Premier Addresses Gathering
Speech delivered by the Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin, MBE, JP, MLA on the occasion of the swearing in of the Premier and Ministers of Cabinet
Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Good Morning Ladies and Gentleman,
Let me first say how proud I am of you, the people of the Cayman Islands for exercising your democratic right in a peaceful, orderly manner. We sometimes take for granted the freedom to change our government in a free and fair process. There are millions of people around the world who do not have that sacred privilege and we should guard it zealously.
I would like to thank all Caymanians for the confidence and trust that they have placed in our team to take our country forward. Without the overwhelming support that they gave us in Bodden Town where we won all 4 seats and in George Town where we won 4 of the 6 seats none of this would be possible. Of course Cayman Brac and Little Cayman gave our candidate 75% of the vote - the largest expression of confidence for anyone on the ballot in this Election. To them I say a heartfelt thank you.
At this juncture I also wish to congratulate and welcome the newly elected Members of the Legislature on all sides. I urge you to familiarize yourselves with the best traditions of Parliamentary procedure and remind you that so long as you remember that you are here to serve the people who elected you, you are more likely to discharge your duties in their interests. I have repeatedly stated that we will work side by side with all those who have Cayman at heart. We are still committed to this principle. Let us continue to put aside our political differences and work to take our country forward. There is much to be done.
As we commence this new session of the Legislature, those of us who will form the Government do so cognizant of the great responsibility that has been bestowed upon us by a nation whose singular and overwhelming desire was for change.
The 2013 General Election will come to be remembered as a watershed in the history of the Cayman Islands. I had the occasion to remark during the dying hours of the campaign that it was the strangest election in which I had been involved in my thirteen years in public life. That you were able to sift through the conflicting messages, and in some cases a huge number of candidates, to give a convincing mandate to one party speaks to your understanding of the issues facing the country and your maturity in doing what you thought was best for your country today.
It is a lesson to us politicians that the electorate is often more in tune with the issues than we sometimes give them credit for.
Thanks and congratulations must also be given to the Elections Office for a job well done. It is a great tribute to all the people who work there that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association international observer mission gave our electoral process a 9 out of 10 and our local observers were also satisfied that the elections were free and fair.
As the incoming government we take comfort in the fact that the CPA mission shares our view on one-man one vote. It should therefore come as no surprise to Members or the general public that we intend to implement the provisions of the Constitution and amend the Elections law in order to introduce single member constituencies. Most of the work has already been done on this and Members can therefore expect its implementation quite early during this legislative term.
The mission also raised other issues relating to eligibility to run for office as being unnecessarily restrictive. As a mature nation we would do well to discuss these issues and revisit them in law if necessary.
What is abundantly clear is that as legislators we must proceed on a new path. While the Westminster system of government to which we subscribe is adversarial in nature, I believe that the challenges we face as a nation will not be solved by opposing for opposing's sake. I am not asking for a free pass, and my Government will always welcome constructive criticism, but I believe that the experience that resides in this Chamber must be utilized for the benefit of the country at large.
We understand that there is a role for the Opposition and that pertains here in our country. Those on the other side are the watchdogs for the public at large. We welcome their pragmatic criticisms and we assure Caymanians that we will always work in the interest of Cayman.
We believe that one of our first priorities is to restore confidence in Government, which in turn will assist in the return of investment by the business sector.
This is all the more critical because of the perilous times in which we live. As a country we make our living from what is still a volatile world economy. The re-ordering of the world's finances is far from complete. A new world economic order is gradually emerging from the ashes of the 2009 global meltdown and if we are to continue to have a stake in the global financial industry, we must be prepared for further upheaval and indeed threats to the model on which our prosperity has been built. The signs are already there. It will not be business as usual.
It is clear that disorder will continue to be a feature of western economies for some time to come and indeed the old order may never be fully restored. We must therefore look for new opportunities and new partners outside of our usual comfort zone if we are to continue to grow this sector of our economy.
As a government we will do our part to protect the financial services industry from the onslaught of new regulation that is being mooted in Europe and elsewhere. I invite the stakeholders in the industry to join us in this common cause for our mutual benefit. I urge them too to think outside the box. The government will certainly support innovation and will welcome new ideas to keep our financial services industry on the cutting edge so long as they continue to benefit the country.
