Premier Alden McLaughlin spoke at length Thursday for the first time about the BBC documentary “Britain’s Trillion Pound Island,” which aired on Jan. 21, mocking the journalistic effort and saying that its host willfully missed the point.
Mr. McLaughlin made the comments during a speech at the opening of the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. He commended financial services industry professionals in attendance for their innovative investment approaches that deliver value and balance risk in an environment of uncertainty in traditional markets.
“I am delighted that Cayman is central to the story of some of your success,” he said. “It is a shame, then, that there are those who wish to shut us down.”
He then went on to criticize several aspects of the BBC documentary – in which he also appeared as an interviewee – and journalist Jacques Peretti’s purported “investigative deep dive into this most secretive of societies.”
“What did he find?” Mr. McLaughlin asked. “Well, in a triumph of investigative journalism, Mr. Peretti revealed that there are some rich people living on the island. Lots of them have boats. Some of them have expensive cars …. Who knew? We thank him for that insight.”
After laughter from the audience, Mr. McLaughlin sarcastically noted the Mr. Peretti moved into “true Woodward and Bernstein territory” in following the money to get his big reveal.
“Apparently, much of the wealth here is fueled by the financial services industry because a lot of other rich people chose to put their assets here,” he said. “The Pulitzer is in the bag.”
After saying he had no argument with the analysis up to that point, Mr. McLaughlin said after that, he diverged from Mr. Peretti’s conclusions.
“His main argument appeared to be that people should not have that choice to invest here,” he said. “A successful and thriving financial services industry is apparently an affront to Mr. Peretti and his ilk and he questioned whether this was therefore something that the United Kingdom should in some way shut down. Perhaps a better question for him to ask would have been why the industry is so successful and why people make the perfectly legitimate choice to invest here. The answer to that question is in this room.”
Mr. McLaughlin extolled the creativity and innovation of Cayman’s financial services industry professionals and said the government was determined to support them and help them succeed.
He also noted that Mr. Peretti showed another side of Cayman by highlighting “relative poverty in parts of our community.” He acknowledged that “times are still tough for some on our island,” but he didn’t agree with Mr. Peretti’s reasons why some live in poverty.
“His contention was that this relative poverty for some is the price these islands pay for having a thriving financial services industry and, it appeared, that in some way the government is prepared to connive with business in a willingness to pay the price,” he said.
“Mr. Peretti is not simply wrong; I believe he is willfully missing the point.”
Mr. McLaughlin said the government believes that economic growth benefits everyone in the islands.
“We believe that a strong and thriving financial services sector in Cayman drives economic growth, and therefore it deserves our support,” he said.
“This government believes the key to tackling poverty is not giving handouts, but creating employment. Growth delivered by the private sector is the most important determinant of employment, but we as government also have a direct role to play in helping Caymanians overcome important barriers to getting jobs.”
Although he said it was clear he did not think much of Mr. Peretti’s documentary, he warned that it should not be dismissed as trivial nonsense.
“We must recognize it for what it is: part of a concerted campaign to undermine the financial services industry of these islands,” he said. “It is a campaign taken up by politicians in the U.K., the EU and the USA eager to deflect from their own failings. Why deal with long-standing structural problems in your own economy when you can simply cry foul at someone else’s economic achievements? Instead of looking at the need to reform your own over-taxed and bureaucratically regulated systems, why not try to wreck the success of another jurisdiction?”
Mr. McLaughlin said the government is “absolutely committed” to supporting the success of the financial services industry.
“We will continue to fight for your right to do business in a jurisdiction that does not penalize success with excessive taxation and over-regulation,” he said.
“Ours is a truly symbiotic relationship. You succeed if government ensures the environment is right for you. Your success drives economic growth and brings revenues to government, both of which allow government to act in the interests of the wider community.”