EDITORIAL – What we’re watching out for in 2019

Premier Alden McLaughlin speaks at the Legislative Assembly Wednesday, while facing empty seats across the aisle after all members of the Opposition staged a walkout.

As a rule, Compass editors are cautious about indulging in the temptation of attempted prognostication. However, there are some issues and themes, classified as “in progress” or “recurring,” that we expect to find ourselves writing about in the coming year.

Think of the following not as an “editorial agenda,” but as a tentative “table of contents” for 2019.

Financial services

The Cayman Islands’ key economic sector faces challenges on a number of fronts, from supposed friends (United Kingdom’s public beneficial ownership registries), to declared adversaries (European Union’s threatened blacklisting over “economic substance”) and global trends (weak performance among hedge funds).

Will the government’s strategy, led by Premier Alden McLaughlin and Financial Services Minister Tara Rivers, successfully placate the U.K. and EU? Will Cayman avoid further blacklisting? Perhaps more importantly, what will the consequences be of the measures already taken by officials in furtherance of that strategy – for example, the economic substance legislation that lawmakers passed in December but have yet to explain to the public?

Tourism and development

Cayman’s tourism sector has had phenomenal success in recent years, buoyed generally by positive outlooks on our overall economy.

A number of significant hotel and residential projects are in progress on Grand Cayman, some on the drawing board, and some between “groundbreaking” and “ribbon-cutting.” We shall see what new private sector projects emerge, which show substantial progress, and which ones stall or fade away.

Public sector officials are eyeing the imminent completion of the Owen Roberts International airport expansion. Government leaders have expressed confidence that the expansion will banish the frustrations of overcrowding and long delays that have plagued travelers before and during construction. Time (and passengers) will tell.

On the waterfront, the government is moving ahead with the bidding process for the George Town cruise port. Meanwhile, opponents are amassing signatures to force a public referendum on the port. Will cruise port construction commence in 2019? Will we witness a historic people-initiated referendum on the project? Will government sideline such a referendum or its results?

Government leadership

Last year at least five top public officials left their posts, amid clouds of suspicion but little or no explanation by government.

After being governor for only 2.5 months, Anwar Choudhury was recalled to the U.K. in June 2018 and subsequently removed from his post.

Current Governor Martyn Roper arrived in Cayman in late October on a nine-month assignment, which is scheduled to end in late July 2019. Will Governor Roper remain in his position past that, or could Cayman have its fourth governor in less than two years?

Other officials who left their positions last year include the leaders of CINICO, Department of Environmental Health, National Roads Authority, OfReg and Port Authority. Each of these entities has been the subject of investigations or audits. How much will the public learn about the circumstances of the departures of those top public officials, the troubles within those agencies, or problems elsewhere in the public sector?

Scheduled events

We are sketching out our “to-do list” of the events that help make living in Cayman so enjoyable. There’s the annual Agricultural Show in March, the Batabano and CayMAS carnivals in May, and the Pirates Week Festival around November.

This week is the Cayman Cookout, and later this month is the Taste of Cayman Food and Drink Festival. There is also the myriad of social galas, Miss Cayman pageants, sporting events such as the Flower Sea Swim, the litany of public holidays, and other much-anticipated celebrations, far too many to list here.

The biggest new entrant on Cayman’s events calendar is the KAABOO Cayman festival slated for February, featuring major musical acts and comedians, and expected to attracted 10,000 or more people over two days.

Best-laid plans are, of course, all well and good. However, current expectations and aspirations can be made irrelevant by unforeseen happenings. Indeed, many things we take for granted in Cayman, including seemingly permanent physical landmarks, could be swept away in the blink of an eye. We refer to, naturally, the possibility of experiencing that most frequently predicted of unpredictable events – a major hurricane.

The Compass publishes thousands of stories each year. We’ll be keeping our editorial eyes on thousands of new ones in the new year. All of the above predictably will be high on our lists.

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