With respect to our tourism industry we shall continue to provide the economic environment that will attract new investment to our shores. We intend too to continue to diversify our tourism product through medical, sports and education tourism. As a word of caution to present and future investors, we expect you to play your part in ensuring that Caymanians play an integral role in the delivery of services in the industry. As a government we are committed to providing the training that is required to move more Caymanians into the industry and I am confident that the Ministers of Tourism and Education will initiate early discussions with industry stakeholders on the way forward. A happy, safe and stable social environment is a prerequisite to a successful tourism industry. It is therefore in the interest of investors to ensure that Caymanians feel included in a business that showcases their country and their culture.
Beyond the established pillar industries that provide the means for us to manage the country's affairs, there is a need for diversification of our economy if we are to provide greater certainty to government revenues. In this regard entities like Cayman Enterprise City and the Shetty Health City will be encouraged and assisted in reaching their maximum potential in the shortest practical time.
In the long term, we must have a four-year plan agreed to by the UK that will bring certainty to the budget process. In this regard I have already spoken to Minister Mark Simmonds who has indicated a willingness to work with us to get the economy back on track. Within the next two weeks I will take a delegation including the Minister of Finance to the UK to meet with the British Government to resolve some of our budgetary issues for the upcoming fiscal year.
An important component of any plan will be the construction of a new port and the expansion and redevelopment of the airport. Both of these projects will generate considerable employment and economic activity in the short term and will have a long-term beneficial impact on the tourism industry. Getting these projects properly tendered and on stream will be an early priority of the Government. We have said that we will make jobs priority #1 and this is still our commitment.
Education is the foundation on which the future of our islands rests. As a government we recognize the catalytic role it will play in transforming our society and our economy. It is both a social and economic tool that we must employ if there is to be sustainable change in Cayman.
While much has been achieved, much remains to be done to ensure that education is relevant to the world in which we now operate. It is therefore critical that we continue to invest in education. That we do so within our means does not mean that it will not be a priority of the government.
As a government we are equally committed to creating a new class of Caymanian entrepreneurs. We recognize that small businesses are huge net employers. We must give Caymanians an outlet for their creativity and an opportunity to build wealth for themselves and their families if we are to maintain a sustainable society that is not dependent on the state for handouts.
As we look forward to the legislative session ahead of us there is considerable work to be done. The elections are now over and the people have spoken. The country expects us to get on with the people's business.
It is time that we all put aside the differences that characterized the election campaign and come together as one people for the betterment of our beloved Cayman Islands. This is our country. Let us show the world that we are capable of working together for the greater good.
In closing I must thank those of you who have called, emailed and texted your well wishes to my team and me. We will need your continued support in the coming months and we look forward to receiving your thoughts and ideas as we embark on the journey to improve the fortunes of our country.
On a personal note, I wish to extend my thanks to the electorate of George Town for once more entrusting me with the responsibility of representing you. I have many heart warming memories of the campaign trail, but none more so than that of two little girls who met me one afternoon in Central George Town with a sign they had made offering their support of the Progressives. Moments like that made my heart sing and brought home to me in a very real way what an awesome responsibility it is to represent people who look to you to make their lives better.
My thanks too to my Progressives teammates. You have made me immensely proud. You fought a good, clean fight and even though you did not all prevail you have all left your mark on the political landscape of this country.
I want to say a special thanks to the army of people who came together and worked so hard to make this day possible. A special thanks to the team at the Progressive Headquarters. I love you all and will do all in my power to make the great sacrifices you have made worthwhile.
I have always only wanted to do one thing with my life: to serve my country and my people. Today I am overwhelmed that I have been given the honour and privilege of doing so in the office of Premier. My grateful thanks to the people of the Cayman Islands for reposing this great trust in me. With God's guidance and with the support of you the people I promise never to breech the sacred trust.
While this is a happy and momentous occasion for us in the People's Progressive Movement, our happiness is tempered by the recent loss of a legislator of more than 16 years, a minister of the cabinet, a former speaker of the house and a founding member of the People's Progressive Movement, the Honourable Edna Moyle, OBE, JP.
God bless you all and God bless these beloved Cayman Islands.
Thank you all.
For further information contact: Bina Mani