As the Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibility for the Overseas Territories, I am a passionate champion for the Territories within the UK Government.
I am looking forward to making my first official visit to the Cayman Islands, seeing at first hand the beauty of the Islands and seas, the creativity and vitality of your businesses and meeting some of the people who have made the Islands such a success story.
I want you to know that this UK Government is proud of the achievements of the Cayman Islands. We will continue to support you to make the most of global business opportunities; and to take very seriously our responsibilities for the security and good governance.
Two years ago the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, ordered a review of our strategy and policies towards the Territories. I have discussed this with Territory leaders, including at our annual meetings in London, and we developed the main principles of a strategy, which was endorsed by the UK Government as a whole. The UK Government will very soon publish a White Paper setting out our thinking on strengthening engagement between the UK and the Territories, working together on good governance and improving the quality and range of support available to the Territories.
The world today presents opportunities and challenges for both the UK and the Cayman Islands. The UK Government is as ambitious about the opportunities for the Cayman Islands as we are for the UK. We have a vision of a secure, flourishing community, proudly retaining aspects of British identity; of economic success that creates new opportunities for young and future generations; of the natural environment that draws thousands of tourists to the Cayman Islands every year protected and managed sustainably.
But I am conscious that, with the global financial crisis and other concerns, many people are worried about the challenges. The UK Government and the Cayman Islands Government face a number of common challenges – we need to build more diverse and resilient economies, cut public sector deficits and reduce the stock of debt, regulate finance businesses effectively in a competitive market and put environmental sustainability at the heart of our decision making processes.
In the UK the Coalition Government is taking action to reduce our structural deficit in a fair and responsible way. The majority of the reduction will be achieved through savings in public spending. We have set up an independent Office of Budget Responsibility to ensure greater transparency in forecasting and public spending. We are creating the conditions for sustainable and resilient economic growth. Capital investment is being protected to maintain and develop a national infrastructure that supports growth. Reforms to taxation are creating a more competitive business environment, reducing and simplifying taxation of businesses, while protecting lower income households. We are reforming the regulatory framework for the financial sector to avoid future crises.
I am pleased that the Cayman Islands Government signed an agreement with the UK Government in November last year in which it committed itself to the key principles of sound financial management including effective medium-term planning, putting value for money considerations at the heart of decision making, effective risk management and delivering improved accountability in all public sector operations.
I look forward to discussing with Premier Bush and the Cayman Islands Government the progress they are making to put public finances back onto a sustainable track. I am keen to see plans that are credible and that are being implemented effectively. I will highlight my support for public infrastructure investment that supports economic growth in Cayman where this is affordable, offers good value for money and where international good procurement practice is followed.
But I am not coming to the Cayman Islands just to talk to the Government. It is clear that neither the UK Government nor the Cayman Islands Government alone can succeed without support from the public and the private sectors. Everybody resident in the Cayman Islands, Caymanians and non-Caymanians alike, have a stake in the continued success of the Islands. I therefore look forward to hearing first hand during my visit to the Cayman Islands from a cross-section of the community about the positive steps being taken and the positive contributions being made across civil society.
My message is that the UK looks forward to continuing to work with you for a future for the Cayman Islands which is secure, successful and sustainable.
UK Minister for the Overseas Territories