A veritable who’s-who of Cayman’s policy makers, business leaders, and top civil servants gathered for this year’s Chamber of Commerce legislative luncheon. Taking top billing for the event, Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin, who delivered a highly anticipated speech.
The Chamber’s Legislative Luncheon was back for 2018 after the event was put on hold last year as the newly elected Government of National Unity was allowed to settle in.
Both the Chamber and Government hit all the right notes, stressing the need for partnership, strategic collaboration, with the Premier and outgoing Chamber President Kyle Broadhurst almost singing ‘kumbaya’ at times. However, at other times the two entities were pulling in slightly different directions.
This friction was most prevalent when each side expressed its viewpoints on the comingled issues of Caymanian unemployment and the need for foreign labour. However, both expressed a willingness to work together to overcome these chasms for the shared goal of country’s continued success.
“Why are we so generally consistently negative about our country? Why do so many in the media seem to delight in criticizing all things Caymanian?” he said, opening his remarks on the familiar stage with a swipe at the media.
In his 35 minute speech, he touted the country’s projected 2.1% GDP growth, and recapped major bullet points from last year’s budget policy speech.
His remarks failed to deliver any major policy revelations, but he did hit back after what he described as being taken to task by the Judiciary.
“Contrary to the Chief Justice’s assertion, there’s no lack of vision on government’s part. Instead, there’s a keen sense of fiscal responsibility and the recognition that the Cayman Islands government cannot spend between $150m and $177m on a court facility.
As the opening act, Dart Enterprises’ Chris Duggan nearly stole the show with a high-gloss presentation that gave a sneak peek at future projects and provided a cheeky rebuttal to the notion it’s building “tunnels to nowhere.”
Government and the Chamber sang mostly from the same hymnal, but diverged in their rhetorical approaches to the topics of Caymanian unemployment and foreign labour.
“First we need to ensure we are working from facts,” said Mr. Broadhurst. “Second we need to make sure we have an achievable goal.”
But the Premier refused to back away from perhaps the most ambitious pledge of his political career.
“The current level of 6.2%, Caymanian unemployment is still too high in an economy as successful as ours, that’s why my government has set a clear target to achieve full Caymanian employment,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
On the topic of Financial Services, Mr. McLaughlin said while Cayman had managed to clear the most recent round of hurdles, avoiding the EU blacklist after recent talks in London and Brussels.
He said there will surely be more hoops to jump through, and said innovation is the jurisdiction’s key to continued success.