Premier: Political ‘sea of uncertainty’ ahead; Cayman poised to reap benefits

Premier Alden McLaughlin addresses a conference of government and private sector professionals Thursday afternoon. - Photo: Brent Fuller

Major uncertainties, both internationally and at home, are facing the Cayman Islands just ahead of the May 2017 general election, Premier Alden McLaughlin told a conference of hundreds of government and private sector professionals Thursday afternoon.

Although Premier McLaughlin had previously issued only a terse, 50-word response to the election of Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. president, it was evident Thursday that Mr. McLaughlin had significant concerns about America’s new leadership.

The U.S. President-elect had “praised” Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. McLaughlin said, broached the issue of whether the U.S. still needed to belong to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and had declared that traditional U.S. allies including Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia should no longer get “free protection” from the U.S.

“[There has been] a change in the global economy in the a post-recession world and what appears to be the rise of populism and extreme nationalism in some countries,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The future of the world is most uncertain.

“Nor do we know what the outcome of the election of Donald Trump means to the new world order … but we do know that it means change.”

Mr. Trump’s election, the premier said, had been foreshadowed by the June 23 referendum in the U.K. in which voters narrowly approved the country’s separation from the European Union. The previous year the rise of a “nationalistic, anti-EU” movement in Greece was noted, along with the rise of anti-immigrant leaders and political groups in Germany, France and Britain.

“The U.K. is now trying to come to grips with disentangling itself while getting the best deal from the EU … a seemingly impossible scenario,” the premier said, adding that he had no “inside information” about how the so-called ‘Brexit’ from the EU would impact Cayman.

“But in any divorce, it is the children who usually do worst,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

A special meeting of the overseas territories leadership in London to discuss “Brexit” matters was scheduled for February, just a few months before Caymanian voters go to the polls.

The May 2017 general election, which includes a switch to the “one man, one vote” concept with candidates competing in 19 separate single-member voting districts for the first time, was clearly already on the minds of conference attendees this week – even those who are decidedly non-political.

Gloria McField-Nixon, the chief officer for the government Portfolio of the Civil Service, said Wednesday that government workers were preparing for an election result that could be quite different from the two-party governance that has prevailed in Cayman for more than a decade.

“Since 2005, the party system has dominated the process,” she said. “We, as civil servants, must now contemplate, not a two-sided coin, but a 19-sided coin.”

Mr. McLaughlin said Cayman, with a strong economy, judicial and legal system and a low unemployment rate, was well placed to take advantage of opportunities that may arise during a period of global economic and political change.

“We must leverage the opportunities created and being created by these uncertainties that characterize this new world order, for the benefit of those who live and work here, but also to those who wish to join us,” he said. “We can only hope that the wise voter in Cayman will do as they did in 2013, elect a government that is forward-thinking … where people who are willing and able to work can find jobs.”

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