Free healthcare for kids and elderly among government goals

The Strategic Policy Statement delivered in parliament on Wednesday, 14 July, offers the first glimpse of a long-term policy plan for the new government.

The document sets out policy goals, for which funding will be allocated over the next three years.

It includes a wide range of ideas, ranging from decriminalising marijuana and consideration of universal basic income to free healthcare for seniors and children and a concerted focus on climate change mitigation and renewable energy adoption.

At this stage, there is little detail of how and when different aspects of the plan will be put into action. The statement is more of a broad outline of aims for the new government, with more specifics expected in the budget later this year.

Here we take a closer look at what government hopes to achieve in 10 key areas:

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Education and economic mobility

Premier Wayne Panton, in his SPS address, has highlighted plans to reintroduce A-Levels – currently only offered at private schools and UCCI – at the public high schools.

In his speech to parliament, Premier Wayne Panton highlighted ongoing concerns around children arriving at school hungry and ill-equipped to learn.

The provision of free meals in public schools is listed in the policy document as a key priority.

The document also indicates broad goals to strengthen early-education programmes, ensure schools have adequate reception classes, and provide early-morning supervision of students on school premises.

Ensuring there are teaching assistants in every class up to Year 9, introducing homework centres, and increasing funding for after-school programmes are also highlighted as specific targets.

The document also indicates a plan to “improve school graduation criteria to end social promotion”, hinting at a policy where students would not progress through the school system without meeting certain academic targets.

The premier also highlighted plans to reintroduce A-Levels – currently only offered at private schools and UCCI – at the public high schools.

The policy document also outlines a goal to create a new Technical and Vocational Education and Training curriculum, starting at primary school.

Panton also said government planned to expand the scholarship age limit for post-graduate degree programmes, and to incentivise Caymanians to continue life-long learning, by ‘upskilling’ themselves.

Healthcare

The CINICO headquarters on Dorcy Drive in George Town. The SPS indicates plans to revamp and expand CINICO services.

Providing free healthcare for children and the elderly is the big headline goal of the SPS in this area. The policy document also indicates plans to reform criteria for free access to healthcare and to revamp and expand CINICO services. The document includes only bullet points and there is no detail at this point on how that would be achieved.

Public and private sector partnerships to establish new assisted living homes and retirement facilities are also planned.

The goals for the health service also include strengthening youth mental-health support, more wellness checks, and a programme to both promote healthcare as a career for Caymanians and to encourage Caymanian medical professionals working overseas to return home.

Crime, social development, employment opportunities and housing

The policy document recommends programmes to rehabilitate young offenders before they become long-term criminals and improved efforts to rehabilitate adult prisoners.

Government outlined a slew of policy proposals and ambitions under the broad heading of improving wellbeing. These include providing financial assistance to help families pay for daycare and consideration of establishing a daycare centre at the government building.

Following a recent spate of gun crime, the document proposes an anti-gang strategy, including additional support for vulnerable young people. It recommends programmes to rehabilitate young offenders before they become long-term criminals and improved efforts to rehabilitate adult prisoners, including an expansion of the Second Chances programme, which matches ex-offenders with job opportunities.

The decriminalisation of marijuana is also proposed as a means to “reduce discrimination against young people in education and employment”.

Modernising financial-assistance legislation and improving links between the Needs Assessment Unit, Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman and the Department of Children and Family Services are also proposed.

Government-guaranteed home-assisted mortgages and reduced stamp duty on land for Caymanians are earmarked as policy goals on affordable housing.

The SPS also suggests Cayman needs to “end dependency on cheap labour” and proposes increasing the minimum wage and consideration of implementing Universal Basic Income.

The premier said the government would also reform work permit fees.

Good governance

A code of conduct will be implemented for Parliament and Cabinet.

Government plans to create “fully functioning constituency offices” for its Members of Parliament and to implement district councils, the SPS document states.

It also plans to develop and implement a transparent concessions policy that outlines who can get duty and other concessions and for what types of project.

A code of conduct will also be implemented for Parliament and Cabinet.

The document also promises more frequent press briefings and publication of summaries of Cabinet decisions to increase public access to information.

Climate change and sustainable development

They government says it plans to update Cayman’s Climate Change Policy and implement the National Energy Policy, including investment in solar farms.

In his speech, the premier, who also heads up the Ministry of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency, highlighted the implementation of a new development plan as a key goal.

Government is going through the process of updating the plan, which governs land use across all three islands, through a process known as Plan Cayman. This process will be reviewed and revised, according to the policy document.

Updates to Cayman’s Climate Change Policy and full implementation of the National Energy Policy, including investment in solar farms, are also planned.

Funding for solar and renewable energy projects and micro-loans to assist people in making their homes and businesses more energy efficient are among the government’s policy goals.

The document also calls for stiffer fines for environmental violations and plans to limit the sale of Crown lands and provide further protection to mangroves. Environmental education in public schools and public education on the impact of climate change are planned.

In his SPS speech, Panton said the government planned to reduce the number of second-hand cars being imported from Japan and promote the use of electric vehicles in the public transportation system.

The SPS also referred to plans to offer incentive programmes to encourage recycling and reduce waste, and to raise duty on items that are not environmentally friendly.

Workplace issues

The WORC headquarters in George Town.

The SPS addressed plans to enhance job opportunities for Caymanians “through a data-driven and robust compliance approach”, which would involve establishing a national job criteria list to reduce the number of fraudulent employment advertisements and implementing a system to match all work permit applications to unemployed Caymanians with the relevant skills and experience.

