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Cabinet Press Briefing Statements

Leader of Government Business and Minister of Finance, Tourism & Development the Hon. McKeeva Bush

Statements from the Hon. McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP

Leader of Government Business and Minister of Finance, Tourism & Development

Cabinet Press Briefing

10 a.m. Wednesday, 4 November 2009, GIS Conference Room

Opening

To open today's press briefing, I'd like to address the rumour that the Hon. Rolston Anglin is no longer the Minister of Education, Training and Employment.

The rumour is unfounded. There has not been, and nor will there be, a Cabinet reshuffle.

In terms of elected Cabinet officials, the significant change in responsibilities will be contained in the shift from the Leader of Government Business post, to the position of Premier. Of course, this will happen during Friday's Commencement Day ceremony.

Furthermore, Commencement Day will usher in changes to my ministerial position, as I will be given full responsibility for all of Government's financial matters. As the public has already been told, this means the Financial Secretary, the Hon. Kenneth Jefferson, will become an adviser to my ministry.

Commencement Ceremony

With regards to the Commencement Ceremony on Friday, I emphasise that it is a public function and all are welcome to attend this historic event.

Space is limited, but we are trying to make additional seating available. The public is asked to be seated by 10:15 a.m., and free refreshments will be served at the ceremony's conclusion.

Immediately following the ceremony visiting heads-of-state; past and present Members of the Legislative Assembly; constitutional framers; and government, business, community and church leaders will attend an invitation-only luncheon at The Ritz Carlton.

The event that follows later on Friday evening is a private UDP fundraising event. It is not a government function; all arrangements and invitations have been handled exclusively by the party.

Revenue Study

I'll now move on to the revenue study that was recommended by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office earlier this year.

The Cayman Islands Government has agreed with the FCO to appoint an independent commission that will conduct a professional assessment of the options for, and potential impact of, new revenue sources.

These may include direct taxation and other proposals, which would significantly diversify government's revenue base.

Mr. James C. Miller III has been appointed as commission chairman. He'll appoint a small team of experts, including Mr. David Shaw and Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson, to assist with the study.

Résumés for Messers Miller and Shaw will be available at the end of the press briefing for your information.

The commission's report is to be submitted no later than 31 December 2009. The terms of reference include:

  • conducting a comprehensive review of all present revenue-generation mechanisms, and indicating how these have been affected by competition; the global recession; and internal actions. They are also to make recommendations for the improvement and expansion, and more efficient operation, of these mechanisms;

  • examining estimated government revenue sources and expenditures for the 2009-10 budget year, and recommending measures to balance current and/or estimated revenues against current and/or estimated expenditure;

  • examining government's current short- and long-term debt obligations; and recommending methods of alternative financing for short- and long-term debt, in order to identify possible savings;

  • reviewing government's policies in order to recommend more cost-effective approaches to spending, as well as ways to o reduce spending; and

  • recommending new revenue sources, with particular regard to Cayman's location, size, population base, and cultural background, and determining whether these potential sources would provide a more sustainable revenue base. In making this assessment, the commission should consider the impact of any form of direct taxation on overall economic activity and examine, in particular, the impact on the attractiveness of the Cayman Islands as a financial centre.

The commission's recommendations and deliberations should provide government with a five-year or longer projection of revenue against expenditure, including a discussion of the optimal size of government in relation to its GDP.

Cruise-Berthing Facility Contract Awarded

In closing, I'll update the country on the cruise-berthing facility contract.

Yesterday, Cabinet approved the selection of DECCO Ltd. as the potential development partner to finance, design and build the cruise-berthing facility and cargo enhancement project.

Cabinet has also approved that the Port Authority develop a non-binding memorandum of understanding with DECCO Ltd. and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, (FCCA). This document will be presented to Cabinet for further consideration.

The selection subcommittee has been instructed to meet with the Auditor General to notify him on the processes and steps to be taken.

Government Marketing Events

You are all aware of Government's commitment to stimulate economic growth in the Cayman Islands and have seen our efforts to swiftly put plans into effect to respond to the changing global and domestic economic environment.

You are also familiar with the proactive steps taken by Government to ensure our own financial position is stable and secure. That is a necessary foundation on which all else can be built.

We believe these are necessary steps to show that the Cayman Islands is not only open for business but is stronger than ever!

I want to update you today about an initiative to expand our financial services sector to include the investment management community; something I have spoken about in the past.

The first steps of making that a reality are being taken next week when the Government will participate in a series of networking events targeted primarily at investment management professionals, starting in London and including New York, Hong Kong and Singapore over the course of November.

