Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has appointed Eric Bush to lead the new Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs.
Mr. Bush’s appointment took effect on Monday, Feb. 4, but he will continue to perform his duties as the Cayman Islands’ Representative in the U.K. and Europe, until he returns to Cayman in late July.
The new ministry, which is not yet operational, “will focus on capitalizing on our current successes whilst identifying new opportunities to secure the future of the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Bush said.
“We will aim to broaden and enhance our international image and to ensure that government’s interactions across the globe, in areas like financial services, tourism or our aviation and maritime registries, are conducted with one voice.”
Mr. Bush said the international focus of the new role had appealed to him together with “fact that I have spent the last two and a half years in the U.K. trying to advocate and represent Cayman and defend Cayman when needed.”
Another factor was timing, as his secondment to Cayman’s London office is coming to an end in the summer. “My family and I have had a fantastic time in the U.K., but there is no place like home,” he said.
Explaining the timing of the appointment, Mr. Manderson said, “It was vital that the new ministry has a chief officer as soon as possible, to finalize its development, appoint staff and arrange a budget.”
The deputy governor added that Mr. Bush was the only current chief officer who expressed interest in a transfer to the ministry. Mr. Manderson said he made the appointment after consultation with Premier Alden McLaughlin, who will serve as minister of the new portfolio.
Premier McLaughlin announced the creation of the new ministry in the Legislative Assembly in December 2018, stating that “Cayman must move with the times if we are to maintain a vibrant financial services industry” and “step out of the U.K.’s shadow and stand up for [itself] when it comes to matters of international trade.”
The objectives of the new ministry are to improve Cayman’s reputation and promote the jurisdiction with “key opinion formers” overseas, increase inward investment, grow tourism and financial services business by opening up new markets and attracting new types of businesses, and by bringing a renewed focus on growing aircraft and shipping registries.
In addition, the ministry will take on a coordination function of the international activities and overseas missions of the various government entities to ensure a more coherent and consistent approach.
The premier said Mr. Bush’s past experience as a chief officer and the diplomatic skills that he displayed during his time in the U.K. make him the perfect choice for the new role.
“Over the last few years, Eric has helped to raise Cayman’s profile in the political, private and other sectors of United Kingdom society. This new ministry will give his skills even wider scope and help the Cayman Islands stand strong in the world as we move forward into the 21st century,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Priorities for the new ministry include the opening of the Cayman Islands Government Office for Asia in Hong Kong, as well as recruiting a small core team, and creating strategic plans in global communication and international trade and investment.
Currently, there are no plans to recruit staff outside of the civil service for the new ministry, as secondment opportunities will be available to existing civil servants until the needs of the new ministry are better defined, a government press release stated.
In its first year, the ministry will take stock of the external activities that exist both the in the public and private sector. Mr. Bush expects this will uncover many synergies that can be exploited not just with financial services, shipping or tourism but “Brand Cayman” in mind.
The new ministry will not be able to do it alone, the chief officer said. “For this ministry to work effectively and to do its job, we need to work hand in hand with the private sector.”
Mr. Bush was seconded as the Cayman Islands representative for the U.K. and Europe for three years in July 2016. He was previously responsible for strategic policy and oversight of the office from 2013 to 2015, during his time as chief officer with responsibility for the Ministry of Home Affairs.
In his role as Cayman’s representative in the U.K., Mr. Bush revived the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Cayman Islands, a group of legislators across the U.K.’s political spectrum. He traveled frequently throughout Britain to promote the Cayman Islands and coordinated the recent discussions with the U.K. government over constitutional changes, as well as the Celebrate Cayman launch event in May 2018.
He is the chairperson of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association and he has served as the Cayman Islands liaison to the European Union, attending meetings of the Overseas Countries and Territories in Brussels.
Before 2012, he served as deputy chief officer responsible for prisons, police and immigration, in what was then known as the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs.
Mr. Bush has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Lynn University in Florida and has worked in both the public and private sector.