The group plans to meet Minister Mark Simmonds and also visit the Cayman Islands’ London office and staff from the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism based there, on Monday and Tuesday.
Deputy Premier Rolston Anglin gave details of the upcoming meetings at the weekly press briefing on Thursday, 17 January. Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly was not at the briefing as she was feeling unwell, her press secretary Charles Glidden said.
“It is crucially important that we continue to ensure that we build a good relationship – some might say rebuild a relationship – with the [Foreign and Commonwealth Office],” Mr. Anglin said.
With just five months of the interim administration’s term to go, there had been some queries publicly about why the government members felt it necessary to travel to London, especially as Premier O’Connor-Connolly has come under fire for her extensive overseas travel when serving at deputy premier under McKeeva Bush’s government.
“Some have questioned why we would necessarily need to go,” said Mr. Anglin. “I think there’s been suggestions as to whether or not we can do it over the phone. There’s very important business that has to happen and there are times where, as elected leaders, we have to have face-to-face discussions with our counterparts and, certainly, meeting with the minister responsible for the [Overseas Territories] in person is crucially important for us rebuilding a relationship with the FCO and, by extension, HMG [Her Majesty’s Government].
“The premier has not had the opportunity to meet him face to face and so now, as we navigate the next five months, it’s critically important that she has that opportunity to meet with the minister and be able to discuss issues of interest on both sides.”
Government minister Mark Scotland also spoke of the importance of the meeting with Mr. Simmonds. “The visit being made in the next week is not simply about the next few months, it’s about mending and rebuilding the relationship with the FCO and the UK because of what’s happened in the last few years and then strengthening it for the time going past the upcoming election.”
High on the agenda in the upcoming meeting with Minister Simmonds will be Cayman’s finances.
Asked if among the items to be discussed would be a request to increase the Cayman Islands Government’s overdraft facility, Mr. Anglin said: “We are monitoring the cash position very carefully and waiting until the end of this week actually because this is when financial services revenue really starts to pick up and come in… We have not had any intention to have any increase to the overdraft facility… but certainly we’ll be looking carefully at the cash flows and cash patterns because, obviously, the budget will feature heavily in the meeting with him.”
The local budget is being further scrutinised this week by the FCO’s economic advisor Richard Holmwood, who is currently in Cayman. “This is a regular part of his duty in terms of coming out to the territories to continually have discussions around budgets and the budget performance,” said Mr. Anglin.
One of the conditions of the UK government approving the 2012/2013 budget for the Cayman Islands Government was periodic budgetary reviews by the UK’s economic advisor.
“I’ve seen it really start to evolve now into a good process in terms of how we work very closely to ensure that all the Oversees Territories are able to build credible budgets, sustainable budgets, and be able to have face-to-face discussions around all the matters that affect the budget and to ensure that we’re all on the same page and, certainly, that the territories, in this instance, Cayman, is headed in the right direction,” said Mr. Anglin.
Responding to a question about the contract of Lord Blencathra, who lobbies on behalf of the Cayman Islands in the House of Lords, Mr. Anglin said his contract had been renewed in November and there were no plans to terminate it.