Surviving in this new age

Further to the Cayman Business Outlook’s examination of the new economic, political and financial reality in an age of austerity, the Journal poses the question to prominent business leaders within the community who were in attendance at the conference: How does Cayman survive in this new era of austerity?

Burns Conolly, architect and owner, The Burns Conolly Group

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Given the size of the economy and the legal expertise structured in Cayman I believe that this year we will see a very positive upswing, not only in construction but also business expansion and financial businesses moving here. We now have the right climate with a government that is very pro business and pro growth to get the Island back on track with incentives to business – many people have not understood the importance of this to spearhead the next round of development. As a firm of architects, we are on the leading edge of development, about six to eight months ahead of the construction industry and we are starting to see an upswing in projects. We will start to see things moving in late spring/early summer.

Wil Pineau, CEO the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce

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We need a whole new shift in attitude to become a lot more business friendly, evaluate what the competition is doing to attract business and make ourselves as attractive. We have for many years enjoyed a high level of growth and development and unless we embrace change, develop talent, innovate our economy and welcome people from diverse backgrounds and cultures into our environment we will continue to struggle and lose our attractiveness. We see investors select other jurisdictions over ours because policies, such as immigration, in other countries invite people in. The whole issue is about opening up our borders. 

Paul Byles, Focus consulting

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We are only going to prosper by growing our economy, not just by cutting expenditure. There are too many people out of jobs. We need a more open economy – we need to encourage foreign investment and we cannot be afraid of it because we need it. We need to see some evidence of change. We need to say tat foreign investment is welcome here and it will be facilitated.

Linburgh Martin, MD Close Brothers 

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Our own business in the financial services industry is still doing pretty well and has done so throughout the financial crisis. Our business has around a 40 per cent focus on hedge funds and alternative investments and the outlook for hedge funds remains really bright. This is because State pensions are finding deficiencies in their funding and they are realizing that they can recover better by investing in products that provide absolute returns, and this is what hedge funds strive to do. 

With regard to the broader economy, tourism really needs to innovate and look at other markets and not just to the US, including Asia. It needs to look at charter flights to and from more buoyant markets and to ease visa restrictions for Chinese. We have a client who will hopefully be having the biggest launch this year in Hong Kong.

Fraser Lindsay, partner PwC

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Over the years Cayman has redeveloped itself into many forms and we now have to look for other areas, for example developing sports tourism and medical tourism. Creating this third pillar of the economy will make a huge difference to ensure that we are ahead of the curve with regard to the G20 countries. I believe that the partnership between Cayman Finance and the government means Cayman has got its act together in this regard.

General development needs to be kick-started with whatever incentives are required, such as a reduction in stamp and import duties. For the short term a reduction in import duty would mean a much higher volume of goods imported and therefore an increase in revenue for the government.

Jim Lammers, MD Dart Realty

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In the long term we remain very bullish on the Cayman Islands. There is no question that the events of the last couple of years world wide have been transforming in significant and profound ways. There is now a worldwide challenge to figure out the proper size and role of government and the challenges of determining what services should be provided and how best they should be funded in sustainable ways. This has been brought into sharper focus than has been the case for many years and requires fresh thinking not just by government but by all citizens of the Cayman Islands. There are no easy answers. 

Scott Elphinstone, partner Five Continents

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Increasing flexibility is key. Immigration policies need to be made flexible as we are only going to survive by increasing business and increasing the numbers of people here. It’s really simple – we need flexibility for business.

Conor Jennings, MD, Caledonian Insurance Services 

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We need to throw out old procedures and look at new ways of doing things, for example we need to look to new geographic locations in which to do business, such as South America, Central America and Asia as opposed to the traditional markets of the United States and the UK. We may want to look at encouraging language skills in schools to encourage greater language skills among youngsters.

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