Opposition MP Alden McLaughlin has questioned whether government intends to continue the pension holiday as the initiative started by his Progressives administration is set to expire in just under three weeks.
The lack of information, he said, is causing “major concern” not just in the tourism industry but also across the business community.
Speaking at an Opposition press conference Tuesday, the former premier questioned if the government is going to insist that come 1 July everyone will have to resume making pension contributions.
“We are in the middle of June. Businesses have to be able to plan and make arrangements. The law requires that the employer pay half of the pension contribution. For some of these businesses that amounts to a significant amount of money that they have to find every month,” he said.
The pension holiday, which was implemented as a COVID-19 relief measure last year by the Progressives government when borders closed, suspended the mandatory requirement for pension payments as stipulated by law.
McLaughlin said he objected to any resumption of pension contributions at this time.
“Honestly, I cannot understand why there is continued silence on issues like that… that seem to us so straightforward. We cannot and ought not to insist that pension contributions resume now with the borders still mostly closed and the tourism industry in the situation it is in,” McLaughlin said.
He said the matter is a straightforward one that would taken the Progressives Alliance half an hour to discuss and then they would have decided to maintain the pension holiday.
“We cannot and ought not to insist that pension contributions resume now with the borders still mostly closed and the tourism industry in the situation it is in.” – Red Bay MP Alden McLaughlin
“Continue it at least until the end of the year and then we can take stock come November whether or not it is feasible to be able to require businesses to resume making pension contributions,” he said.
Deputy Progressives leader Joey Hew also pointed out that while so many people have found a bubble to live in, there are still Caymanian-owned tourism-related shops that have been closed for more than a year and water-sports companies whose boats are sitting and need to be maintained.
“The [tourism] stipend is just enough to help them with their… own bills but it is not enough to help them with staff or keep the business afloat… [I]t is one thing we recognise that we do have to keep our tourism-related businesses alive so when we do open our borders we have the level of service and quality of providers we had prior,” he said.
Cayman, Hew said, cannot forget about the people who are suffering.
The water-sports operators, he said, were among the first to receive business grants, of around $3,000, back in January through the Centre for Business Development.
He said there are business owners, like artisans, boat operators and coconut vendors, who have not been able to get any assistance in the last six months.
“What help are we giving them? What hope are we giving them in failing to give them a date to aspire towards? They understand that if tourists…[are] looking for a winter vacation this year and the Cayman Islands is silent on a reopening date, [they] are now going to start to book somewhere else,” he said.