Letters to the Editor: Premier’s message: Let’s do better in 2011

My fellow Caymanians and
residents of the Cayman Islands:

It is with great pleasure
that I wish you a Happy New Year on behalf of the entire Government of the
Cayman Islands. May you receive countless blessings as we embark upon the
bright New Year and all the experiences that are yet to come.

I am confident that 2011
will begin a year of recovery, integration, nation-building and general
success. By this I mean recovery from the economic downturn; an integrated
approach to deliver results for Government’s domestic and international policy
priorities; building on our national heritage and recognising significant
contributions from our community; and success in achieving the personal and
professional goals we set for ourselves.

Many people look forward to
the New Year as an opportunity for renewal, or sometimes for making a fresh
start. I, too, am grateful for this opportunity and I renew my commitment to
you, as the Cayman Islands political leader, to press onwards with, dedication
and discipline so we can turn a new leaf, that shows positive results.

My Government strives to do
exactly this by implementing measures to offer relief to many in the community
– from small businesses to individual workers.

We recognise the hardships
that so many of you have endured over the past year, so we have developed a
plan to stimulate economic success – to reduce the cost of living for families,
to create jobs and a more attractive business environment, to improve our
financial services and tourism industries, to prepare our young people to join
the workforce, and finally, to diversify the economy for the longer term.

It is also important to
acknowledge that this cannot be achieved overnight. Our short term economic
stimulus measures seek to target key areas from which the country will benefit
relatively quickly. For example, my Government has engaged in discussions with
several banks and commercial lenders to offer a moratorium on principal
repayment, or, call it interest-only payments, until March 2011, our
Development Bank is also offering a moratorium on loans to those who may wish
to do so, for January and February, in order to temporarily reduce the cost of
living and give you an opportunity to provide much needed support to loved ones
and naturally a boost to the economy.

Furthermore, to benefit our
international client base, we are implementing an Immigration reform to enhance
the attractiveness of our business environment. As many of you are aware, this
includes among other measures improvements to the residency certificates and
visa exemptions for Chinese and visa exemptions for Jamaican nationals who
already hold UK, US or Canadian visas or diplomatic passports. My Government is
also introducing one to five day business visas to facilitate and provide a
more business friendly environment for our commercial partners.

The reforms will also
include a reduction or waiver in business and licensing fees, certain stamp
duties and import duties; expedited turn-around for processing work permits; up
to 75 per cent reduction in work permit fees for staff in the Sister Islands
and, also for the Sister Islands, a 50 per cent reduction on Trade &
Business license fees for businesses and 100 per cent concession on building
materials. My government is pleased to announce that here in Grand Cayman, the
following incentives for the construction and development industries, beginning
on 4 January and ending 30 June, all projects submitted for Planning approval
will be allowed to defer 100 per cent of the required Infrastructure fees until
the Certificate of Completion is required. Additionally, 25 per cent of the
Building Control fees will also be deferred until Certificate of Completion.

As a further stimulus to
this section of the industry, all projects submitting for Planning Permission
or for a Building permit during this same period will be allowed to import
materials, before 31 December, at a flat rate of 15 per cent import duty. Our
government will further ensure that local merchants will be granted a credit of
the same value on the future importation and restocking of materials under this
programme. This will ensure that the local merchants will not be disadvantaged
on the sale of materials they have already imported

These are just the tip of
the iceberg for what we perceive to be the first steps in turning around the
economy and upholding the quality, stability and integrity of our financial
services industry.

Turning to our other main
economic sector – tourism – we have also made progress with strategies to
increase visitor arrivals and to improve their overall experience of our
beautiful Islands. It is important to note that it is the positive quality of
experience that will bring us repeat visitation.

We are embarking on a joint
public/private sector effort of national beautification; the development of
sports and medical tourism; as well as enhancements to our national air
services and cruise ship facilities. We are confident that the Cayman Islands
will remain a top destination for global visitors – if we care for them, they
will care for us.

Throughout the next year,
our main objective is to keep the Cayman Islands competitive in this
fast-changing environment. To achieve this, we must adapt our national and
promotional strategies toward our major industries and be prepared to change
focus where and when necessary.

An important element of the
recovery effort is to diversify our economy, which we will begin to see early
in 2011. The emergence of two new areas of focus in the tourism industry –
medical and sports tourism – will surely open new doors and stimulate growth of
our local economy. The creation of jobs for our people, the retention of
companies and the continuation of provision of community assistance to churches
where we can are top priorities for my Government during this New Year.

Rest assured, we can and
will make a difference.   

 

Integration and
nation-building

2011 will also see the
continuance of collaboration between the public and private sectors, as well as
international counterparts. We seek to enhance such integration to ensure that
our economy remains healthy and stable over the longer term.

