Cabinet reshuffle sent a clear message

Chris Duggan 

Chris is employed as vice president of the Investment Operations team at Dart Enterprises Ltd. Chris’ father, the late Nick Duggan, served as Chamber of Commerce president from 1985-1987 and Chris now becomes the first son of a past president to follow in his father’s footsteps and serve as Chamber president.

Chamber: What is the Chamber’s view on the recent arrest of former Premier McKeeva Bush, the political reshuffling and how all of this will impact, if at all, the international reputation of the country and the local political landscape?

Chris: We are fully supportive of our country’s law enforcement officials and are equally supportive of any decisions that they make during the course of their investigations. We see the arrest of Mr. Bush as just another step, albeit a significant one, in the ongoing police investigations into Mr. Bush’s alleged misconduct.

While certainly not a good news story by any means, neither locally or internationally, the arrest does send a very clear and unequivocal message that this country will not accept any form of unethical behaviour, and that any alleged misconduct will be fully investigated, irrespective of who the person concerned is. Internationally this is a positive message to send and should provide additional comfort to potential investors who are looking for a safe and stable jurisdiction in which to invest.

We also fully endorsed the decision by Governor Duncan Taylor to exercise his discretionary powers under the Constitution to revoke the premier’s appointment and make the subsequent cabinet appointments.

It was critically important for the country that political stability was restored as expeditiously as possible and, in the absence of Mr. Bush stepping aside to enable the business of government to continue unhindered and without distraction, the Governor, in our opinion, made the most appropriate decision given the circumstances, a decision that enabled our legislators to get back to work with appropriate focus, free of distraction and uncertainty.

While these events certainly led to significant international interest and scrutiny, I feel that the message sent to the international community was a positive one and has further validated the integrity of our community and has strengthened our position as a leading financial centre and tourist destination.

As a country we can be proud that. What these events have also done is completely shake up the political landscape just months prior to one of the most keenly anticipated general elections ever and has sent a very clear message to both current and future politicians that should serve as a constant reminder about what the roles and responsibilities are for elected officials.

Chamber: The national elections are less than four months away. Does the Chamber intend to take an active role?

Chris: Yes we do. The Chamber is a non-partisan organisation so will not be endorsing or promoting any candidate or party. We will, however, be actively encouraging all voters to get out and exercise their democratic right to vote on Election Day.

The election on May 22nd has now become one of the most keenly anticipated general elections in our history with a record number of registered voters ready to cast their ballots. As an organisation we will be doing everything we can to educate the electorate on the positions of each of the candidates so as to enable them to make an informed decision on which candidates will best represent them and the needs of the country in the Legislative Assembly.

We will again be coordinating and hosting a series of candidates forums in each of the districts where we will be questioning candidates on their positions on a number of different areas including the economy, the Future of Cayman economic development initiative, employment, development, the environment, the national budget, governance and small business issues. Additionally, we will solicit questions from our membership to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have their questions answered.

We encourage the public to attend these district forums as they facilitate invaluable two way communication between the people and the future leaders of the country. We also intend to publish a special elections report in the next issue of the Chamber magazine to provide our members and the general public with information about the candidates and their positions on the key issues.

Chamber: What qualities should voters look for in their candidates?

Chris: Everybody has their own political views on what qualities and values a leader should possess and I am certainly not in a position to, nor do I intend to, advise people on who they should vote for. Having said that, what I will say is that the overarching qualities and values that all of our elected representatives should have, and that all of our citizens should certainly demand of them, is honesty and integrity.

They should also understand that political leadership is more than just a position and title; it’s a responsibility to the people who elected you and to the country as a whole. Finally, respect does not get conferred upon you when you are sworn in on the steps of the Legislative Assembly, nor is it something that you are automatically entitled to upon election. Respect must be both earned and reciprocated.

Chamber: In your acceptance speech you stated that “The incoming Council and I will not accept any deviation from good governance. We must ensure that our members are given a fair and equal opportunity to bid on all major government projects.

Our members fuel economic growth and employment in our society and it is therefore only reasonable to expect that they should be given every opportunity to benefit from major projects.” Can you elaborate on these comments and what can be done to ensure that Chamber members are given an equal opportunity to bid on major government projects?

Chris: Good governance is essential for business success and accountability. Procedures should be in place and followed to ensure that all businesses have an equal and fair opportunity to bid on all government projects and services. The procurement and tendering processes must be open, transparent and very clearly communicated by Government to both the business community and the general public. Closed door or backroom discussions lead to unnecessary speculation and slows down progress. 

There are several major infrastructure projects that we have been discussing for several years that have suffered as a result of poor procurement practices. These projects can, and will, stimulate economic activity but have been delayed unnecessarily due to speculation about the processes being followed.

All legal businesses operating in the Cayman Islands should be given a chance to bid and to be considered for government contracts and services. This is a fundamental aspect of government procurement and there should be no deviation from this standard. The Council and I stand by this position to protect both our members’ interests and the interests of political transparency and stability.

Chamber: Some people regard the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility to be a heavy handed approach by the United Kingdom to take control of the financial affairs of the Cayman Islands. Do you share this view?

Chris: No I don’t. People who think this way may not have read the full details of the agreement. There are four main policy principles that govern the framework–effective medium-term planning, putting value for money considerations at the heart of the decision making process, effective management of risk and delivering improved accountability in all public sector operations.

Each of these principles is good practice and will assist the government to get its finances and procedures back in line with the current economic conditions facing our Islands.

It is good practice to appraise and set out a business case before proceeding with any major project, particularly projects that will require long term borrowing and commitments for the future. It is important that all projects demonstrate an economic need, that all the risks are appropriately costed, that the impacts are properly assessed, and that the benefits of the project are identified before an informed decision can be made on whether or not to proceed to the procurement stage.

Once a proper system is put in place this will become standard practice by government and will result in a careful analysis of the value for money for every project being considered. The Framework for Fiscal Responsibility provides a prudent and sensible approach to these areas and is an approach that will be of tangible benefit to the country.

Chamber: Why did you get involved in the Chamber of Commerce?

Chris: Community involvement is something that has been important to me for a long time and I have been fortunate enough to have been a part of many excellent volunteer organisations that have enabled me to make significant contributions to both the organisations and the community. I saw the Chamber as another excellent organisation where I could get involved to make a tangible difference in the community.

The Chamber serves as an important advocate for membership, business and community issues and has been a catalyst for positive change and influence in the Cayman Islands for many years. I was impressed by the past work of the organisation and witnessed this first hand when my father served as president in the 1980s. I like to get involved and I am not one to sit on the sidelines to let someone else do the work that I feel needs to be done, nor fight the battles that I feel need fighting. 

I want to be that agent for change and to work with government and businesses to make a positive difference in the community. A strong and vibrant business community is essential to the success of the Cayman Islands and the Chamber of Commerce works to help build and sustain this strength and vibrancy every day.

Everyone can contribute to making Cayman a better place to live, to conduct business and to work. During my term I intend to encourage as many people as possible to get involved. It has been, and continues to be, a rewarding experience for me.