Skip navigation

Cayman Islands Government

Governorís Speech to Chamber

HE The Governor, Mr Stuart Jack, CVO

PRESS NOTICE:GOVERNOR ADDRESSES THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

11 MARCH 2009

HE The Governor, Mr Stuart Jack, CVO addressed how the Cayman Islands must address the problems in the global economy. His Excellency argued that the best way for Cayman to withstand these rough and tumble times is to maintain its reputation for quality.

Mr Jack set out why he is optimistic about Cayman's future: solid and reliable rules and judiciary; world class accountants, auditors and attorneys; many first rate companies in all sectors; and beautiful islands that people want to live in and visit.

But His Excellency advised that we cannot ignore the extraordinary times we are living through. Cayman has not yet felt the full effect of the global turmoil and cannot expect to continue as though nothing has changed, nor to resume where we once were once the good times return.

The Governor's recipe for success as a financial centre, ahead of the G20 summit in London, is for Cayman to be seen as part of the solution, not part of the problem. Only by being seen to embrace change enthusiastically, can Cayman hope to soften any adverse impact, and position itself to take advantage of any new opportunities.

The Cayman business community has an important role to play by working more closely with government.

HE The Governor advised that we need a clear vision of where the country is headed: a sustainable development strategy that integrates in a balanced way, economic environmental and social issues. We also need to promote a culture of quality, particularly in the civil service and the police.

Turning to the Constitution, the Governor said the people of the islands had choice: a document that was older than some members of the Chamber of commerce audience or a draft that extends Cayman's own control of its destiny, while also strengthening checks and balances.

Mr Jack paid a tribute to Cayman's seafaring generation and called for today's generation of islanders to show the same resilience and skill in the face of adversity.

The entire speech follows:

CAYMAN MEANS QUALITY

Chamber of Commerce luncheon, 11 March 2009

HE The Governor, Mr Stuart Jack CVO

In just a few weeks, the leaders of the world's major powers will gather in London to consider how to address the problems in the global economy. Like everywhere else, people here in Cayman are tightening their belts and worrying about the future. Our two main industries, financial services and tourism, are both closely linked to the US economy - they will suffer. There will also be a trickle-down affect - small businesses, as well as large, across nearly every sector of our economy, must consider now, as a matter of urgency, how they will respond to these events.

In a country as small as the Cayman Islands, there can be a temptation to see ourselves as buffeted by the economic storms drifting in from the North, and - lets not ignore Europe - from the East. That there is little we can do, but wait and see.

I disagree. Every Summer and Autumn, we don't just sit and wait for the hurricanes that we know could come. We prepare - to minimise any damage. There is a lesson here on how we should prepare for the economic hurricane heading our way. We are still uncertain whether it will be a Cat 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 but it is now close enough we know it is not going to pass us by altogether. We can already feel the breeze - and it is not the kind we like to enjoy at this time of the year.

The best way for Cayman to withstand these rough and tumble times is to maintain our reputation for quality. Quality doesn't simply mean spending money. It means making best use of our advantages and addressing our weaknesses, adapting to the changing needs and perceptions of our customers, and doing so promptly before our competitors beat us to it.

The Economy

Let us not forget our many blessings. We have solid and reliable laws and judiciary. We have world class accountants, auditors and attorneys. For a small country we have first rate businesses across different sectors, as illustrated by the people here today. We have beautiful islands that people want to live in and visit. I am optimistic about the future.

That includes the financial services industry. Over the last few months that industry worldwide has been going through extraordinary times. We are already feeling the effects here in Cayman though probably not yet to the full extent. We cannot expect to continue as we are, nor to resume where we were once the good times return. We must not despair, we must not take panic measures, but we must not underestimate the challenges.

I know there is anxiety about what the G20 might conclude about global financial regulation, in particular about offshore centres. We cannot simply ignore this pressure. As the international financial system is reformed Cayman should be seen as part of the solution, not the problem.

By embracing change - and most importantly by being seen to do so enthusiastically - we can hope to soften any adverse impact and we can hope to position ourselves to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.

In particular we have to adapt to the emerging emphasis on transparency. Cayman now has a good record on anti-money laundering and, in practice, on cooperating with other jurisdictions, notably the US, on criminal tax matters. But we need to get that message across more clearly. Cayman must seek to conclude tax information exchange agreements with more countries, including the UK - Government is now working actively on this. And we should look again at any practices or laws that reinforce preconceptions about excessive secrecy, such as the Confidential Relationships Preservation Law, while accelerating work on data protection legislation.

