The Cayman Business Outlook 2012 will once again debate the global macro topics affecting the Cayman Islands, according to event host Anwer Sunderji, chairman of Fidelity Group, organisers of the annual conference.
“This year we are talking about global politics, economics and technology and how that is going to impact our lives,” Mr. Sunderji said at a news conference for the one-day event, which will be held on 19 January at the Westin Casuarina on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman.
“All of you are familiar with the Arab Spring in the Middle East and the role that technology played in harnessing disaffected voters. I think the same trends will be apparent in the Caribbean,” he said, referring to elections in the Bahamas next year and in the Cayman Islands in 2013. “Younger voters, who will be more inclined to vote because of the technology being employed, will change the dynamics.”
Social media analyst Anthony Williams will be one of the featured speakers at the event and explain how social media have changed the landscape of the 21st century. Bringing an economic perspective, Alex Tabarrok, author of the blog “Marginal Revolution” will discuss how the economy reacts to these global changes. As part of a new structure of the Cayman Business Outlook, each speaker will host a question and answer segment after their presentation, giving audience members the opportunity for interaction.
With regard to the global political and economic issues, Mr. Sunderji named specifically the euro crisis and inability of the United States to continue to play the role of global policeman, which ensured prosperity in the past decades for much of the developed world.
“The Cayman Islands and the Caribbean in general are hugely dependent on the US, which is faltering. There are 50 million Americans living in poverty, [when] poverty is defined as an income of $24,000 or less for a family of four. There are another 50 million Americans living near poverty, defined as a family of four earning $36,000 or less,” he said. “If 100 million out of 300 million Americans live in or near poverty – and they impoverished during the last four or five years since the crisis started – their ability to spend, which is what we have been depending on, is simply not there.”
How Cayman can adapt will determine whether the territory cannot just survive, but prosper, Mr. Sunderji said.
The Cayman Business Outlook 2012 will feature two geopolitical speakers, George Friedman, author of The Next Decade, and Giddeon Rachnan, Financial Times journalist and author of The Zero Sum Future, who have opposing views of how the US, Europe and China will impact global stability in the future.
Mr. Friedman thinks that the US will remain the global power and people are dismissing the US unreasonably, because the level of creativity and technology in the US simply does not exist anywhere else, Mr. Sunderji said. This is contrasted by Mr. Rachnan, who believes China as an emerging power will become more dominant.
In addition to global issues, the Cayman Business Outlook each year hosts a local panel, which in 2012 is moderated by former Maples and Calder partner and CIMA Chairman Tim Ridley, debating the “hot topic” of governance and transparency, as well as the future of Cayman’s relationship with the United Kingdom as it remains a British Overseas Territory.
Following in the tradition of previous years, Premier McKeeva Bush will give a state of the nation type of address, during which he typically outlines his plans for the year, Mr. Sunderji said.
Fidelity Group and sponsors spend between $150,000 and $200,000 for the event, which is now in its ninth year.
The investment of more than $1 million over the years is part of giving back to the community and making a contribution to dialogue, Mr. Sunderji said.
Lynn Smith-Moore, a representative of event sponsor DART, said every year the event witnesses a wide cross section of Cayman’s business community, from small business owners and students to chief executive officers.
Five Continent’s Scott Elphinstone said the event is “an excellent opportunity to take a day off from staring at screens and getting out of your routine and actually force you to think about some of the big issues.“
“There are lots of sharks in the water,” he said, referring to the event poster, “but there are lots of opportunities as well”.
Michael Anderson, president of Royal Fidelity Merchant Bank and Trust, agreed with the positive emphasis.
“It has been a little bit dreary over the last couple of years we have been talking about the bad that happened during the crisis. This year, we talk about some of the good things that are coming from some of the issues that are happening today.”
Colin Hanson, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said speakers at the conference and ideas generated at the event give people and clients he deals with visibility into the future.
“There is a greater level of global financial, political and economic uncertainty than ever before,” Mr. Sunderji concurred. “Cayman Business Outlook seeks to draw insights from international experts to assist us connect the dots so we can reach conclusions and adapt to the new reality.”
CBO 2012 will be held at the Westin Casuarina Resort & Spa on 19 January, 2012. Registration/payment (CI$250) is online at www.caymanbusinessoutlook.com. For information, 949-7822 ext. 2311.