We will be telling these audiences about some new initiatives that will help make the Cayman Islands even more attractive to international business, such as making the immigration process quicker and easier for financial services firms and offering a dedicated service to help investors who choose to locate their businesses in the Cayman Islands with the practicalities of finding office space, relocating their families and securing staff.

We will be using these events as key opportunities to not only promote our messages but also listen to what these influential professionals have to say in an effort to guide the Cayman Islands marketing strategy in this area.

We hope to achieve the following with this initiative:

  • Uphold the Cayman Islands' position as an international business centre and increase awareness of our jurisdiction generally, including as a tourist destination;

  • Reinforce in target audiences the high standards of regulation of the Cayman Islands financial services industry, and;

  • Showcase the excellent professional infrastructure that is available in the Cayman Islands for international businesses.

We are tapping into the networks and expertise of domestic stakeholders to fully leverage this opportunity, including private sector firms with a presence in these markets and government entities with a global presence, all with a common goal of putting our best foot forward and maximizing the potential to promote the Cayman Islands.

We will be providing updates on this initiative both as they happen and after their conclusion, when the feedback and outcomes will be translated into refining and defining initiatives to realise this important economic goal.

We cannot stand still while our local economy faces challenges. This is the reason we have tried to move quickly and decisively on a number of initiatives.

The Government is convinced that it must move aggressively with policy changes to enable the economy to not only recover but to show sustainable growth over the short to medium term.

Improving inward investment is one of our policy objectives and this is the rationale behind this important initiative.

Immigration

Pleased to note that we are already making progress in addressing several very important immigration issues:

(i) Policy Directives

It is no secret that financial services industry companies have left Cayman for other jurisdictions, or are seriously considering it, and one of their motivations for doing so is the burdensome nature of the work permit process and the lack of certainty that exists with respect to key employee designation. I should acknowledge the steps taken by the Chief Immigration Officer and the Department of Immigration to make improvements to the administrative procedures associated with the processing of work permit applications. But it clear we still need to do better. I therefore tasked the already appointed Immigration Review Team to come up with proposals quickly that will address these issues.

These proposals came before Cabinet this week and agreement was given for Directions to be issued by the Governor-in-Cabinet to the Chief Immigration Officer, the Work Permit Board and the Business Staffing Plan Board. These Directives will become a public document in due course but I can tell you briefly about them:

  • first, the Chairman of the Business Staffing Plan Board will be required to create a committee comprising members with expertise in the financial services sector. This committee, which will be assisted by three Work Permit Administrators from the Immigration Department, will process all applications for work permits from financial services sector companies. They will also make recommendations to the Business Staffing Plan Board on key employee designation applications. The dedicated focus on financial services industry applications by this committee will greatly improve the turnaround time for work permit applications and the fact that local industry experts are included in the committee will ensure that key employee applications are properly understood.

  • second, where an application for key employee designation is made in respect of senior professionals there will be a presumption that the applicant meets the key employee requirements contained in the Immigration Law unless this can be rebutted, or where in the opinion of the Business Staffing Plan Board there is a Caymanian who has the qualifications, experience, and desire to fill the position.

  • third, it will become the norm to issue three-year work permits for all persons employed in particular financial services occupations; and 3-5 year work permits for domestic helpers, teachers, nurses, ministers of religion and workers listed in a Business Staffing Plan Certificate.

  • fourth, the Immigration Department will be required to fast-track the scheduling of applications for the financial services industry.

I should emphasise that these benefits will only be available to companies that have a demonstrated high standard of business ethics and commitment to providing opportunities to Caymanians either through employment, education or involvement in community service programmes. Companies will be required to undergo an accreditation process through which these factors will be assessed. Only those companies which meet a pre-set threshold will be accredited and thereby receive the benefits I just outlined.

(ii) Enforcement Successes

I am pleased to note that the Immigration Department has held by its commitment to clamp down on work permit and other immigration offences. In the past month the Department's Enforcement Unit has arrested 22 persons mainly for overstaying. In one case the person had been living illegally in the Islands for four years. Investigations are also continuing into several companies where there is evidence that employees have been working outside the terms and conditions of their work permit or working after a work permit has expired.

