October 28, 2020

Cayman Islands: Discussions begin at JMC

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img_0911_1LONDON, England –Cayman Islands Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin and two Cayman ministers kicked off the Joint Ministerial Council () meeting Tuesday discussing an array of topics including and pensions for British citizens living overseas.
Prior to the convening of the JMC, Finance and Economic Development Minister Hon. Marco Archer and Mr. McLaughlin, along with Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson, began the day discussing with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office the need to streamline the processes of project assessment and delivery. The FCO agreed to provide assistance in simplifying the process whilst maintaining all necessary checks and balances. Also discussed was the issue of voluntary early re-payment of debt and the impact on the debt servicing ratio specified under the Public Management and Finance Law.
It has been the remit of the Progressives-led Government to annually produce budgets with surpluses while paying down Cayman’s debt. Over the past three years Government has reduced debt by $71M, to $503M as at the end of the last fiscal year.
Financial Services, Commerce and Environment Minister Hon. Wayne Panton visited the Parliament to participate in a morning briefing with the Environmental Audit Committee to discuss environmental matimage2ters including conservation efforts. The Cayman Islands Government passed the National Conservation Law in 2014 to protect and conserve endangered, threatened and endemic plants and their habitats as well as the variety of wildlife in the Cayman Islands.
The UK’s “blue belt” initiative promotes Marine Conservation Zones in the United Kingdom and Overseas Territories. The Cayman Islands has been ahead of the curve, already designating marine conservation zones.
Director of . Peter Hayes opened the plenary of the JMC where the topics of pensions and health were discussed by those attending the meetings.
Currently retired British citizens who paid into the UK pensions system but who now live in Overseas Territories do not receive increases in their pension pay to allow for inflation. Those who live in either Bermuda or Gibraltar do receive the increases. OT leaders at JMC are requesting that retired British citizens that live in their territories be treated just like those pensioners who live in the United Kingdom or Crown Dependencies.
“It comes down to the question of what constitutes a British citizen, which we all are,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
This is a major issue for some OTs because British pensioners who reside in Overseas Territories often find themselves seeking welfare assistance from the territories in which they reside.
Her Majesty’s Government has continually said that it cannot afford to pay the overseas pensioners living in OTs the increases as it may make them liable to pay similar increases to citizens living in Commonwealth Countries.
catherine-west-lord-michael-naseby“For that theory to have any relevant basis would mean the Overseas Territories are not British territories,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We are not residing in some foreign land. The British Overseas Territories have been owned by Britain for hundreds of years.”
Mr. Hayes suggested that UK constitutional and pension lawyers meet in an attempt to find a solution to hopefully satisfy the OTs if one could not be found. The leaders of the OTs also agreed to formally write and put their positions forward again for consideration. Mr. Roger Edwards, MLA for the Falkland Islands, led this discussion for the OTs with various OT Ministers joining in. Mr Richard Harrington, Undersecretary of state for Pensions led the discussion for the UK Government.
Discussions on Health were led by Rd. the Hon Rufus Ewing, Premier of TCI, and Lord Prior of Brampton who is the Undersecretary of State for Health. Issues discussed included the number of territory patients that can receive treatment in the UK under the NHS, telemedicine, health tourism and other matters to do with health.
Following the JMC meeting Messrs. McLaughlin, Archer and Panton met with MP Graham Brady at Parliament along with other Members of Parliament and Peers, including Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Trade, Mark Garnier, Shadow Minister to the OTs Catherine West and long-time friend to the Cayman Islands Lord Michael Naseby, to discuss the resurrection of the Cayman Islands All Party Parliamentary Group.
premier-graham-brady“The Cayman Islands Government is looking to re-establish a Cayman Islands All Party Parliamentary Group at Westminster to provide Parliamentarians with a direct link to the people of the Cayman Islands,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Mr. McLaughlin gave the group a quick history of the Cayman Islands and reaffirmed Cayman’s stable, diversified and growing economy.
“Cayman has been a leader in the development of well-regulated and transparent financial services and will continue to champion good governance and accountability,” he said. “We are the international financial centre for high quality well managed and regulated financial institutions.
“As former Prime Minister Cameron has pointed out Overseas Territories like the Cayman Islands should no longer be referred to as tax havens. We are at the forefront of improving global standards in the fight against corruption and transparency,” he said.
He told the group that a key focus of his administration has been re-engagement with the UK Government.
“There was a bad patch with relations under the previous administration,” he said. “As part of improving our engagement with the UK we are very keen to re-establish an APPG. Now that the Brexit decision is done we are hoping that MPs are now more able to work with us in this effort.”
Members of the last Cayman Islands APPG visited Cayman in 2012 to attend meetings and briefings with MLAs, senior government officers and private sector representatives to discuss issues, policies, problems and development in the Cayman Islands.
JMC meetings resumed Wednesday morning and were chaired by Baroness Anelay.
The JMC meets once a year to provide a forum for the exchange of views on political and constitutional issues between the governments of the Territories and the UK Government.

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