Established in March of this year, the National Investment Council is a body of private sector individuals who are challenged with guiding the government’s Department of Investment and Commerce (formerly known as the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau) so that processes are streamlined to permit easier inward investment into the Cayman Islands while simultaneously driving local business to achieve its full potential. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull sits down with the Council’s Chairman, local businessman William Peguero, to find out more about the mechanics of the Council and reports.
Please tell me who makes up the Board of the National Investment Council and the supporting Investment Advisory Committee?
I am the Chairman of the National Investment Council, and I sit alongside Dragon Bay Developer Michael Ryan, Ogier Managing Partner James Bergstrom, incoming Chamber President Jim O’Neill, Island Air owner Marcus Cumber and Architect Burns Connolly. We represent a very good cross-section of industries in Cayman. The Investment Advisory Committee has also been formed to provide the technical expertise to facilitate investment and improve the Cayman business climate. The IAC consists of senior civil servants from immigration, planning, environment, employment relations, customs, tourism, financial services and agriculture. The NIC is uniquely positioned to bring together input and recommendations from a variety of key organisations, boards and committees to provide a holistic blueprint for economic recovery and growth. The Investment Advisory Committee is a key component of this process. There must be a strong link between the macro economic policies that are being developed and policies and procedures that are implemented by the key agencies represented on the IAC.
What are the main aims of the NIC?
This is a project geared to jump starting the economy. We aim to turn the tide of bad news that has been emanating out of the Cayman Islands in recent times and we will do this by guiding and advising the DCI in areas which we perceive may need to be focused upon to ensure that inward investors receive as smooth a path as possible to invest in the Cayman Islands. We also provide guidance directly to Cabinet in matters of investment. The NIC provides guidance to the DCI, while broader investment policy and procedures will be communicated through the IAC to the relevant departments. It is our aim to promote sustainable investment via public/private sector partnerships.
How will this be achieved?
We intend to be the first point of contact for any prospective investor into Cayman, providing them with a seamless ‘concierge’ service from initial enquiry all the way through to seeing their investment take off. Investors should never be left alone to flounder, wondering about the next step in the investment process.
We intend to meet with the members of the Investment Association Committee on a regular basis, strategising and discussing ways in which departments can co-operate better together to streamline processes so investors receive a very clear list of procedures for investing in Cayman up front. Beforehand investors may have believed that they had ticked all the boxes before being able to make an investment, only to find that they were actually only halfway through the process.
We are currently about half way through out three month plan [at the time of writing] of action for immediate action and we have also set ourselves a nine month plan for more medium term goals.
Can you give examples of how the process maybe streamlined?
The Trade and Business Licencing system now falls under the DCI. We have already had examples of clients happy with a much speedier turnaround of applications, in some cases new applications being approved in just a matter of a couple of weeks.
Have particular government departments been receptive to the new strategy?
I think everyone realises that streamlining investment procedures is a matter of urgency, given the state of the economy. No one in government lives in a cocoon. Everyone is more receptive to change now that the effects of the economic downturn have become personal.
What is the next step in the process?
We are currently working on our statement of purpose, which should be ready very shortly, but it should be noted that this will be a living document and it won’t be cast in stone. It needs to proactive and even reactive, where necessary. The statement of purpose has to meet the needs of all industries in Cayman.
We are also preparing a special forum to allow CEOs, chairmen, directors and groups share their thoughts on how best to streamline business and investment.
What messages in particular do you want to share with regard to the NCI?
I want to inform the public that we are a transparent and open Council and that accountability when decisions have been made to change procedures is crucial to the system. For example, if we meet with the IAC and identify where we believe change is required and a specific timeframe for change has been agreed upon by all, then we expect that change to be made.
Ours is an economy driven by service. At present we are losing around 500 work permits a month and the total loss is around 7000 work permits to date. This means we have to turn the tide, get our economy back on track and welcome those to the island who want to invest. And there is certainly no shortage of those who do want to invest. Government is currently overseeing around $500 million worth of investment. We just want to see these numbers increase.