The Government now has a
presence both in the Far East and the Middle East, with offices in Hong Kong
and Dubai, strengthening the basis for commercial diversification and broadened
international cooperation. This encourages investment and trade by providing
strategic resources for our main sectors. We are heavily focused on improving
the overall experience as well as the overseas perceptions, of what it is like
to live and work in the Cayman Islands.

My Government is proud to
have introduced the first-ever ‘nation-building fund’, which has been designed
to promote the building of community, partly through assistance for building
programmes in churches geared to the development of youth programmes.

The fund has also awarded scholarships
to young people who have shown a spirit of community participation and pledged
to apply and encourage peer leadership skills, develop or join community
service initiatives, and serve to further develop the nation-building
programme.

To date, I am delighted to
announce that a number of these scholarships have been awarded over the past
year and we look forward to the recipients making their presence felt in the
community as early as the summer of 2011. Most of our young people are sons and
daughters, nieces and nephews we can be proud of. We need to do more to
encourage them all to step up and make a difference within our society; to
become role models for those who come behind them. This kind of social
behaviour is indeed priceless; no amount of funding could pay for it – and we
know we are only sowing seeds with such a programme. If they fall on fertile
ground, however, then our quality of life would indeed be something for the
world to emulate.

Another notable
nation-building initiative we have undertaken is the National Awards, or the
Order of the Cayman Islands, which will recognise outstanding members of our
community who have given national service to our Islands; including service in
the arts, science, literature, the church or other fields; and also long-
serving civil servants. These will be awarded, for the first time, on Heroes
Day, set for the 24 January.

By
recognising those individuals who have contributed to the development and
progress of our Islands over the years we hope to both encourage such service,
and a spirit of commonwealth. Yes, as I have said before, a people and a nation
can have too much pride – what we call false pride – but it can also have too
little, as well, and in so doing become a discredit and even a danger to
itself. The aim of these awards is to stimulate and promote just the opposite;
to promote genuine pride in our fellow countrymen and in the country itself.
These are truly meant to be the people’s awards and we are proud to introduce
this initiative. It will enable us all to genuinely celebrate the proud culture
and heritage of community building in the Cayman Islands.

As the deadline for these
awards was set for 31 December, I will announce the award recipients in a few
days. I would like to thank all those who have submitted nominations.

To
all civil servants, a tremendous thank you for always striving towards
excellence and for upholding the values of our Government – I look forward to
another fulfilling year. I would also like to thank our private sector and
voluntary sector partners for your dedication to the strengthening and
development of our Islands – our close-knit relationships will surely continue
for many years to come. To all Caymanians and residents, thank you for your
most valuable support, this certainly keeps us going.  

 

Success

Friends, another fresh New Year is here. Another year to
live; to banish worry, doubt and fear; to love and laugh and give.

I encourage everyone to aim high and give your best
regardless of your station in life.

My
Government is proud to uphold the values of Caymanian culture and heritage, and
I urge you to do the same during the year to come. We are in the process of
implementing cost-saving and nation-building measures to ensure that our people
– the backbone of our country – may remain comfortable, prosperous and
successful.

It is also important that
you embrace the positive. As the old Japanese proverb says, “Fall seven times,
stand up eight”. Yes, we have all experienced difficult times, but if we keep
going, by God’s grace we will be made better and stronger.

My personal theme for this
season – and for the New Year is hope, love and tolerance. We hope through Him,
we love because He came to love us and now we must be tolerant.

We perhaps have become too
intolerant – at work, at church, in Government, in our homes, with our spouses
and our families. As we go through life we judge, we accuse and we have no
patience. We say the worst things of each other – we think the worst of people.

Let us make a decision this
year to be more tolerant of those around us, to help make our homes – our
churches and our communities a better place to live.

For, what manner of life are
we intending to complete – those of us who are entering the senior years – if
we hate rather than love, if we say and think the worst rather than offering
praise and encouragement?

That’s what I believe will
help us to be more content and more pleased with ourselves.

And so, I want to thank all
who in your own way help make life better in this community. The Lions Clubs of
the Cayman Islands, The Hospice Care, Rotary Clubs of the Cayman Islands and
other service organisations, The Department of Social Services, the many
churches and voluntary groups – and individuals. Life is better because of the
care you took to help build these Islands in the past year.

Let us all now in the New
Year do as His Majesty the late King George 6th said in his famous 1939 New
Year’s message:

“And I said to the man who
stood at the gate of the year: Give me a light that I may tread safely into the
unknown. And he replied: Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the
hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known
way.”

On behalf of my Government,
I wish you all the best for this New Year, with good health, prosperity, love,
hope and tolerance.

Thank you and May God bless
you all.

 

Premier McKeeva Bush

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