Cayman Business Outlook 2010 set to tackle difficult issues

Prospering in a Grave New World is the rather foreboding title of this year’s Cayman Business Outlook, to be held on 21 January at The Ritz-Carlton. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull looks at what is in store for event-goers.

The annual Cayman Business Outlook 2010 is set to bring fresh perspective from some of the top economists and business strategists of our time, drilling down what the effects of the current and prospective future economic climates will be on this jurisdiction. Topics such as employment, prosperity, politics and crime are all hot topics of the day and these will be discussed in detail as they relate to these Islands.
As is customary, the conference will open with a presentation by Cayman’s Premier McKeeva Bush, who last year, as Leader of the Opposition, entered into a head-to-head spirited debate with the then Leader of Government Business (now Opposition leader) Kurt Tibbetts.
International speakers come loaded with business acumen, intelligent foresight and a wealth of knowledge and include Margaret Neale, a professor at Stanford Graduate Business School, whose video study guides detail the art of negotiation within the business context.
Ann Lee is an adjunct professor at New York University, a former visiting professor at Peking University, an investment banker and a fixed-income trader who will no doubt prove to be an exciting speaker at this year’s Cayman Business Outlook.
She has written many articles for the US press including ‘The banking system is still broken’ published in the Wall Street Journal in October. She was interviewed on Fox Business News for her thoughts on the global economic crisis and the state of the US banking system in general and said that she thought certain US banks that had received a bail out by the US government last year ought to be nationalised in order for tax payers to reap the benefits of any profits, rather than the bankers that led their banks into the mess in the first place.
Lee believes that banks ought to be working for the public good, as they had been bailed out by the public via higher taxes. In the interview she said she believes the system is unsustainable because the banks received injections of cash to allow them the liquidity to provide small business owners with funding. This was not happening, according to Lee, and the notion of a bank being too big to fail was simply encouraging bad behaviour.
Lee said the Glass-Steagall Act first introduced in the 1930s to prevent rampant speculation without due regard for the investor ought to be reinstated in order to provide a more secure infrastructure for investors. 
Simon Johnson teaches global economics and management at MIT’s Sloane School of Management and a senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics. An expert on financial crises—their prevention, mitigation and recovery, Johnson has over the past 20 years worked on crisis prevention, mitigation and recovery, as well as economic growth issues in advanced economies, emerging markets, and developing countries. He is a former International Monetary Fund Chief economist and co-founder of the blog, which analyses the global economic crisis and will be another dynamic speaker, whose views on the US financial system are equally as controversial as those of Ann Lee’s.
Johnson’s recent interview on the Bill Moyers Journal for PBS was a damning indictment of the US financial system’s infiltration by big banks, which now appear to rule the roost in the States with little or no comeback available for the general public.
Bill Moyers referred to a particular entry in Johnson’s blog titled ‘Geitner [US Treasury Secretary] vs. the American oligarchs’ in which Johnson ponders whether Geitner can truly separate himself from those who created the financial crisis in the first place.
In the interview Johnson spoke of a bad feeling in his stomach, which made him liken the state of the financial system in the US to that of emerging countries such as Russia, Thailand and Korea whereby a great deal of wealth, power and influence was held by too few a people (i.e. the top bankers in the States).
Johnson, like Lee, referred to the massive bonuses the bankers continued to arrogantly pay themselves in 2008 despite the hardship they had caused the American taxpayer and the lack of control the US government appeared to have on them. He referred to the “web of interest,” which comprised President Obama’s advisors said the top echelons of the US treasury were staffed by ex big bankers who all still had priorities within the private sector.   
Conference goers will also get the chance to again enjoy a spirited debate discussing specific issues that relate to Cayman including how Cayman can prosper in the years ahead.

Don’t miss Cayman Business Outlook 2010 at The Ritz-Carlton on 21 January.


Simon Johnson and Ann Lee