As we adapt our economy we must not be too inward-looking. Cayman has prospered because we have looked to the wider world - for markets, for supplies, for staff.

The Cayman business community has an important part to play in all of this. It is essential that government and business work more closely, and that business maintain close links with the wider community. I would like to thank all the businessmen and women here who, despite the economic downturn, have continued to support charitable causes on the Islands. Please continue to do so as far as you can.

Excellence

The final challenge I want to talk about today is the need for excellence, or quality in everything that we do.

A starting point is a clear vision of where this country is heading. The Cayman Islands need a sustainable development strategy that integrates in a balanced way economic, environmental and social issues. To achieve that we need leadership and good governance. The main responsibility must lie with the country's elected representatives - that is what democracy is all about.

The role of a Governor of an Overseas Territory is a strange mix of being powerful and powerless. Constitutionally, I have a lot of power over a lot of things. New laws require my signature. I have a good deal of responsibility for lofty objectives - good governance and law and order.

What I have tried to do, throughout the three years that I have spent in the Cayman Islands is to promote a culture of quality, particularly in the civil service and the police. The Face awards, to reward high performing civil servants, is an example of this.

To maintain quality, we need to constantly test our culture and our processes.

I know that many people will see my tenure here as a period of Commissions and Enquiries and investigations. Many of these actions have been controversial.

But I believe that where there are serious allegations - not just frivolous remarks - but serious allegations, they should be addressed. In most cases, on a small island like this, it is not always possible to get an objective and fair viewpoint on an allegation. We need a new, more distanced judgement. This is why I set up the Commission of Enquiry, the special police investigations and the Judicial Tribunal - in each case only where there appeared to be prima facie evidence backed up by legal advice.

Whilst the primary objective of these bodies has been to focus on a specific allegation, an external viewpoint can also teach us a lot about our culture, and what steps we need to take to raise our quality. The Commission of Enquiry provided some useful lessons on the civil service which have been followed up. Operation Cealt is as much focussed on how we can improve systems as on how we deal with alleged misbehaviour by a few individuals.

I have always been conscious of the accusation made by many people that this is washing our dirty laundry in public. I dispute this. Countries do not suffer by admitting that someone has erred, or a system has failed. Their reputations suffer because they try to cover up misconduct, or ignore processes that don't work. By being open about problems, we show that we are determined to solve them, and this, more than anything will retain confidence in our services, in brand Cayman.

Brand Cayman needs to constantly examine how it can do things better. Take the Constitution. The Cayman Islands have choice between a constitution that is older than some people in this audience, or the new draft. It may not be perfect, but it is far more relevant to the needs of today's Cayman Islanders than a document crafted almost 40 years ago.

It is not just about one paragraph in the section on human rights. It extends Cayman's own control of its destiny while also strengthening checks and balances. One important feature is a substantial role for non-political members of the community on several national bodies.

In the past, Constitutional talks were seen as a serious business reserved for governments, but these talks were different. Civil society has been involved from the start, and some of the more complex parts of the negotiations have been between different representatives of civil society, rather than the UK and Cayman islands Governments.

I am personally very grateful for the care the Government took to include wider society in the talks. In these matters the position of Governor is somewhere between the Cayman Islands and the UK governments. In the Constitutional talks here and in London I was able to sit exactly where I felt most comfortable - next to the representative of the Chamber of Commerce on civil society's side of the table.

Conclusion

The Cayman Islands motto is "He hath founded us upon the seas". I read this every day as I return home to Government House, just next door. The Cayman tradition of seafaring holds strong. I particularly enjoy talking to the older folk on the Island, who were revered across the world for their abilities as seafarers.

This generation can teach us a lesson on how to withstand the current turbulence. These Caymanians had to look outwards for their own survival, and in the process became knowledgeable about the rest of the world. It was their insights that laid the foundations for Cayman's prosperity, that I fear too many now take for granted.

They also knew that their reputation as sailors depended more upon their ability to navigate stormy seas, than the calm. That required a clear sense of destination, flexibility, and above all hard work.

This is an important lesson for us here and now. We need to show the same resilience and skill in the face of adversity, as the seafaring founders of the nation. And, of course, as the resourceful women who looked after Cayman while they were away.