Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin has vowed to build on and protect the local tourism and financial services sectors, but cautioned industry leaders that the level of support from his newly-elected government would be determined by their own actions, including their ability to grow employment among Caymanians.
Speaking in front of the Legislative Assembly after being sworn in as premier on Wednesday, Mr. McLaughlin said: “As a government, we will do our part to protect the financial services industry from the onslaught of new regulation that is being mooted in Europe and elsewhere. I invite the stakeholders in the industry to join us in this common cause for our mutual benefit.
“I urge them too to think outside the box. The government will certainly support innovation and will welcome new ideas to keep our financial services industry on the cutting edge, so long as they continue to benefit the country.”
He also called on tourism sector investors to involve Caymanians in the industry, telling them: “We expect you to play your part in ensuring that Caymanians play an integral role in the delivery of services in the industry”. He said his government was committed to providing training to enable more Caymanians to work in tourism. “It is therefore in the interest of investors to ensure that Caymanians feel included in a business that showcases their country and their culture,” he said.
Mr. McLaughlin outlined the priorities he and his government intended to address, which included the tourism and financial services sectors, education and the implementation of a “one man, one vote” electoral system.
“We believe that one of our first priorities is to restore confidence in government, which in turn will assist in the return of investment by the business sector,” he said. “This is all the more critical because of the perilous times in which we live. As a country, we make our living from what is still a volatile world economy.
“The re-ordering of the world’s finances is far from complete. A new world economic order is gradually emerging from the ashes of the 2009 global meltdown and if we are to continue to have a stake in the global financial industry, we must be prepared for further upheaval and indeed threats to the model on which our prosperity has been built. The signs are already there. It will not be business as usual,” the premier said.
He said the Cayman Islands would have to look for “new opportunities and new partners outside of our usual comfort zone if we are to continue to grow this sector of our economy”.
Diversifying Cayman’s tourism product through medical, sports and education tourism and attracting new investment would be necessary, he said.
In his first speech as Premier of the Cayman Islands, he told the crowd of hundreds sitting in tents in the pouring rain that Cayman needed more diversification in its economy to “provide greater certainty to government revenues”.
“In this regard, entities like Cayman Enterprise City and the Shetty Health City will be encouraged and assisted in reaching their maximum potential in the shortest practical time,” he said. Both of those initiatives had been started during his predecessor McKeeva Bush’s term in office.
Mr. McLaughlin also addressed the “one man, one vote” issue saying it should come as no surprise that the People’s Progressive Movement government planned to amend the Elections Law to introduce single-member constituencies.
“Most of the work has already been done on this and members can therefore expect its implementation quite early during this legislative term,” the premier said.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association international observers, who came to Cayman to monitor the 22 May election, stated in their preliminary report that the current multimember voting system used in Cayman was contradictory to “the equal suffrage principle of ‘one person, one vote’” and that the equality of the vote was further undermined by lawmakers in some districts being chosen by vastly greater numbers of voters than in others. The observers noted that generally, the difference per district should be no more than 15 or 20 per cent.
The plan to divide Grand Cayman into 16 separate single-member electoral districts, as defined in the 2010 Electoral Boundary Commission report, would not meet that requirement.
Mr. McLaughlin has said he plans to go to the United Kingdom with a delegation that will include new Finance Minister Marco Archer within the next two weeks to meet Mark Simmonds, the UK’s minister for the overseas territories, as well as other government officials to discuss Cayman’s finances and the possibility of drawing up a four-year plan agreed to by the UK “that will bring certainty to the budget process”.
Getting major projects, including the construction of a new port and expansion and redevelopment of Owen Roberts International Airport, off the ground will also be early priorities for government, the premier said.
“We have said that we will make jobs priority No. 1 and this is still our commitment,” he said.
Mr. McLaughlin, who was minister for education during the PPM’s previous 2005 to 2009 administration, also spoke briefly on education, saying it was critical to invest in it.
“That we do so within our means does not mean that it will not be a priority of the government,” he said.