There's an old African proverb that says:
*Beware of the naked man who offers you clothes*
3 years and 3 days after Jamaica became independent - Singapore became an independent nation on 9th August, 1965.
At that time, the people of Singapore didn't want independence and was surprised at the announcement.
The negotiations to separate Singapore from Malaysia were done in secret with many Cabinet Ministers being left in the dark. The population of just under 1.9 million people were surprised at the announcement. Matter of factly, in September 1962, they voted in a Referendum to join the Federation of Malaysia. Less than 3 years later, on a vote of 126-0 the Malaysian Parliament voted to remove Singapore as part of the Federation.
Back then, on that August day in 1965, nobody expected Singapore to survive. Singapore's first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had said in 1957 that the idea of an independent Singapore was a "political, economic, and geographical absurdity".
In 1965, Singapore which is almost 3 times the size of the Cayman Islands, had no natural resources, no industry, and depended on the outside world for water, food, and energy.
Singapore's unemployment rate was close to 9% in 1965 with a GDP per capita of around US$500 - the same as Mexico and South Africa.
To make matters worse, in 1967, the UK government announced that they would be withdrawing their troops from Singapore. At that time, the UK military bases created around 25,000 jobs in Singapore and was contributing around 20% of Singapore's Gross National Product. Naturally, the announcement came as a shock to Singapore, because the UK had given their word that the withdrawal would be done in stages.
In short, Singapore was left for dead!
The government of Lee Kuan Yew made two strategic decisions.
1. Invest in education and upskill their population.
2. Attract multinational corporations that would need the talent that Singapore had to offer.
For many of us that used those green "mosquito destroyer" coils growing up - you may recall that they were actually made in Singapore. Even the matches to light the coils were made in Singapore. Chances are the fishing hooks we used were also made in Singapore.
In the 1980s, when personal computers were becoming popular, Singapore became the world's leading producer of hard disk drives.
Today, Singapore is seen as an economic miracle that many countries try to emulate. Singapore's GDP per capita is around US$65,000. For ease of reference, Mexico's GDP per capita is around US$10,000 and South Africa's GDP per capita is around US$6,000. It's clear that a lot has changed since 1965.
Current UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is hoping that when the UK leaves the Europe Union it will become the "Singapore of the West". To achieve this, he plans on:
• Creating a business-friendly environment
• Having a low or zero corporate tax
• Attract foreign workers that won't have access to welfare provisions
• Reduce the power of trade unions
Today, we in the Cayman Islands have a GDP per capita of around US$88,000. Not bad when compared to the United States (US$56,000) and the United Kingdom (US$47,000).
Equally, and I must give credit where credit is due, the Government's overall handling of the COVID-19 crisis is far better than that of the United States, United Kingdom, and many other countries around the world.
My message this Sunday is simple. Putting political differences aside, despite the many challenges that we have, the Cayman Islands is still a good place to live and work when compared to many countries around the world.
We have built an island that is able to attract people from every corner of the globe - yet we still doubt our abilities. This month made 16 years since Hurricane Ivan visited Cayman and the world left us for dead.
Embarrassingly as this sound, Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere sent us food and clothes. Haiti did a lot more for us than many "others."
When other Overseas Territories were ravaged by Hurricanes a few years ago - who helped them?
I rest my case.
In closing, I want to remind you that we are all children of God and we were born to manifest His Glory. And as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, I am sure without one iota of doubt that the best days of the Cayman Islands are still ahead. The things that are wrong with Cayman can still be fixed by the things that are right with Cayman and that starts with being truly investors in our people.
I still have faith in our people and more importantly - I still have my faith in God.
I always tell my friends that when they come to visit - the reason that we have no mountains in Cayman is that the faith of our fore-parents moved them for us.
We are where we are today because our fore-parents didn't take any clothes that were offered by naked people.
One love. One Cayman
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