September 20, 2020

Cayman Islands Premier delivers 4 Year Report to legislative Assembly

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The recovery and the promise of the future
By Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin, MBE, JP, MLA
Monday, 27 March, 2017

Good morning and thank you Madam Speaker.

I am proud to deliver this report titled “Delivering on our Promises”.

There is a saying that promises are just words until they are fulfilled.

When we took office, this Government was determined that the promises made in our Manifesto would be fulfilled. We understood that the Caymanian people had, in the majority, put their faith in us as Government. They expected that we would not only act with honesty and transparency, but also deliver on what we said we would do.

And whilst I am proud to deliver this report, I am even more proud, Madam Speaker, of this Government for the many accomplishments achieved during this term. We have kept faith with the Caymanian people and kept the promises made in 2013. One merely need review our 2013 Manifesto to get an appreciation as to how much was achieved. And indeed, much has been achieved.
Madam Speaker, before we took office, our Islands were not in a good place. The economy was stagnant and as reported in a Chamber of Commerce survey that year, business confidence was low. Private sector investment was at a standstill. Small businesses were hurting and several were closing. Fewer cruise ships were coming here and taxi and tour operators were also hurting. And unemployment of Caymanians was at a high of 10.5%; about 2,000 people. Because of a stagnant economy and unusually high unemployment there were Caymanians in financial difficulty – some defaulting on mortgages. We understood, as our 2013 Manifesto noted in the section titled Getting Back on Course, that “With a strong economy people have jobs and opportunities so that they can earn money, live happy and productive lives, and take care of their families.”

Madam Speaker we also understood that to improve the lot of Caymanians we had to focus and to succeed in key areas:
• restore Government finances – growing revenues and managing expenses;
• return the confidence of the business sector, and of the UK, in Government;
• create an environment for businesses to grow and create jobs for Caymanians;
• put in place a platform for social change and education that could help better the lives of Caymanians;
• and to focus on infrastructure to better serve the public and support business growth as well as create employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for Caymanians.

I am sure that as you review this report you may be tempted to agree that this Government, in a short four years, has shown that with a vision and a plan, coupled with teamwork, we are indeed a Government that has gotten things done.

Since 2013, by working with business, the economy has grown about 2.5% annually. Unemployment amongst Caymanians has been reduced from 10.5% in 2012 to 5.6% in 2016. Government finances have been restored and we are in full compliance with all the financial targets of the Public Management and Finance Law.

Madam Speaker we have grown Government surpluses over four years to a total of $414 million.
That’s quite an accomplishment considering all the revenue Government has given up by reducing duties on consumable goods as well as diesel for electricity generation, reducing the cost of living, giving civil servants an increase in pay and standardizing pay throughout the public services sector.
Madam Speaker General Reserves have increased by $53M to a total of $97M as at February 2017 – leaving us better prepared in the event of a global recession or national disaster. We are reducing the national debt in a planned manner – repaying $123M by the end of this financial year. This is saving the country millions of dollars in interest payments annually – savings that can be used back into the economy to benefit Caymanians. And we are in a good position, barring any economic or natural disaster, to repay the US$312M Bullet Bond in full when it comes due in 2019.

By better managing government finances we increased surpluses and in so doing have been able to greatly reduce taxes on fuel used by CUC for electricity – leaving over $17M annually in the pockets of families and businesses. We also reduced the import duty on goods imported by licensed traders – putting more than $4M back into the community each year.

Madam Speaker we also greatly reduced fees to small businesses to encourage Caymanians to start businesses – and we have seen the number of new small businesses increase as they take advantage of the lower fees and a growing economy. And Government and the Small Business Association are working together to provide training, mentoring, and consultancy support to small businesses, including start-ups.

We have not only reduced taxes and fees, but we are the first Government in many decades to not increase taxes or borrowing. Government is paying its expenses from cash. Capital and infrastructure projects under way are also being done from cash.

Madam Speaker we introduced the Cayman Islands Hospitality School and the Cayman Islands School of Nursing to train Caymanians for good careers. We introduced the Ready2Work.ky programme to help support Caymanians needing assistance to get and keep jobs. We also reversed the salary reductions placed on civil servants and provided much needed bonuses and cost of living adjustments as well as addressed pay stagnation for long serving civil servants.

By creating an environment that encourages business and development, the economy is buoyant with new construction projects creating employment across the Cayman Islands. Government’s infrastructure projects are also providing jobs for Caymanians – during construction and after completion.

I am happy with the work that continues at the Owen Roberts International Airport. This $55 million expansion will almost triple the size of the airport terminal, including new arrival and departure halls.
Madam Speaker I am also happy with the road works that have taken place over the entire term, and those that are still on the drawing board. All of these improvements are helping to take traffic congestion out of the town centre and allow some roads to be pedestrianised. Work is under way to make Esterley Tibbets a four-lane carriage way, and improvements are slated for Thomas Russell Way, Edward and Fort streets. The Widening of Linford Pierson Highway is well under way and when done will help ease traffic congestion on this major roadway. These roadworkses are a key part of the revitalisation of George Town.

Madam Speaker we have not only successfully improved the management of our landfills, and enhanced our recycling efforts, but we have also completed plans for a sustainable solid waste management system. A contract should be signed in the coming months for delivery of a modern waste to energy plant as well as recycling and composting elements. This will reduce waste going into a new landfill by and estimated 90%. We promised to fix the dump and we are delivering; including getting rid of the old tyres at the landfill. When the project is complete, the current landfill will be capped.

We are also making headway on a cruise berthing facility and an improved cargo port – with plans being considered that will reduce the amount of dredging required. Government continues to have productive discussions with cruise lines in relation to their involvement in the berthing facility, including a financing element, and civil engineering design works being done will aid in the financing model.

Madam Speaker this Government has also laid the groundwork for a residential mental health facility that will include occupational and vocational programmes to help patients get better and reintegrate into the community.

Work has recommenced at John Gray High School. Construction of the gym is expected to be completed in May 2017 while plans are being developed to complete the broader elements of the school. Improvements to education have been a focus of this Government. A modern education law has been passed. The school’s inspectorate has been reinstated. And all public schools have undergone an independent review. This has allowed educators and Government to determine how best to improve the system of education and keep all parties accountable for its success.

Madam Speaker in October 2015 this Government kept another promise by passing legislation to modernise the election process and to introduce , and single member electoral districts for the 2017 general elections. This is one of many historic pieces of legislation passed by this Government. Another is the National Minimum Wage Order that for the first time ever seeks to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society can receive a minimum wage. It will be reviewed every few years to ensure it is still relevant and is keeping pace with inflation.

Madam Speaker these are just a few of the highlights of this Government’s achievements over the term. They are spelled out in considerable detail in the report itself. Whilst I view this as the achievements of Government, it is in fact the achievement of the Caymanian people, including the good men and women of the public service who have worked with elected members of Government to get the Cayman Islands back on course.

Shakespeare in the play noted that:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our venture.”

Madam Speaker we have kept the promises made to the Caymanian people upon taking office. We did not dither regardless of the challenges. We pressed on to ensure that the good ship Cayman remained afloat and in full sail, coming out of the shallows, and set on a course for success – taking Caymanians and this beautiful country of ours toward a safer and better future.

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