Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush outlined a number of new economic assistance initiatives during a nationally broadcast address Thursday evening; an advance copy of which was provided to the Caymanian Compass on Thursday.
The measures included the possibility of temporary import duty reductions, negotiations with local banks about a voluntary moratorium on loan principle repayments and a number of specific changes to the country’s Immigration Law aimed at attracting high net worth investors.
Mr. Bush said during the address that he would resist any efforts for a “new deal” type of jobs programme where the government would provide broad based employment.
“Government’s measures are designed to stimulate business activity in the private sector and thus ensure sustainability over the long term,” Mr. Bush said.
Among the proposals discussed by the premier were a two-month moratorium on loan payments local small businesses owe to the Cayman Islands Development Bank. That moratorium could take effect in January and February of next year.
Mr. Bush said government was also in talks with private banks about the potential to allow customers to make “interest only” payments on their loans for the next three to six months.
The premier also mentioned that reduction of import duties on select items for a fixed period were being discussed. However, he did not identify what those items might be.
“Further announcements will be made to clarify which imported items will qualify for those reductions as they are implemented,” he said. “These reductions are intended to provide additional relief to the present cost of living.”
Immigration and visas
Several changes that would allow certain wealthier individuals to obtain long-term residence in Cayman were put forth in the address.
Those included; 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 $500,000, and permanent residence (the right to remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives) for individuals investing in developed real estate with a value of at least $2.5 million.
Meanwhile, visa exemptions will be put in place for Jamaican nationals who hold valid US, UK or Canadian visas.
A one to five day business visa will be introduced for business travellers who are in Cayman for “legitimate business purposes”.
“Additionally, we will be reviewing visa requirements to better facilitate legitimate business travellers and visitors from China,” Mr. Bush said.
Premier Bush said government is already giving a number of opportunities to residents who wish to be gainfully employed.
The government has continued the PRIDE holiday clean-up campaign and estimates it will employ between 700 to 800 people.
“This campaign is providing much-needed income to people who would otherwise be unemployed,” Mr. Bush said.
The completion of the public high schools’ construction within the next two years would provide some 70 construction bid packages valued at about $14 million.
Mr. Bush also made reference to a ‘new primary schools building programme’ in his Thursday evening address, but he did not explain further. The programme was due to start in the first quarter of 2011, he said.
Also, some non-government construction projects will provide local jobs, the premier said.
The Camana Bay development expansion was expected to incur between $80 million and $100 million annually, the premier said. He also noted the expansion project would employ about 300 people in its first year.
Mr. Bush said some of the economic development measures would need to be approved by Cabinet and others would have to be negotiated further with the private sector.
“It will take time to see the full results,” he said. “But we must stay the course if our efforts are to bear good fruit.”