Premier Addresses Caribbean Council
On Tuesday, 24th March 2015 at the invitation of Lord Foulkes, Premier Alden McLaughlin gave the keynote address at the 9th Annual Caribbean Council Annual Reception which was held at the House of Lords in London. In attendance were many MPs and Peers, members of the diplomatic corps, a wide range of business leaders from the UK and Cayman, and senior officials from the UK Government including the Minister for Foreign Affairs relating to the Overseas Territories, Mr. James Duddridge.
During his speech the Premier highlighted the natural beauty of the Cayman Islands and reaffirmed the robustness of our Financial Services industry. He highlighted that Cayman remains one of the most highly regulated jurisdictions in the world and that the OECD, the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, the Financial Action Task Force, the G20, and the International Monetary Fund all confirm that the Cayman Islands has been tested and that our compliance with anti-money laundering and tax transparency standards are as good or better than most larger countries including the UK and the other G8 nations.
In a spirit of cooperation the Premier noted that Cayman had recently agreed to explore the possibility of implementing a centralized platform to allow, in appropriate circumstances, instant access to beneficial ownership on Cayman Islands legal entities by relevant local tax, regulatory and law enforcement agencies. However he also made it clear that the Cayman Islands has no plans to move to a public registry, which would be detrimental to our economy, and we would not risk the loss of business by adopting a standard that is not required of all other jurisdictions engaged in the provision of financial services.
The Premier concluded by mentioning the much-need projects that are underway or about to start like the airport expansion, an integrated solid waste management facility, and a cruise birthing facility. He then handed off to Ms. Jackie Doak of Dart Enterprises who spoke on why Dart chose the Cayman Islands to headquarter their multinational business and that they continue to be committed to the Cayman Islands with a further investment of over CI$ 400 million planned including another 5-star hotel with branded residences.
The Premierís speech was well received by all those in attendance and Lord Foulkes thanked him for travelling such a long distance to be the keynote speaker at one of the most prestigious and highly attended events in the House of Lordsí calendar.
Below is his speech for the evening:
Premierís keynote speech at the Caribbean Council Reception
6:30 p.m., Tuesday, 24 March, 2015
House of Lords
Minister, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed an honour and pleasure to speak to you this evening.
Lord Foulkes I thank you and the Caribbean Council for inviting me and I bring you and everyone here warm greetings from my Government and the people of the Cayman Islands.
Some of you have had the good fortune to visit my home and know that we comprise three island gems in the northwest Caribbean, south of Cuba and west of Jamaica.
Each of our three Islands offers its own unique character, beauty and charm. We have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world on which you can stroll or lay in a hammock and sip rum punch, the beverage we have on hand today, to your heartís content.
We are home to a majestic underwater environment that is one of the most pristine in the Caribbean with award winning diving that lures underwater enthusiasts from around the world.
With a population comprising more than 135 different nationalities, we are easily the most diverse islands in the Caribbean. This diversity is reflected in many ways, but none more so than in our cuisine. With so many different ethnicities and wonderful restaurants, the Cayman Islands is increasingly called the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean. With a huge range of duty free shops we also have some of the best shopping in the world.
While we are a perfect tropical paradise, we also work hard to ensure that our Islands retain their allure as not only a tourism Mecca, but also a powerhouse in the world of international finance.
We operate a professional, well-regulated, world-class financial services sector that is a leader in providing banking and financial solutions to facilitate legitimate international business Ė much of which is originated in London. Cayman is one of the most sought after jurisdictions in the world when it comes to captive insurance, healthcare captives and catastrophe bonds and we continue to be the premier jurisdiction of choice for fund domiciliation.
Financial services business is a critical element of the Cayman economy, as it is to The City, and as such it is incumbent on our Government to maintain a quality jurisdiction with an outstanding reputation. We take this obligation seriously Ė and so we fully support the global agenda on fighting tax evasion in addition to the work that we continue to do in the battle against money-laundering. Our engagement in the international discussion on tax and transparency goes back many years and has been lauded by the international agencies responsible for these matters.
