Premier Bush’s address to the country

Editor’s
note: The following is an advance copy of the full text of a speech given by
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush Thursday night.

 

“My
fellow Caymanians and residents of the Cayman Islands, good evening.

“On
September 16th I spoke to you about the state of the economy. I
promised you that my Government would develop policies and measures that would
put the Cayman Islands back on the path that created its success and that I
would again speak to you to inform you of those measures and policies.

“Thanks
to the hard work of the Stimulus Implementation Group and the enthusiastic
contributions of organizations and individuals in the community, I’m happy that
I can now share the steps we are taking to stimulate the economy.

“The
economic stimulus plan that I will announce tonight comes from a broad range of
resources. The preliminary work of the Stimulus Implementation Group entailed
reviewing over 250 measures drawn from suggestions or reports such as the
Miller-Shaw Report…

“The
FCO three year financial plan…

“The
National Investment Council’s Cayman Inc Report…

“The
Tourism Advisory Council Report…

“The
Financial Services Council Sub-group on Strategic Directions…

“Recommendations
from the Cayman Contractors Association …

“Recommendations
from the Civil Service Association …

“Recommendations
from Cayman Finance…

“Suggestions
from the Immigration Review Team and many others.

“After
reviewing all of the measures, the Stimulus Implementation Group assisted the
Government in the selection a preliminary list of action items based on
feasibility, national priority, and the potential to have a benefit to the
economy in the next three to six months, or what could be started now in order to have an
impact in the medium to long-term.

“Let
me precede further comments by first pointing out that these policies and
measures that my government are initiating will not cause a full turnaround
overnight.  We all recognize this.  It will be a slow, yet gradual
process. 
However, if these measures are faithfully applied I believe that we will see
positive results during the coming year. Long lasting success will also mean
embracing a drive for excellence and creating a new business model based on
innovation, reliability, responsiveness and a welcoming business environment.

“Some
of what I will announce tonight reduces the cost of living for families. Other
aspects of this stimulus package will create jobs. Some will provide for a more
attractive business climate, improve the financial services and tourism
sectors, prepare our young people to join the workforce, and diversify the
economy.

“While
some measures of the economic stimulus plan create temporary jobs through Government
employment, the position of my Government is that jobs must also be created by
private businesses.

“If
the Government were to launch a “new deal” type jobs program in which the
Government provides broad based employment, this would be unsustainable, and
far too costly. Therefore, Government’s measures are designed to stimulate
business activity in the private sector, and thus ensure sustainability over
the long-term.

“Job
creation that is sustainable over the long-term impacts heavily on the business
environment and in turn contributes to government revenues that fund our social
services. By promoting discipline in government spending, and strategically
prioritizing projects, we are seeking to target key areas that will stimulate
economic growth, enhance the business environment and ultimately create much
needed employment.

“We
are, therefore, committed to moving forward with the following short-term economic
stimulus measures:

“To
provide some temporary relief to the cost of living, we have engaged in
discussion with several banks and commercial lenders to offer a voluntary moratorium
on principal payments (in other words “interest-only” payments) starting in
January 2011 for the next three to six months for loans that are in good
standing.  A commitment has been received from Cayman National Bank to
support this initiative.

“In
addition, the Cayman Islands Development Bank will be assisting some small local
businesses with a voluntary moratorium on their monthly and interest payments
for the months of January and February of next year, for those who request it.

“Presently
under consideration is the reduction of import duties on select items on a temporary
basis beginning in January 2011.  Further announcements will be made to
clarify which imported items will qualify for these reductions as they are implemented. 
These reductions are intended to provide additional relief to the present cost
of living.

“The
successful PRIDE Clean-up campaigns are once again being undertaken, employing
between 700 and 800 people.  This campaign is providing much needed income
to people who would otherwise be unemployed.

To
create a better business climate, several aspects of immigration reform will be
implemented.  First, enhancements to options for residency will be
undertaken in order to attract foreign investors and high net-worth individuals. 
These include:

A
25-year renewable residency certificate with a right to work, offered to any person exercising substantial management or control over
an approved company establishing a substantial business presence in the islands

A
25-year renewable residency certificate without a right to work for individuals
investing in developed real estate of $500 thousand dollars

Permanent
residency for individuals investing in developed real estate valued at least
$2.5 million dollars

“Additionally,
we will be reviewing visa requirements to better facilitate legitimate business
travelers and visitors from China.  Visa exemptions will be put in place
for Jamaican nationals who hold validated US, UK or Canadian visas.  To
assist established local businesses, a new 1 – 5 day business visa will also be
introduced for those business travelers visiting for legitimate business
purposes.

 “In an effort to become more customer friendly,
procedures at the airport are being reviewed so that business travelers
attending meetings on the island will be greeted by a truly welcoming atmosphere.

“I believe that these changes in immigration
policy will make the Cayman Islands more attractive to our investors, make it
easier to do business, and bring stability to business generally.

“Our
tourism industry is a vital sector of our economy. To ensure that our tourism
product remains attractive and competitive with an increase in the dollars our
tourists spend with us, we will:

·        Develop and implement strategies to
increase target market visitor arrivals.

·        Improve the tangible and intangible
visitor experience via driving for a more customer-friendly product and
facilitating improvements to the Spotts dock.

·        Develop a private and public strategy
for national beautification and coordinate efforts for island-wide beautification.

·        Cayman Airways and the Department of
Tourism are now working in close alignment to make the best use of the national
airline and to work with sports organizations to develop a sports tourism strategy.

