A Cayman delegation led by The Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin headed to Miami for a pre-meeting of the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) on 28th October.
This meeting was specifically for Caribbean British Overseas Territories giving them the opportunity to discuss the needs of the islands impacted by the recent hurricanes, prior to the JMC meeting that will be held at the end of November in London.
The goal - being to ensure that the needs of those territories impacted by the storms are a key part of the agenda for talks in London.
During the recent trip to Manchester and London, the Premier and his team were lobbying hard on behalf of the British Overseas Territories that had been affected by the recent hurricanes.
Mr. McLaughlin said, “The UK government had indicated a commitment of up to £62 million, according to Lord Ahmed, Minister for Overseas Territories, to help rebuild the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Anguilla and Turks and Caicos (TCI). However due to the damage inflicted on these islands, they will need to access significantly more in reconstruction funds.”
“The devastation is such that their economies are in danger of long-term damage unless they receive financial assistance - in the short term for disaster relief - but in the medium to long term to rebuild infrastructure and to enable them to maintain their economic base. This includes the financial services in BVI and TCI as well as tourism for all three countries. If the hotels and airports are not ready to receive tourists this winter it will be another blow to their economies.”
The request by the UK to obtain funds from the international aid budget managed by the EU International Development and Cooperation Directorate, (IDCD) has been denied. The reason given is that the GDP of the islands is too high and the budget is designed to relieve poverty. However, Priti Patel, the Secretary of State for International Development, one of the senior UK government officials that Mr. McLaughlin met and lobbied whilst in Manchester, responded to the IDCD asking it to “urgently” review the rules relating to countries hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria saying that the international rules should take into account the vulnerabilities of small island states.
For example 36% of Anguilla’s capital budget in 2016 according to Bloomberg News, came from EU funding and normally this funding would be used to build or repair infrastructure such as roads, ports, government buildings etc. There is no indication at the moment, how this funding is going to be impacted by BREXIT – it may continue, it may not. However, what is clear is that a lot more capital funding is going to be required by the islands affected by these major hurricanes to get them back on their feet.
Mr. McLaughlin further explained, “I lobbied all the Ministers, Parliamentarians and Officials that I met in Manchester and London regarding UK support for these islands. It is important to remind the UK that the Overseas Territories are part of the British Family and deserving of assistance when impacted by natural disasters. In fact I feel that the UK has an obligation to assist the Caribbean British Overseas territories, in the same way it supports Gibraltar and the Falklands."
"I feel obligated to join my fellow Premiers and Chief Ministers in lobbying the UK because I’m conscious that this will also benefit the Cayman Islands. If one OT is floundering, that puts a question mark around all of us; I want to make sure that UK aid is available. Today it is TCI, BVI and Anguilla but tomorrow it could be the Cayman Islands impacted and needing help.”
The Premier added, “We are happy to play our part and we are in a fortunate position to be able to do so. The assistance we’ve provided so far, from the RCIPS officers that we sent to BVI, the helicopter and RCIPS team we sent to Turks and Caicos and the medical and humanitarian support we provided to Anguilla benefits those Islands but it also highlights our relationship, shared histories, and circumstances. "
“We are all Caribbean people but we’re also British and we’re obligated to support our Caribbean Overseas Territories brothers and sisters in their time of need. The importance of our relationship has been recognized at the highest levels of the UK government, on many occasions over the last few weeks it’s been said how grateful the UK government is for the assistance that the government and the people of the Cayman Islands have provided. I would go so far as to say that this recognition has raised the profile and esteem of the Cayman Islands with many in the UK government.”
The annual Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) brings together political leaders from the Overseas Territories (OT’s) and UK Ministers. It will meet this year in London from 27th – 28th November and will be hosted by FCO Minister for the Overseas Territories Lord Ahmed.