The Cayman Islands Government is looking into a package of measures to alleviate the pressure on the business sector caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Details are expected by next week.
Hon. Premier Alden McClaughlin has indicated that a fairly elaborate package is in the works and has been under consideration for some time.
He was at the time responding to comments from the business community over concerns about the sector’s ability to withstand the massive disruptions caused by the ongoing public health emergency and its impact on the territory's economy.
“We know that the point will come when that is absolutely something we have to grapple with,” he stated.
In hinting at what’s likely to be unveiled possibly as early as next week, Mr McLaughlin said his administration has been “working diligently behind the scenes”.
A relief and stimulus package being worked on ranges from consideration for soft loans, a pension payments holiday, to other ways and means to ease the burden and support businesses through this crisis.
“Part of the work that we are doing, particularly with respect to businesses, involves providing access to very soft loans in which the principle and interest could be waived for up to six months through the Cayman Islands Development Bank to businesses,” he disclosed in outlining what could be one of the main features of the upcoming package.
The Premier said this intent of this would be to enable the businesses to help their employees via a wage subsidy.
Other relief possibilities being discussed include; “pension payment holidays and the practicalities of allowing persons to have access to some of their pension funds.”
He pointed out that these measures would require legislative changes as they are outside the authority of the cabinet to implement without parliamentary approval.
But while giving an insight into what Government was contemplating, Mr McLaughlin cautioned against what he said was a message he was hearing coming out of the business sector regarding the continuation of trading.
“We certainly do not want to send the message that it is business as usual and that we must get Cayman back to work, which is what we are hearing from elements within the business community,” he said.
He rebuffed suggestions that Government was overly preoccupied with the healthcare impact of COVID-19 pandemic at the expense of the economy.
“I don’t want the business community or the Chamber of Commerce or anybody else to think that Government is only focussing on suppression of the virus, even though that is our principal focus.
“We do have the bandwidth and we are considering other options,” he assured.
He also referred to “some implicit criticism of the government in a recent release from the Chamber of Commerce that other countries have focussed on these things simultaneously.”
In his response, Premier McLaughlin did not mince words in reinforcing what he felt must be the priority consideration for Government at this time.
“I want them to focus on the grim-reaper report that I present every day," he said, "and ask themselves if they think the focus has been right and if they still think that deaths are alright as long as you make the economy continue to operate.”
He was referring to his daily round-up of the distressing tally of mortalities as the COVID-19 pandemic runs rampant globally with major countries struggling to contain the spread.
“Folks, we can either decide on funerals, or we can focus on trying to keep as many of our people alive as possible."
In throwing down the gauntlet, he again implored: “We are choosing life over economics. Those that choose to hammer me and my government, they will have to do so, but we are always going to put the welfare of the people of this country above the economic welfare of businesses.”
In a rallying call, the Premier exhorted: “We will get through this. We can rebuild the economy, we could help rebuild businesses.”
In reverting to a previously invoked biblical reference to drive home his point, Mr McClaughlin reminded:
“As I’ve said before, only Christ himself has been known to raise the dead.”