Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce President Stuart Bostock recently committed his organisation’s cooperation with the government during a legislative luncheon held at the Marriott Beach Resort. Journal journalist Alan Markoff reports.
Bostock acknowledged that the Chamber’s relationship with Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush has not always been amiable.
“Honourable Minister Bush, I know the relationship between yourself and the Chamber in the past had its shares of challenges,” Bostock said during welcoming remarks at the luncheon.
However, I want to assure you and your colleagues in this public setting that this Chamber of Commerce Council and I have no hidden agendas and are committed to building a positive and proactive relationship, built on constructive, open dialogue and hopefully, mutual cooperation.”
Bostock said the Chamber and the elected government shared the common goal of protecting the future of the Cayman Islands.
“It is in our best interest to work in partnership when possible to build this country together and set aside any differences that may have existed in the past,” he said. “The Council and I are committed to this approach in hope of building a better, more prosperous Cayman, for our residents, our businesses and for our children.”
In his subsequent address, Bush jokingly questioned where Bostock got the impression there had ever been any problems with his relationship with the Chamber.
Bush vowed to have a consultative approach with the private sector and invited to the Chamber to submit recommendations on how to alleviate the country’s economic woes.
“Open discussions and ideas for enhancing revenues must continue and I call upon your membership to do your part in this respect, ever mindful of the need to diversify in order to retain or achieve a cutting edge,” he said.
Plans for first 100 days
Bush went on to outline his government’s strategic action plans for their first 100 days in office.
“As expected during this time of global economic downturn, our first 100 days in office sees my government primarily focusing strategic energy on our financial affairs,” he said. “This continues to be the single biggest issue to face us.”
Bush said preliminary un-audited results for the fiscal year that ended 30 June showed an overall public sector deficit of CI$75.9 million and public sector debt of CI$590.4 million.
“My aim is to drastically reduce the deficit within two years and in three, to hopefully erase it, replacing it with enhanced revenue,” he said. “We need to understand that there are no overnight miracles here; turning this economy around is going to take time.”
Although a key to the new government’s plans is increasing revenues, Bush said the government would honour its promise to refrain from introducing any new taxes or fees, or in increasing any existing taxes.
“Our efforts to improve the state of public finances are therefore proceeding along a dual track,” he said. “In order to promote revenue growth in Cayman, we are putting incentives in place to support business expansion. We are also cutting the cost of doing business in the public sector.”
Bush said the government wanted to create an incentive programme for developers that would trim red tape and swiftly evaluate proposed projects.
“Our aim is to have major developers investing here in Cayman, which if successful, should have the collateral value of boosting our economy.”
Bush also spoke about the plan to review the government’s immigration policies.
“We have to change,” he said. “While we have to protect our own people, and we’re putting in measures to do that, we have to get people here who are going to spend money. It’s as simple as that.”
Another effort being undertaken by the government is to consolidate all of central government’s debt.
“In addition to saving interest, this step will help our cash flow in both the medium and long term,” he said, calling on the bankers in the audience to “sharpen their pencils” and give government a better interest rate for debt consolidation.
Bush also spoke about setting “clearly marked milestones” for Cayman’s tourism industry.
“I have underscored the need to get our arrivals up by at least 30,000 visitors next year and 60,000 visitors in 2011, compared to 2008,” he said. “[A] key aspect of our strategy will be to use the national airline to drive tourism development for 2010 and 2011. It is nonsensical to have an airline which not only bleeds money, but fails to serve the tourism industry.”
Bush said the newly-appointed Cayman Airways Board of Directors would work with the airline’s management and the Department of Tourism to review the airline’s routes, schedule and fare structure.
“I really can’t understand why you sometimes have to pay $600 to $800 for a ticket to Miami or to Tampa,” he said.