(iii) Review of Work Permit Requirements

I announced during my address at the State Opening of the Legislative Assembly recently that a review is to take place in respect of work permit requirements for persons coming here to work for very short periods. I am pleased to say that a committee of eleven members of the community representing the tourism and hospitality industries, construction industry, legal fraternity, Chamber of Commerce and well-known leading business figures are holding their first meeting today under the Chairmanship of Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith. The work of the committee is to create clarity in the Law with respect to who is exempted from the requirement to have a work permit when they are seeking entry for short visits. In addition to creating clarity and certainty, the introduction of this important initiative, which is part of our efforts to encourage business visitors, will also decrease waiting times for arriving and departing passengers.

(iv) Fingerprinting

The Department of Immigration is presently actively researching options with respect to fingerprinting equipment for the taking and storing of fingerprints of all foreign workers. Although there is strong competition for funding, this is an important issue and I hope to receive proposals soon.

(v) Advanced Passenger Information System

The Immigration Department is now actively pursuing the logistics involved in implementing an Advanced Passenger Information System. This is a very important tool in border security as it means that airline operators will be required to provide flight manifests to Immigration authorities before the flight leaves its departure point and we can then determine whether there are any passengers who may pose a threat to our security.

Ministry of Health Tobacco Law Update

As you all know, the Tobacco Law was passed last October and a commencement order has been given for sections 10 (1) to (4) and 22 (4). These provisions came into effect in May this year.

Accordingly, it is already an offence to sell any tobacco products to anyone under 18 years of age; give any tobacco products to anyone under 18 years of age; get anyone under 18 years of age to purchase any tobacco product on behalf of someone else, and get anyone under 18 years of age to sell any tobacco product.

Although the remainder of the Tobacco Law is equally important, these are key provisions and already act to protect our young people.

It is the commencement date for the remainder of the provision of the Tobacco Law 2008 that has been pushed back to 31 December 2009.

These remaining sections deal with smoking in public places, a vendor register, and guidelines on the display and packaging of tobacco products - to name a few of the main provisions.

Cabinet approved this revised commencement date last week to allow for the completion of the regulations that will guide the implementation of the Law.

While regrettable, this delay will allow us to get it right and does have the added benefit that residents and businesses now have ample time to get to know the provisions of the Law before it comes into effect.

We hope to see the regulations finalised and approved within a few weeks, after which public health officials will start a public education campaign that will include town hall-style stakeholder meetings.

We want to assure business owners that they will have access to all the necessary information, so they can be compliant with the Law. We hope to see the start of the public education campaign in late November and early December.

In the end it is about following the spirit and intent of the Tobacco Law which is to respect others' health and safety. And as Minister Scotland has said last week, many business owners already comply with these provisions.

Nevertheless, we encourage all businesses to familiarize themselves with the details of the law, and we look forward to working with them to ensure the smooth implementation of the law in the New Year.

I am confident that this legislation will be a valuable tool in helping people to embrace a healthier lifestyle and I am certain that we will see improved health and a long-term reduction in health care costs, as a result of this legislation.

Statement from the Ministry of Community, Affairs and Housing

The Ministry of Community Affairs and Housing is focused on formulating and implementing key strategies to strengthen communities.

As part of the preparation for the strategies' implementation, the Ministry has invited an overseas community development specialist, Dr. Peta-Anne Baker, to visit Cayman to conduct training to sharpen the Ministry's community outreach machinery.

Dr. Peta-Anne Baker, who is based in Jamaica, has researched, trained and written on social policy and planning; gender analysis; community organising and development, as well as child development and advocacy.

Dr. Peta-Anne Baker will visit the Cayman Islands from 15-22 November. While here, she will meet with the relevant Ministry and Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) staff to determine training needs.

The appropriate training programmes will then be designed and implemented.

Preliminary goals are to renew and refocus agency staff and to enhance the delivery of services at the community level, in particular the use of participatory techniques for working with communities.

Turning to seamen's compensation, the Government wishes to restate our commitment to ensuring that all our older residents are well taken care of in their golden years.

This sense of responsibility extends to our retired seafarers who have made tremendous sacrifices at sea to support families back home in these Islands.

The longstanding policy of the government is that eligible retired Caymanian Seafarers or their surviving spouses receive an ex-gratia benefit.

One eligibility requirement is that they must be living in the Cayman Islands in order to receive benefits. This policy has allowed for better accountability, more effective management of the funds and prevention of abuse. It also allows us to help our elders living in Cayman who have little to no income and who without this grant, would suffer hardship.

I would like to make clear that seafarers or their spouses, who leave these Islands for medical treatment or vacation overseas, will continue to receive their full benefits.

This government honours all our citizens, especially those who have sacrificed for this country.

For further information contact: Susan Watler