“The
financial services industry is a keystone of the success that the Cayman Islands
has achieved over the last forty years.  We must ensure that our financial
industry’s international image is a positive one and continue to demonstrate to
the world that we are a leading and innovative financial centre with high
standards of excellence.

“One
of the ways to achieve this is to increase the number of financial services operations
with a physical presence in the Cayman Islands.  In collaboration
with key financial sector stakeholders, a promotional strategy to encourage
physical presence in financial services operations will be unveiled in the
first quarter of 2011.  This strategy will, at the very least, bring our
jurisdiction on par with our competitors in terms of international promotional
and marketing efforts. The success of this promotional strategy, will not only address what is known
as the “substantial presence” issue, but it will also create new white-collar
jobs by supporting top quality organizations to combine their talent with the
talent present in the Cayman Islands.

“Government,
including myself, has had to travel extensively to promote and convince the
international community that these islands are open for business.  This
has cost approximately $400,000 and involved 14 individuals, including myself,
since June of 2009, or roughly $22,000 per month, but the cost is small in
comparison to the benefits brought through the financial services and tourism
industries to these islands.

“In
addition to our placement on the OECD white list, the latest statistics from
the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority and the Registrar of Companies shows
signs of a turnaround in the financial services industry.  For instance,
we are registering roughly 100 hedge funds per month, and once again close to
tipping the 10,000 mark in fund registrations. We’re close to our all-time high
and, should our growth continue at its current rate, we will surpass our
previous peak in the upcoming year.

“So,
the $22,000 per month spent on travel is costly, but certainly worth it to
ensure the success of our key financial services and tourism industries.

“A
short term stimulus measure currently under consideration is whether a
temporary reduction of stamp duty will be beneficial in helping to energize the
real estate industry in conjunction with complementary measures from the
private sector.  We are in discussions with CIREBA on this matter. 

“Turning
to efforts to diversify the economy, the Government will also seek to fulfil
its commitments to Dr. Devi Shetty for the proposed Narayana Cayman
University Medical Centre.  Government will continue to use our best endeavors
to fulfill our obligations under the agreement.  We hope to see the first
phase of this hospital begin next year in the first quarter and we will work
closely with Dr. Shetty’s team to ensure the benefits anticipated to the Cayman
Islands and Caymanians will be realized, such as employment and career
opportunities, and economic spinoffs that will support local entrepreneurship.

“Other high priority projects are being reviewed and the Government has
committed to support those projects that prove to provide substantial benefits
to the country.  I would specifically point to the ongoing progress that
is being made in relation to the George Town Cruise Port Development project,
the Sewerage System,  Road Works and the Waste to Energy Project.

“During
2011 and 2012, the Camana Bay development expansion project will incur between
$80 and $100 million dollars annually. Planning permission has been granted. In
the first year, this project will employ in the region of 300 people.
Government has committed to facilitating this development in order for benefits
to the economy to be realized. Particularly, for Caymanians to be employed.

“Under my Government’s stewardship, the
recommencement of the new high schools project will provide much needed additional
stimulus to the struggling construction industry.  Of particular note is
the Ministry of Education’s innovative approach, which will result in some 70
construction works packages being tendered this financial year.  These
packages are worth approximately $14 million dollars.  This approach will
result in a wide range of contractors, large and small, benefiting, not just a
select few.  This will be a welcome relief to the many hard working
Caymanian families who rely on the construction industry for their livelihood.

“The new Primary Schools Building programme
will commence in the first quarter of 2011, giving the construction industry an
additional boost.

“We must also acknowledge that high quality and
relevant education and training are necessary for economic and employment
growth and for social development.  It can help individuals to become more
employable and stay employable in our rapidly changing labour markets; it can also
provide second chances for our young people and adults who find themselves
unable to get a promotion or who now fill the unemployed registers at the
Department of Employment Relations.

“The Ministry of Education, Training and
Employment is in the midst of the reorganisation of the Department of Employment
Relations into a new Department of  Labour and Pensions and a Human
Capital Development Agency (the HCDA).  The HCDA will focus our training
and empowerment initiatives to position Caymanians to fully benefit as the
economy improves.

“In
order to better prepare our young people to join the workforce, we will
continue with the highly-regarded Passport 2 Success training program. 
The creation of jobs will be meaningless if young Caymanians cannot benefit
from them.

“I’ve
given you an outline of the short-term measures selected by the Government.
Some of them will require specific details to be approved by Cabinet. Others
will need further discussion with the private sector to ensure the maximum
benefit is realised.

“Nevertheless, my Government will pursue these
short-term stimulus measures with the urgency that our economic and financial
situation demands. It will take time to see the full results.  But we must
stay the course if our efforts are to bear good fruit.  There will be
bumps and obstacles in the way, but we must overcome them. Nothing good comes
easy. 

“Times are still challenging globally but we
must also acknowledge that our beloved country is still in a better position
than many. We are still one of the best places to live and work and we continue
to generate world class services and products that demonstrate quality,
innovation and leadership across all sectors.  My friends, we have allowed
small segments of society to gain a disproportionate voice in an attempt to
create divisiveness and fear.  That needs to end now.

“With
over 40 years of stability in financial services, tourism, development and in
our social base, I firmly believe that the resilience and innovation we have
built on as a nation will continue to position the Cayman Islands for renewed
economic success.

“It is time to move forward, and move forward
we shall.

“Thank you for taking the time to listen. May
God bless you and your family and God Bless the Cayman Islands.”

 

 

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