Premier mocks BBC documentary

Premier Alden McLaughlin speaking at the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit on Thursday. – Photo: Alan Markoff

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.”

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  1. Mr Premier, why please, did you not give this well argued position to the interviewer?
    I watched this predictably slanted programme, and I was struck by a couple of things. First, the self serving braggarts driving around in their expensive cars, and second, the dreadful performances of both the premier and the Governor. I have no doubt that the content was carefully edited, but they were so bad that the editors had plenty to work with.
    The programme itself was lightweight nonsense, fast cars and mansions versus poverty and an uncaring state, but the predictability of the content should have allowed these two professionals to be a bit more professional with their response!

  2. Unfortunately, and as any experienced politician will confirm, this sort of attack simply serves to give both the journalist concerned and the media outlet involved a bit more street credibility. The best tactic would have been to just to walk away from it and not bring more attention to the fact that he had made a complete hash of the whole thing. After these comments were made you can safely bet that anyone present who had missed the original screening went looking for it online. This was a classic ‘open mouth and insert foot’ moment.

  3. I totally agree with Arthur Rank, Yes, why give this interviewer so much rope; and he never hung himself with it.
    I have no grouse against people who have the opportunity to drive around in their expensive cars and have rich homes and big businesses. It is their money and you only live one time around to spend it and live to the fulliest. ‘BRITAN’S TRILLION POUND ISLAND” Wow !! that makes me even more proud of my Island, because I know most people who give us those TITLES, are really being selfish and grudge. People who can afford to live on this Trillion Pound Island, just have to accept that they too, have to make sure, and become a major part that this island is kept stable, because if we go down on the ship they will be going down too.
    Being segregated selfish and proud will not make it. We all need to work together, the rich and the poor, the good, bad and ugly, so that we can keep the Trillion Pound Island floating. Most of all we need to have the right leaders. Men who “Fear God” and know what is right and who will stand firm in what is correct . Wispy, washy leaders wont do. Men leading grace, with guts and back bone will do the right things..

  4. This Trillion Pound Island may come crashing down soon since the United States will be stopping the practice of its citizens and businesses to stash big money there and pay zero taxes to the US. The United States, just like every other country should be receiving this tax money that is due its people. The end is in the near future. I strongly suggest the Cayman government start getting ready for it.

  5. Watching the program I saw a caricature of the island I know and love.

    I’ve lived here over 30 years and think he must have found the only two Ferraris on the island. Personally I drive a big dependable Toyota SUV.

    And neither my wife nor I have ever waited for a hairdresser to fly in to cut our hair. Nor do I know anyone else who does either.

    It seems the Department of Tourism was caught out here. One only has to spend one minute typing Jacques Peretti in Google and you will find a Wikipedia entry that most clearly show the type of work he does.

    His previous works include:

    The Men Who Made Us Thin[3]
    The Men Who Made Us Fat[1]
    The Men Who Made Us Spend[1][2]
    The Super Rich And Us[2]

    so guess which way he would be slanting his video about Cayman.

  6. United states need to stop getting into every body business , that is a main reason we have the uprising of ISIS and the whole Arab world is against what she is doing.
    If USA Citizens are resident here in Cayman that was a choice they made on their own, and of course they needed their money to live on. There are many foreign nationals living in USA. ” THEY ARE PAYING TAX ON EVERY DOLLAR SPENT IN USA” not to the country where they came from. USA Residents living in Cayman should be paying taxes where they are living. Why should they be paying taxes in USA if they are not living there is beyond me.