September 29, 2020

Committee hope to boost employment

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The 16-member  “Rollover Review Committee”, appointed last week by Premier McKeeva Bush, will draw on expertise in labour, recruitment, finance and youth, hoping to boost employment and economic opportunity.

Sherri Bodden-Cowan, attorney, co-chairman of the ruling United Democratic Party and head of the Immigration Review Team, will chair the committee, which will spend six months studying legal changes, while the Legislative Assembly, on Wednesday, will formally suspend the term limit.

“We have not received our terms of reference,” Ms Bodden-Cowan told iNews, “but I anticipate that, as Mr Bush said, we will be asked to review the fixed-term policy that’s been in place since January 2004.”

She said the group would “review all relevant statistics”, the law, private-sector and Immigration Department opinion, and would suggest how regulations might change “to ensure continued economic success and the employment training and promotion of all Caymanians”.

The controversial suspension for work-permit holders has sparked both community outrage and satisfaction as Mr Bush seeks to cushion the economic impact of the departure of thousands of financial professionals, teachers, labourers and others during the next 18 months.

One committee member, Richard Christian, at 33, the youngest-ever manager at Caledonian Trust Company and a last-year candidate for the Young Caymanian Leadership Awards, said he had been among the most vocal advocates for Caymanian youth in meetings with the premier.

“We met the premier about two weeks ago and heard about the possibility of as many as 6,000 people leaving, and about the rollover policy,” he said.

Seeking to defend the “cause of Caymanians”, but recognising “the need for overseas expertise and a balanced policy”, Mr Christian said. “I was very vocal about the need to look at the importance of giving young Caymanians greater opportunities. A lot of them have been pushed out of employment, and it’s something we have to look at.”

At last Wednesday’s West Bay public meeting, Mr Bush defended the suspension, saying the policy was never designed to protect Caymanian jobs, but rather was a  “population control” measure.

Pleading to give the as-yet-unnamed committee a chance, the premier said: I want to be clear that we are not throwing out [the policy]. We have set up a committee to see if it has a positive or a negative effect.

“When a high-level manager goes, it often means that a Caymanian secretary will lose her job. We have children coming up and that is why we need to grow the economy,” he said.

Appointee Walling Whittaker, former head of human resources for HSBC, former Director of the Department of Employment Relations, 2009 independent candidate for George Town, and owner of Malcolm Point Environmental Engineering, said Mr Bush “needed someone who understood the nuances of the labour market and how it has changed in the last few years.”

As a 2009 candidate for the Legislative Assembly, Mr Whittaker advocated closer liaison between the departments of Immigration and Labour, tracking overseas applicants, work-force vacancies, work-permit grants and unemployed Caymanians.

“My position has not changed,” he told iNews, “and I am honoured to be selected by the premier. You cannot say no when it’s a matter of national importance.”

Edna Delia Hydes, at 23 the youngest member of the committee, employed by attorneys Stuart Walker Hersant and representing the Sister Islands, said she had been surprised by her nomination.

“As a young Caymanian, I hope to bring that perspective and benefit young Caymanians as a whole, and see how you can benefit from the rollover,” she said.

“I’m sure a lot of people have been here and given the opportunity, would invest, but they may not if they know they have to leave,” Ms Hydes said.

A fourth appointee, Betty Baraud, founder of Baraud International recruitment agency, declined to comment, but said she had 20 years of experience within the Immigration Department and had sat on the Immigration Appeals Tribunal.

Involved with the business community for years and a longtime consultant, she would say only that she understood many of the issues.

Other committee members include Admiralty Administration Chief Canover Watson; Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans; Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith; the department’s Director of Policy and Strategic Management Christopher Eakin; former Attorney General and Head of Cayman Finance Richard Coles, Josephine Habib, Paulette Anglin-Lewis; Irma Arch; Philip Rankin; and Chairman of the Cayman Turtle Farm and Camana Bay Manager for Tenant Improvement Ken Hydes.

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