McLaughlin ready to hand over reins, eyes financial services as next post

As the clock winds down on his time at the helm of the Progressives, Premier Alden McLaughlin has signalled that he wants to tackle the financial services and international trade portfolios should the party lead the next government.

McLaughlin, speaking to the Cayman Compass Monday about his future, said he has “great interest” and “some experience” in both areas and they would be his ministries of choice.

It is clear, with Cayman now greylisted by the Financial Action Task Force, whoever takes the reins of that ministry will have some work to do as the country’s anti-money laundering (AML) practices will be under increased monitoring.

A lack of fines and enforcement actions by Cayman’s regulatory bodies has been blamed for the greylisting last week.

It came two years after its regional body, the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, released a critical mutual evaluation report highlighting a range of shortcomings in Cayman’s AML regime.

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Premier Alden McLaughlin signs his nomination form to seek re-election in Red Bay, at the Seafarers Hall Monday. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

McLaughlin, who is seeking re-election in the Red Bay constituency, added trade and international relations to his portfolio when he took charge of his second consecutive administration – the National Unity government in 2017.

He has previously indicated the need for a presence in Brussels to give Cayman a seat at the table with European-headquartered organisations like the FATF and the European Union. Government, he has said, will establish representative offices in Brussels, Hong Kong and Washington, DC, before the end of the year.

Although McLaughlin will no longer be at the helm of the Progressives, he said he has no qualms about handing over leadership to Finance Minister Roy McTaggart, whom he formally endorsed last year.

“I am delighted to hand the reins over to someone else. There’re some people who like to hang on to these positions. I was probably the single strongest advocate of a limited term for premier. I really do not believe that you can keep up that sort of level of intensity and commitment over much longer than eight years,” McLaughlin said.

The transfer of leadership will be done at the party’s membership convention, which is planned for this month.

Finance Minister Roy McTaggart will be taking over the Progressives. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

“I think it is time for fresh eyes… fresh legs… fresh everything to take over that leadership role,” McLaughlin said.

Reflecting on his consecutive terms as premier, a first for any politician here, McLaughlin shared that “it has been incredibly hard”.

“It’s not just about winning the government,” he explained, “you then have to put a government together and then you have to keep a government together, as well as navigate all of the various shoals and tempests that are naturally a part of being in government.”

Kurt Tibbetts at the Progressives party campaign launch in 2017. – Photo: File

McLaughlin, who has spent the last 20-and-a-half years in politics, said, apart from having a ministerial role, he hopes to spend his time to doing what former Progressives leader Kurt Tibbetts did for him when he assumed leadership of the party.

“My role, as I see it, is much the same as it was for my dear friend, the honourable Kurt Tibbetts, when I took over from him and he came back into government to help keep the ship steady and offer advice and counsel and guidance,” he said.

Tibbetts, who has been in the forefront of the Progressives’ campaigning for years, may not be as prominent on the trail as before.

McLaughlin said Tibbetts is still in the hospital after having a knee replacement last week and it is giving him “quite a bit of pain”.

“I’m not sure how much you’re going to see of him on the campaign trail this time, unlike the previous time, which is something of a hindrance to us, but it’s one of those things,” he said.

The Progressives, he said, will have its manifesto launch closer toward the back end of the campaign trail in the run-up to 14 April.

However, he said, over the course of the campaign, candidates will be expounding on what the party’s policies are with respect to the environment, education, healthcare and continuing to keep Cayman safe.

“Then, a few weeks before the elections, we will actually be able to hand, we hope, to every voter, a hard copy of what we have been talking about during the campaign which are our policies, our promises to the country as to how we will address the various areas of concern,” he said.

McLaughlin said he has already spoken with McTaggart about his posting should the party win the next administration.

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