The OECD, the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, the Financial Action Task Force, the G20, and the International Monetary Fund all confirm that the Cayman Islands has been tested and that our compliance with anti-money laundering and tax transparency standards is as good or better than most larger countries, including those in the G8 and I dare say even our beloved Mother Country.
Last October we took yet another significant measure against global tax evasion by joining more than 50 countries and jurisdictions in signing the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement in Berlin. Our history of cooperation in automatic exchange of information reaches back to 2005 when we began participating in the European Union Savings Directive.
We also have FATCA agreements with the United States and the United Kingdom. Indeed, Cayman has more than 70 exchange-of-information relationships that are in line with the global standard and we have a further 15 in negotiation. So you see the Cayman Islands has proactively done much to ensure transparency and compliance in the realm of the Financial Services Industry; not done by compulsion, back room threats or arm twisting, but based on our commitment to ensure that the Cayman Islands continues to conform to global standards.
Recently there has been discussion within the UK on the establishment of a public register of beneficial ownership of companies. In the spirit of cooperation and at the recommendation of the UK, last year we undertook a comprehensive survey of our business sector and the results of the survey were shared with Treasury and other officials. The survey proved what we already knew. Our current method of collecting beneficial ownership information through corporate service providers and providing the information to law enforcement, tax and regulatory authorities is firmly in line with FATF recommendations as well as the G20ís High-Level Principles on Beneficial Ownership Transparency issued in November 2014. The survey concluded that a central registry of beneficial ownership of companies was not necessary and that any move to a public registry would be detrimental to our economy.
While in a spirit of cooperation we have agreed to explore the possibility of implementing a centralized platform to allow - in appropriate circumstances - instant access to beneficial ownership on Cayman Islands legal entities by relevant local tax, regulatory and law enforcement agencies, Cayman has no plans to move to a public registry.
The Cayman Islands simply cannot risk the loss of business that is inherent in adopting a standard that is not required of all other jurisdictions engaged in the provision of international financial services.
As the UK moves forward with its own public registry plans, it will be useful to observe its impact on The Cityís business, recognizing that this aspect of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act has not yet been tested in the United Kingdom and is legislation that is unique amongst the G20 and OECD.
Iíve touched on our Tourism and Financial Services industries to give you some insight into who we are and what we do. While those industries remain our top economic sectors, we continue to find ways to diversify and grow our economy to ensure it remains robust. We are also working hard to make certain that our infrastructure keeps pace with our development.
That includes several much-needed projects that are under way or about to be started such as an upgraded airport, an integrated solid waste management facility and a cruise berthing facility. The private sector is also doing its part and you will shortly hear from Dart Enterprises as to its plans for Cayman.
These projects are proof, I believe, of the confidence investors have, not only in the Cayman Islands, but also in my Government, which has worked hard to turn around the countryís economy since taking office in May 2013.
In the context of a budget of $658 million, in our first year my Government increased revenues by $31 million and reduced expenditure by $13.3 million such that Governmentís overall surplus was $48.6 million that year. In the current fiscal year the projected operating surplus for Central Government is $128 million, projected to grow to $168.3 million by 2017-18.
Since we took office, unemployment has fallen from 6.3 per cent in 2013 to 4.7 in 2014, cruise visitor arrivals have increased from 345,387 in 2013 to 382,816 at the end of 2014. Visitor air arrivals for the year were 382,816, which translates to 37,429 more passengers than in the same period in 2013.
In fact all key economic indicators point to continued significant growth over the coming years.
We have a good story to tell and I am glad to be here to share it with you.
In closing, for I am sure many of you are ready to sample our famous rum punch, I must tell you how much I appreciate the support the Cayman Islands has received over the years from its friends in the UK. We remain ever grateful. I hope in the few minutes I have spoken that you have been given a glimpse of what we have to offer and that I have indeed whetted your appetite to not only visit us, but consider doing business in the Cayman Islands.