While saying he’s been encouraged by some of the recent support the Cayman Islands has received from the United Kingdom coalition government, Premier McKeeva Bush advised Overseas Territories Minister Henry Bellingham last week not to push too hard on further regulatory regimes for the offshore financial sector.
“Minister, don’t drown us,” Mr. Bush said, getting some laughs speaking prior to Minister Henry Bellingham on Thursday night a Pedro St. James, when he told the minister he was “most pleased” there had been a change in UK governments during Britain’s last elections.
Mr. Bush said one initiative being supported by the UK – a Strategic Delivery Unit created within the Premier’s Office – would help prioritise government projects according to which ones are expected to have the most positive impacts on the local economy.
The premier said despite a prolonged economic downturn in the Cayman Islands during the global recession that the territory remained the highest-ranked Caribbean jurisdiction in terms of its economy and was currently ranked third behind Jersey and Guernsey among small financial centres.
He said the territory’s robust regulatory regimes had, in part, been responsible for its continued success during the world’s troubled economic times. “We are better than the US [in terms of financial regulations],” Mr. Bush said. “And we are just as good as England or better.”
Mr. Bush said he hoped Mr. Bellingham would help Cayman proclaim the good things to “all the ignorant critics of financial centres” and urged the UK not to over-regulate such jurisdictions.
Mr. Bellingham, on his first trip to the Cayman Islands since being appointed to his current position, got a chance to take in a bit of Caymanian culture and talent Thursday night at Pedro St. James among an audience of hundreds who turned out to meet the British politician.
Some may have been surprised by what the now-overseer of the British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean had to say.
“Without growth you do not have prosperity,” Mr. Bellingham told the assembled crowd at Pedro. “I’m impressed that you’re doing it in a sustainable way.”
Mr. Bellingham said the current UK coalition government intended to “engage”, essentially take a more active role in the territories, than the previous Labour Party government had done.
“We believe in self-determination,” he said “[But] if you want to remain British … we will cherish that.
“Unlike other governments, we’re not going to say to territories ‘please go on and try to find your way for independence. We will work with you and we will invest in you.”
The minister said he had been impressed with a financial services industry which was “the envy of most other countries in the world” and that his government wished to encourage more trade between Cayman and the UK.
He said he would encourage more UK companies to do business in Cayman, and improve communications links between those companies, local universities, professional bodies and England.
Mr. Bellingham said the soon-to-be-released UK white paper, which will help direct the partnership between Britain and its remaining territories for the next decade, seeks UK governments to “seriously engage” with overseas outposts.
‘A few things back’
In exchange for additional UK support, Mr. Bellingham told Mr. Bush and the assembled audience that Britain would want “a few things back”.
“We are keen to see the responsible, fiscal, financial management,” Mr. Bellingham said. “I’m delighted you signed the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility last November.”
Mr. Bellingham said the agreement was not “nuclear physics”, merely a document to assist government in living within its means. “We must also have in place proper checks and balances on procurement, the world class checks and balances in place when it comes to procuring major projects,” he said.
The Overseas Territories minister also said Britain would not “lecture” Cayman and other territories on human rights.
“What we are going to say is we want shared values in place between Britain and the territories based … on Christian principles,” he said.