October 22, 2020

New White Paper produces mixed signals

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I have to echo premier Hon McKeeva Bush’s praise for the UK and CI Relationship Review Committee headed by Mr. Lemuel Hurlston for their hard work in such a short time frame. They consulted with the people of the Cayman Islands in advance of the November 2011 meeting of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council and in anticipation of a new White Paper outlining the United Kingdom’s strategy of the Overseas Territories. They produced a comprehensive document in record time comprising 58 pages.

I have to quote from the first paragraph from the Conclusion section of the Report: “At times, this Report is an intimate and candid self-appraisal, which some detractors might superficially view as a weakness and seize upon to seek to embarrass the Cayman Islands in some way. The Review Committee does not, however, agree with any such proposition, stressing instead that this has been a valuable process of which the Cayman Islands should be rightly proud. Indeed, the independence of the Review Committee and of this Report should be viewed as evidence that some of the lessons relating to good governance, which were recorded in the feedback provided, have in fact been learnt. The Review Committee therefore believes that this Report serves as a testament to the development and maturity of the Cayman Islands and that the Government should be commended for facilitating this process and the people of the Cayman Islands applauded for so effectively engaging with it in the short period of time available.”

The report summarised their findings as follows:

• A need to recognise, value and celebrate, both locally and internationally, what is good about the Cayman Islands;

• A desire to enhance the relationship between the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom in new and mutually beneficial ways;

• An interest in enabling the greatest possible amount of local governance, while at the same time ensuring that every necessary check is in place to guarantee that there is good governance and that there is transparency in decision-making and accountability for decisions taken;

• An aspiration for greater inclusion and more consensus, whereby it is possible to respect and seek to accommodate the interests of all residents, while at the same time, maximising the opportunities available to Caymanians;

• A need to improve public financial management and accountability and to plan holistically and in an integrated fashion for the sustainable development of the Cayman Islands and the diversification of its economy;

• An interest in investigating the potential availability of external support and engaging the United Kingdom, as well as other Overseas Territories, for this purpose;

• A wish to build upon the positive track record that the Cayman Islands has in reaching out to assist others and to work together with the United Kingdom and other Overseas Territories to build a network for reciprocal cooperation and assistance.

The area of contradiction gleaned from the Report was with the differing opinions of persons re the relationship the Cayman Islands has with the United Kingdom. Many people feel it has not been a positive one and the UK has let us down.

The Report said the majority of people believed the relationship with the UK created an image of stability for the financial services industry. Steps towards the independence of the Cayman Islands would “almost certainly result in a major loss of confidence in
the sector.”

I am not surprised at the mixed signals being received by the general public. One only (God forbid) has to read the blogs. One only has to listen to the comments made by our legislators in the House. Premier Bush is a master at comments belittling “clerks” in the UK who question his Budget. In fact both parties have had their share of ‘putting down the Mother Country’ when it ‘flexes its muscles.’ There has to be a limit in the amount of self governance we are allowed as a British Dependent territory otherwise we have to accept independence. We can’t have our bread buttered on both sides.

We do have to work together and I am satisfied the report is very fair. The copy of the report will be presented by the Premier to Henry Bellingham, the UK’s FCO minister with responsibilities for the territories. I can say for certainty here that Mr. Bush will not allow us to “be taken advantage of.”

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