Financial Services Minister Tara Rivers has called on government and industry to proactively address Cayman’s “perception problem” that still exists in mass media and among other influencers.
One year after the minister announced the government would “take on Hollywood” to tackle frequent remarks in movies and TV shows describing the Cayman Islands as a shady tax haven, she said in a parliamentary statement on Monday, “We have done just that; and we have already seen positive, tangible effects as a result of doing so.”
Stereotypes perpetuated by the entertainment industry exist mainly because of “misinformation and ignorance” and are made “without any real thought as to their validity”, she said.
“Such careless, throwaway comments can harm the reputation of our islands because collectively they reinforce the myth that the country operates on a shady level; and when that myth is repeated consistently it morphs into a generally accepted ‘belief’.”
Sitting back and doing nothing was therefore unacceptable, she said.
Earlier this year, government issued a cease-and-desist letter to AT&T, requesting that it change one of its television advertisements that depicted the Cayman Islands in a negative light.
Under the tagline ‘Just OK is not OK’, the video ad showed a tax advisor in his office telling his client he can get her taxes to an “OK place”. The client then points to photos on the tax professional’s desk, noting that he takes a lot of trips to “the Caymans”, with one photo showing him in front of a yacht named ‘Offshore Accounts’.
Rivers said, “We used that opportunity to inform the company that the Cayman Islands’ financial services are provided in accordance with global financial standards, and that the OECD rankings place the Cayman Islands on par with other countries, such as Canada and England, for transparency and tax information sharing.”
She said, “We stated that any insinuation to the contrary was wrong and inaccurate.”
AT&T said the ad was intended to be humorous but agreed to change it.
Other such challenges in the past year included a reference to Cayman as a ‘tax haven’ in a tax textbook.
“As a result of our challenge, the publishing company subsequently agreed to remove the reference in all future editions of the publication,” she noted. “The government has also challenged several instances where Cayman was spuriously referenced in episodes of a few sitcoms aired on popular streaming platforms.”
Addressing throwaway remarks about Cayman in this way is a formidable task, she said, “but this government believes it is vital to do so in order to help minimise such references in the future; and to educate the broader public about how the Cayman Islands operates as a legitimate and integral cog in the wheel of the global economy”.
Rivers urged both government and industry to take both a defensive and proactive stance to defend and promote “the significant strides made by, and the reality of, the Cayman Islands”.
She said, “We cannot sit back and let Hollywood or any activist lobby organisation define who we are or what we do.”