we need to.”

Second
point: The world is becoming “smaller and flatter” through the use of interconnected
technological systems and individual users who are becoming more intelligent by
the day.

“Almost
one-third of the world’s population will be on the internet by 2011,” he said,
adding that people in general don’t have a good history with transformation,
change. “We still have the old paper systems… we need to speed up.”

Third
point: The need to redefine not only what schoolchildren are learning, but the
methods by which they learn.

“Do
people have to sit in classrooms to learn? Mr. Austin asked. “That’s the world
we’re coming to.”

In a
first-of-it-kind effort in Cayman, the private sector and government entities
have come together for what outgoing Chamber of Commerce President Stuart
Bostock hopes will be a yearly forum on the future of Cayman.

Forum members met in separate groups and behind closed doors
on Thursday at the Marriott to address five key issues: developing local talent
and the workforce, creating a business friendly climate, building a “smarter”
infrastructure, enhancing quality of life and diversifying the local economy.

The idea
is to eventually produce advisory positions on each of these issues to government.

Community
Affairs Minister Mike Adam, speaking on behalf of Premier McKeeva Bush, said
the government would gladly accept the forum’s recommendations and take them
under advisement.

Mr.
Bostock, in his address to the group, said he believes one key element to
Cayman’s success is thinking further ahead than the country has done in the in
past.

He compared Cayman’s methods to Singapore,
which is now entering negotiations with neighbouring Malaysia over water supply
agreements. The deal through which Malaysia
currently supplies water to Singapore
expires in 2061.

“They’re
planning for something that’s 51 years away,” Mr. Bostock said. “How far ahead
are we working for?”

Mr.
Bostock said Cayman has been a leader in the Caribbean,
even the world, in certain areas like international finance and tourism.

“We need
more of that,” he said. “We need to emerge from our own crisis stronger, leaner
and most of all, smarter. If we do that properly, together, we will no doubt
have the advantage and place ourselves well ahead of those countries we compete
against for business, tourism, and quality of life.”

Technology
will play a big role in the future of Cayman, Mr. Bostock said; like it or not.

“Exploring
smarter ways to live, conduct business and run a country can only be done with
a good understanding of the compromise between technology and freedom,” he
said.

IBM
officials are collaborating on the effort with the Chamber of Commerce and government
with an eye toward creating greater synergy between government and the private
sector.

“To
quote Albert Einstein, ‘everything has changed, except our way of thinking,’”
said Mr. Austin.

 

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Attendees at the Fu-ture of Cayman forum included, from left, Wil Pineau, Stuart Bostock, Minister Rolston Anglin, Minister Mark Scotland, Minister Mike Adam and Shayne Howe.
Photo: Submitted

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