Governor rates policies, premier in FCO memos

Governor Helen Kilpatrick
Governor Helen Kilpatrick

Recent internal communications between the Cayman Islands governor and the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office were made public last week, involving Governor Helen Kilpatrick’s summations of current government policies.

The records release includes evaluations of Premier Alden McLaughlin’s yearly “state of the nation” addresses at the Cayman Economic Outlook forum, as well as a summary of the governor’s Throne Speech and the premier’s budget and policy address for the year.

The memos – most signed “Kilpatrick” – are not long and are mostly random collections of the governor’s thoughts on the proceedings and what was discussed in the speeches. They were unclassified by the foreign office following an open records request by former Cayman Governor Alan J. Scott.

One thing the memos reveal is that the governor’s annual Throne Speech given at the state opening of the Legislative Assembly is “drafted by the Cayman Islands Government” and for delivery by the governor.

In 2014, for example, Ms. Kilpatrick referred to the speech as “concise, but not lacking in content.” The 2013 Throne Speech was “prepared by CIG and hastily cleared through Cabinet.”

The governor also informs the U.K., in a general way, regarding the state of play in Cayman at the time the budget addresses are given.

For example, for the 2015 Throne Speech, the governor states: “Meeting the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility [budget] conditions is a noteworthy achievement that the government has every right to be pleased about, and the optimism about their outlook for the Cayman economy appears well placed.

“However, the next general election will take place in the spring of 2017, which means that McLaughlin’s government has now reached its mid-term point. The premier’s [budget] speech made reference to the positive relationship with the U.K., but political pressures and/or inter-party disputes could yet have an impact before Caymanians go to the polls.”

The governor wrote that summation in mid-2015. Several months later, toward the end of 2015 and into early 2016, three key Progressives party members departed from the government benches, leaving the ruling administration with the barest of margins.

From another memo in the latter half of 2013 – following her first Throne Speech to parliament – Governor Kilpatrick notes: “The [government budget] programme that has been laid before the Legislative Assembly is ambitious but, as I noted in September, the true test will be whether these best laid plans can or will be implemented.”

The governor’s relatively brief summations of the premier’s “state of the nation” addresses at the annual Fidelity economic outlook conferences took note of her “encouragement” that the premier highlighted “the excellent working relationship we have enjoyed thus far.”

The premier’s speech in early 2014 also drew gubernatorial praise: “in his first ‘state of the nation’ address in his role as the country’s leader, McLaughlin covered both popular and controversial issues and did so well. The speech may have lacked surprises but did provide reassurance.”

The evaluation the following year of the 2015 Fidelity forum speech took note of the conspicuous absence of any discussion of the ongoing beneficial ownership issue, which “given the largely financial services audience, was unusual,” the governor noted.

The governor also takes a look at some of the Cayman Islands press reports on the budget. For instance, in 2014 she notes, “the local press have reported on the [budget] speech factually, quoting extensively from it.”

She also notes that the Cayman Compass editorial, printed the day after the budget address, “chooses not to focus on the budget, but instead returns to its favourite topic of the landfill site.”

Most of the budget reports in the local press scrutinize “the more technical details of the budget presentation.”

The governor’s brief reports on the budget speeches and “state of the nation” addresses between 2013 and 2015 are separate from the annual dispatches from previous Cayman Islands governors that were released earlier this year by the U.K. foreign office. Those reports were more substantive and were filed for each year between 1987 and 2005 – except for 2000, which the foreign office reported was lost.