On short-time and without a majority, the Cayman Islands’ new Legislative Assembly may see a number of proposals fall by the wayside in the coming months.
The upheaval within the Cayman Islands government in December that resulted in former Premier McKeeva Bush’s ouster, has placed in doubt a number of bills set to come before the House prior to the assembly’s dissolution in late March.
The Journal takes a look at some of the priority items for which government has little time left on its calendar.
The revamped Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly is expected to meet this month to vote on at least one more additional government revenue bill, according to new Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.
However, no new taxation will be proposed. “It’s anticipated in January we’ll have to bring that to the House so that our budget will be on target,” Ms O’Connor-Connolly says.
“There will be no new surprises coming forth. We just want to ensure that we keep our commitment for the three-year plan to the [United Kingdom’s] Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”
Deputy Premier Rolston Anglin hints that government’s legislative priorities may not be as ambitious as they once had been.
“We will see Cayman through 100 days or so that this Legislative Assembly lives,” Mr. Anglin says.
Among the pending legislative measures is a draft bill seeking wholesale reform of the National Pensions Law. Proposed legislation would radically change the regulatory structure of private sector pension plans, and raise the minimum age at which pension entitlements can be collected to 65 years.
It also seeks to eliminate mandatory employer contributions to the various private sector retirement funds on behalf of expatriate employees.
The National Pensions Bill 2012 is the first major revision to the National Pensions Law, which was created in 1998. Employment Minister Rolston Anglin says the system is simply not working and needs to be overhauled. Anglin hoped at one stage to take the bill before the House prior to the end of this government’s term.
“If after a career of working hard, one isn’t able to retire with dignity and be able to maintain one’s self, then oftentimes we may ask, ‘Was it all for naught?’” he says.
As an example of dysfunction, Anglin says there is a case backlog of “600-plus” companies not in compliance with the National Pensions Law.
A second major reform proposal was examined in a report by the Term Limit Review Committee on the Cayman Islands’ immigration system.
Although legislation never reached the draft bill stage, the plan to eliminate Cayman’s current seven-year term-limit for foreign workers and allow everyone who stays in Cayman for between seven and eight consecutive years to apply for permanent residence was presented to Cabinet.
Recommendations from the initial Term Limit Review Committee report included: Extending the current seven-year term limit on foreign workers’ residence to 10 years, allowing any workers who make it past seven years of continuous residence to apply for permanent residence and generally allowing the Cayman Islands government to socially engineer plans aimed at developing the workforce and controlling the overall population.
What was not put forward by the review committee was the recommendation that the term limit policy should be eliminated altogether.
In fact, the review committee found that the so-called rollover policy was largely serving its initial purpose; restricting the number of people that become eligible to remain long term in the Cayman Islands.
“Considering there have been an average of 22,303 foreign workers in the Islands each year since the introduction of the term limit policy in 2004, there have only been 1,604 grants of permanent residence since 2006,” the committee states in its report to government.
New rules for Cayman Islands attorneys that could lead to profound changes in the legal profession and other businesses that use lawyers have been put out for public discussion.
The proposed Code of Professional Conduct for attorneys is part of a raft of legislative changes released on 30 November, including a revised Legal Practitioners Bill and a set of regulations known as the Qualified Firm Overseas Practice Regulations, 2012.
The regulations seek to implement a registration fee for law firms that use non-Caymanian attorneys who perform some work for their Cayman Islands firms while residing overseas. Locally operating law firms that aren’t registered under the regulations would essentially not be allowed to operate satellite offices hiring non-Caymanian attorneys.
“Some Caymanian attorneys have … expressed concerns about the ability of some law firms to operate satellite offices abroad,” then-Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush said in a written statement released in December. “[They] are worried that one day, Cayman legal services could potentially be solely provided from other countries.” According to the regulations: “A firm which desires to be recognised as a qualified firm shall apply in writing to the [Cayman Islands Bar] Council for such recognition.”
The Cayman Islands Bar Council is an appointed body formed under the Legal Practitioners Bill, 2012, consisting of the chief justice [or a designate], the attorney general [or a designate], the director of public prosecutions [or a designate], another person appointed by the chief justice, another person appointed by the attorney general, a person appointed by the Cabinet and the director of the Truman Bodden Law School [or a designate].
A number of conditions in considering whether a law firm might become a “qualified overseas” practitioner are listed in the regulations. Some of the more than 40 qualifiers include: the number of Caymanian partners and associates in the firm; whether the firm provides articles for Caymanian law school graduates; whether the firm has in-house training available; and whether the firm has Caymanian partners who have advanced as the result of post-qualification training. Most international law firms have teams practising Cayman law from overseas offices, for example, by providing for the use of Cayman vehicles such as funds or companies by foreign clients. Often this work will generate business that is going to be serviced from Cayman, in addition to the establishment work that is done in Cayman. Cayman Islands companies are, for example, popular vehicles for listings on the stock exchanges in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
A draft bill that would require any public or private sector worker or agency whose job involves controlling personal data to be listed on a government-maintained register has been put out for review during the next two months.
The Data Protection Bill, 2011, is similar to legislation approved by the European Union and the United Kingdom in the 1990s, which seeks to regulate the processing of personal data to ensure those records are maintained fairly, accurately and kept from those with no right to see them. The proposal, which would introduce data protection legislation in the Cayman Islands for the first time, also has major implications for the territory’s Freedom of Information Law and how journalists, writers and artists can make use of personal information.
“Data protection is aimed principally at giving effect to the rights to privacy in relation to data while ensuring that certain exceptions are allowed,” according to a memorandum attached to the draft bill. Unlike the Freedom of Information Law, the Data Protection Bill applies to everyone in the Cayman Islands, public and private sector alike. It also applies to certain entities outside the Cayman Islands that have certain data processing functions within the jurisdiction.
Information and Communications Technology Authority Chairman David Archbold directed the efforts of a public-private sector working group that reviewed that draft Data Protection Bill during the last two years. Archbold says that many businesses and organisations will already comply with data-handling requirements set forth in the draft bill, but that a “minimum standard” for protection of personal data was needed. “Data protection affects everyone and the working group seeks to present a comprehensive bill to Cabinet that suits the needs of the Cayman Islands while meeting international standards,” Archbold says. “We are very interested in hearing from individuals and specific business sectors that expect any additional areas will be particularly challenging.”
One key agenda item of the United Democratic Party government that will apparently be carried forward by the new five-member “minority government” is the ForCayman Investment Alliance proposal.
The massive land-swap deal includes controversial plans to relocate a section of West Bay Road in the Seven Mile Beach area and build a new landfill facility in Midland Acres, in the district of Bodden Town. Health Minister Mark Scotland, who represents Bodden Town in the assembly, said it was the new government’s intention to push ahead with the ForCayman plans, even if they didn’t finish it off.
“In terms of the timing of that arrangement, some of those things may not come into being prior to the dissolution of the House in March anyway,” Scotland says. “But as far as from a government perspective, I would expect that we are going to be continuing on with negotiations as a government … as we continue to develop that agreement, the ForCayman alliance, because we still consider it to be a very beneficial arrangement for the country.”
Minister Anglin says he believes any government taking power after the May 2013 election would likely take the same stance.
“I don’t think any candidate in the upcoming election is going to be anti-development or anti-growth in the economy,” he says. “The key is that the system of procurement we use is one that all parties will agree to.”