Government & Chamber Join Forces
Representatives from the Chamber of Commerce Council met on 2nd September with Government officials to present ways to reduce costs, decrease debt and to enhance revenue. Both parties described the meeting as extremely productive and agreed to work together to develop strategies to address Cayman's current economic challenges.
"The Chamber represents hundreds of local businesses so it is important for the Government to seek their views and suggestions on how to raise additional revenue while at the same time reducing expenses and creating an environment to attract investment," said the Hon. W. McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP, Premier-designate and Leader of Government Business. "The Government intends to meet with the Chamber regularly to discuss issues candidly, to share ideas and to develop strategies to improve the economy, create new jobs and business opportunities for the Caymanian people."
The Chamber welcomed this level of cooperation and pledged its full support to work with Government to develop solutions to the current economic challenges that face the Islands.
"We thank the Government for giving us an opportunity to share our ideas," said Chamber President Mr. Stuart T. Bostock. "Chamber members and the wider community are experiencing challenging economic times, but with great challenge there is great opportunity and responsibility. This is an ideal time to introduce novel approaches to new business development and to reform the way in which the public sector operates. We must all accept that in order to address some of the challenges that are facing us we must work in partnership and accept that there will have to be some sacrifices by businesses and residents. The Chamber is committed to working with the Government to bring about these changes," Mr. Bostock said.
Government and the Chamber leaders expressed confidence that the strength and resilience which has contributed to Cayman's significant growth over the past 40 years will continue well into the future. Efforts will be directed to ensure that Cayman continues to be attractive to international markets by using Cayman's existing and long successful system of indirect taxation without the need to introduce income or property taxes.
Controlling expenditure and reducing debt also featured prominently in the discussion. The Chamber proposed commissioning an independent review of all Government services, departments and statutory authorities to be completed by January 2010. The Government has appointed George Town MLA Mr. Ellio Solomon to spearhead the review of information technology systems.
To reduce Government debt, the Chamber recommended that the identification of assets that can be sold outright or can be offered for investment through privatization or the issuance of an initial public offering (IPO). By introducing this approach, local residents and businesses will be able to become direct shareholders of several important national assets and Government would reduce its direct operational costs.
The Chamber urged the Government to control costs, reduce the national debt and raise revenue from areas that would have minimal impact on business development and residents. These possible new revenue sources included:
- Returning stamp duty on property to original rates of 6% and 7.5% effective 1st December;
- Introducing a national lottery;
- Allowing Sunday Trading which will increase the collection of customs duties and will provide greater convenience for visitors and residents;
- Introducing a fee on individual money transfers out of the country;
- Introducing legislation to receive money on dormant accounts of 5 years or more from retail banks;
- Reviewing miscellaneous fees and fines, particularly those that have not been adjusted for several years.
The Chamber expressed its opposition to any additional revenue measures without a definitive plan to cut costs and reduce debt, any additional general corporate or any form of taxes on income, interbank transactions, payroll or property. In terms of future business development, the Chamber expressed its support for the development of cruise berthing and a mega yacht facility, relocation of the cargo facilities, medical tourism development, convention facilities, waterfront redevelopment in George Town and attracting the reinsurance sector and additional private trust business.
The Chamber is also prepared to work with Government to:
- Address the crime issue that threatens to destabilize the society and drive away business;
- Develop investment policies that will create a red carpet approach to attracting new investment to the Islands;
- Recommend revisions to immigration policies;
- Strengthen cooperation with the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau and the Department of Tourism;
- Develop policies and programmes to support small business development;
- Host an economic forum to discuss and develop an implementation plan for the proposals that are approved by Government.
The Leader of Government Business agreed to meet with the Chamber quarterly to assess the progress of the implementation plan and to seek the membership's views on key issues.
For more information on the Chamber of Commerce visit www.caymanchamber.ky.