The document stated that changes would be enacted to the labour laws and regulations, and that the existing laws would be better enforced.

It called for a joint approach between WORC and the Ministry of Education to match available jobs to new graduates, as well as an introduction of a whistle-blower programme that would incentivise employees to report illegal practices.

To assist with the employment of Caymanians, the SPS stated that an accreditation system that rewards employers for hiring, training and development of Caymanians would be implemented, and that the government was considering increasing work permit fees in areas where Caymanian labour is readily available.

It also called for the “naming and shaming” of companies that consistently engage in “poor labour practices”.

In a bid to create and regulate “a fair and safe workplace environment”, the government plans to enact family leave policies, and ensure maternity, paternity and vacation leave policies are in line with international standards.

The SPS stated that government also plans to promote diversity in the workplace, introduce a national wellness programme that incentivises employers and encourages employees to strike a better work/life balance, and to implement national anti-bullying and sexual harassment policies and legislation.

It also referred to plans to establish a centre that offers free labour advice so employees are aware of their rights and obligations.

The government also said it plans to enact stronger legislation to protect the disabled, elderly and other vulnerable groups.

The SPS document also referred to a planned review of the Permanent Residency points system and a reform of the rollover policy.

Sports

The government also focussed on promoting sports in the SPS document.

Among the government’s policy goals is a plan to use sports to help enhance the quality of life for people living in Cayman. According to the SPS document, this will be done by encouraging a culture of fitness in communities, through public education campaigns and promoting academic opportunities through sports.

The government says it plans to develop and enhance sports tourism opportunities in the islands.

It plans to establish a National Sports Council and set up criteria to determine “national focus sports”, and their resourcing needs. It also says it has plans to develop national sports academies.

Among the sports-related policies was also a plan to support more competition in schools and inter-island; promote gender equality in sports; and encourage Caymanian and non-Caymanian integration.

Funding would be made available for sports development and to augment sports scholarships, and all sporting organisations seeking fund from government would be required to have “vibrant/established youth programmes”.

The PACT government stated it would provide greater access to facilities for people with disabilities, ensure that existing sporting venues include additional general exercise areas, and increase the number of swimming pools available for public use.

Infrastructure

The government says it plans to develop and implement a national storm water management plan, including remediation of chronic flooding areas. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Among its 10 broad outline policies, the government also covers the islands’ infrastructure, under a heading ‘Plan tomorrow’s infrastructure today’.

This would include updating and revising Cayman’s National Development Plan. The last time Cayman implemented a development plan was in 1997.

Among the government’s infrastructure-related plans is a proposal to provide funding for a new underwater communications cable “to ensure Cayman remains connected to the world”, as well as plans for the development and implementation of a national storm water management plan, including remediation of areas prone to chronic flooding.

The SPS also stated that government intends to develop a national road transportation plan, establish a national infrastructure fund, and to provide funding for land acquisition for agricultural purposes.

It said government is proposing the establishment of a public/private partnership to implement a national sewage and wastewater system.

There are also plans to set up a public/private partnership to install an underground utilities network, including fibre, a proposal to expand the water delivery system in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, and increase the number of final resting places.

Financial services

The government says it will work towards the removal of Cayman from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list and other consequential high-risk lists.

Turning to the financial services sector, which is a major economic driver for the islands, the premier said, “We must redefine how we position the Cayman Islands as a tax-neutral jurisdiction, promote compelling initiatives to de-bunk tax haven myths, engage proactively with international political and regulatory organisations and network with key European Union, United Kingdom and United States stakeholders.”

The government plans to educate the local populace on the positive economic impact of the financial services industry, and increase funding to NGOs to promote the industry.

In an effort to maintain Cayman’s “best-in-class reputation”, the SPS stated that government planned to implement more IT tools to enhance the regulatory framework, and ensure that the regulator, the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, has sufficient resources.

The government would also work towards the removal of Cayman from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list and other consequential high-risk lists.

It also plans to promote greater Caymanian participation and new revenue streams, by identifying new fee opportunities with limited adverse impact.

Tourism

The PACT government says it is planning to expand and diversify Cayman’s domestic tourism product.

The government says it plans to develop a sustainable national tourism plan, which would include better use of data by policy makers, to ensure a sustainable approach and the revamping of the current plan.

Plans are also being made to expand and diversify Cayman’s domestic tourism product, by promoting and growing sports and event tourism; diversifying the tourism product with a greater focus on eco-tourism focus; the expansion of emerging and secondary tourism markets; and by marketing to high-net worth visitors.

Government plans to expand Cayman Airways routes and also to promote Cayman Brac and Little Cayman as vacation destinations.

While no specifics were given in the SPS, it did refer to the “reimagining” of cruise tourism, which has been halted since March last year due to COVID-19.

The tourism plan also includes improving infrastructure in the eastern districts of Grand Cayman and the modernisation of the local travel and transport infrastructure by establishing a public/private partnership to construct a new general aviation terminal, improving public transport through legislative and infrastructure reforms, and improving the ports of entry to enhance visitor experience.

The government has also been pushing for a stronger Caymanian participation in the tourism industry, which it says it plans to continue by expanding and enhancing the current national tourism education strategy and by promoting greater Caymanian ownership of tourism-related businesses.

There are also plans to create a national beautification plan.

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