Premier: Cayman must reject ‘insular thinking’ and ‘prejudice’

Premier Alden McLaughlin delivers the budget address in the Legislative Assembly on Oct. 27. The budget debate ended on Monday. - PHOTO: ALVARO SEREY

The Cayman Islands must spurn isolationism and “over-protectionist” political policies if the British Overseas Territory is to continue to thrive as it has done for the past 40 years, Premier Alden McLaughlin said Monday night.

In a strongly worded rejection of the populist, often referred to as ultra-nationalist, form of politics that has swept the western world in recent years, Mr. McLaughlin said he was concerned that many Caymanians in the generation behind his might not know the “tough times” that once beset this small country.

“Many of us living in this country do not understand what we have,” the premier said. “I hear them banging on about ‘we need to stop work permits,’ I hear them banging on about ‘we need to stop population growth.’

“I am not suggesting for a moment that we shouldn’t plan our development and our growth, but there is a reason why we … are the envy of many other places in the world. It’s because we have not been victims to insular thinking and prejudice.”

Mr. McLaughlin said immigration policies of successive governments in Cayman were part of the reason for its present success. Yet those policies, he said, are now constantly under attack on public airwaves and in discussions by opposition political members.

Opposition members, during the recently ended budget debate, have criticized what they termed Cayman’s over-reliance on immigration revenues – which are expected to earn the government $209 million in the next two years.

Deputy Opposition Leader Alva Suckoo said opposition members’ research indicated that government planned to introduce “another 2,000 new work permits” in the 2018/19 budget cycle.

Mr. Suckoo said. “It boils down to the government’s intention to rapidly increase the population. Clearly, our tax base is based upon consumption … but we’re growing that at the expense of Caymanians.”

Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller said that until the government was ready to accept less money from work permit fees, Caymanian workers would continue to be at a disadvantage.

The premier said his government was aware that there are “challenges in many instances” to Caymanians getting opportunities for jobs. “Not everybody … is prepared to give Caymanians opportunities. We understand that,” he said.

Mr. McLaughlin said a new government human resources department would be formed under his ministry to regulate work permit grants and to help Caymanians receive “real opportunities” in the job market.

He said the department would ensure that all jobs must be posted on the government’s clearinghouse website and that rogue employers who post unrealistic qualifications for job ads would be penalized.

However, Mr. McLaughlin said Mr. Suckoo’s statements, and those by some of his colleagues, about curtailing overall growth and progress should be rejected.

“[They’re] cussin’ the foreigners, saying that nobody should be granted Caymanian status if they’re not married to a Caymanian,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “That is the kind of thinking that put Bahamas where they were for all of those years.

“There is no future, no future in isolationist policies, in over-protectionism and constantly hammering, hammering, the source of Cayman’s prosperity,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

The premier said the attacks by opposition members did not help as Cayman battled outside forces that sought to tear down its main source of annual income – the financial services industry.

“[The Paradise Papers release] is part of a coordinated smear campaign about tax havens, as they are continuing to brand us,” he said. “There is the immediate threat of blacklist by the EU ECOFIN [Economic and Financial Affairs Council] ministers,” he said.

“Then I hear members of the opposition bemoaning major construction projects, challenging things like government considering a transshipment port … and I say to myself, how is it that we are supposed to provide the revenue to fund education, to fund healthcare, to deal with mortgage foreclosures?” Premier McLaughlin continued. “Money does not fall like manna from heaven. This country has been built and is still reliant on inward investment. Failing that, we are in huge trouble.”

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  1. I believe the Premier is right for having the foresight of development. The population needs to grow higher to bring down the cost of living. All we need is to also protect the Elderly and youth of this country also. Create laws that start giving discounts on all the overpriced cost of living for the youth and elderly. Then we can start to retire and allow more jobs to give to younger people who are stressing to pay that higher cost. Things like medical insurance, house insurance, dental,eye care, rent, mortgage interest rates. These are some of the discounts that Latin American countries like Panama offer their countries. Create a government bank to help people with their house loans with lower interest rates instead of 3% over prime. the Government will have money for projects that could profit Government. If the customer defaults, Gov’t benefits with seized property. There are many ways to lower duties and create money for Government. Vetting new people coming to this island from third world countries so that we can reduce crime. Thank you, Mr. Premier.

  2. I think the Premier aren’t looking at everything from different angles of the situation the Island and people are faced with today .
    As the Leader of Government business, is he addressing all the issues that he mentioned ? Or he leaving them to get out of control, like the green iguanas .

    I would say that the speech / article is well written, but he need to go back and really study those high lights he made and see if the way he is fixing them is the best way to .

  3. Well said Premier McLaughlin.

    Of course it is right and proper that Caymanians should ALWAYS have first shot at any job that they are willing and capable of doing.
    I support the education of young Caymanian people 110%.

    There should never be an open door policy here such as that in Germany, which has allowed in millions that do not speak German, may well go on welfare for years and might even attack the citizens of the country that took them in.

    This is not the issue here.

    It is already a fact that someone born overseas who works in a job like security guard, cashier or home help will NEVER be able to qualify for Permanent Residence, no matter how honest, hard-working and kind they may be. And please remember they are human beings too. Without that first step they can NEVER finally obtain Caymanian Status.

    It has been suggested that one could just give these foreigners Permanent Residence, without them ever having the right to vote.
    There are two problems with this:
    1. It only is given to one person. The rest of the family are just dependents. When that Permanent Resident dies, their spouse must leave. Perhaps in their 80s, when these islands are the only home they have known for many years.
    2. For the same reason, when their children reach 18 they also must leave. Even if they were born here and know no other home.
    I do not believe we have such tiny, shriveled hearts that we see nothing wrong with deporting people in their 80s or breaking up families.

    Caymanian Status is not given out easily. It takes 15 years, considerable cost and jumping through many hoops. It should be a privilege to be earned. But it should be a possibility for those who do deserve it.