With plans now being fine-tuned for a phased re-opening of Cayman’s borders to international visitors, the broader economic implications and other underlying issues are creeping to the surface.
Giving an overview of the plans as they are evolving, Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin emphasised that “we can’t stay static, we have to find ways of boosting revenue, employment opportunities, and keeping the economy moving.”
These themes were echoed at the recently held Chamber of Commerce 3rd Annual Economic Summit where government ministers gave broad outlines of the plans being considered, amidst repeated calls for specifics.
Mr McLaughlin sought to allay those worries by flagging up that the government was doing “a lot of exciting things in terms of measures to help the economy, help businesses and to increase employment.”
He hinted that “by next week we should have some of those at a state of readiness where we can have another press conference and talk in more detail about those.”
This week's event was the first government press conference in a month (but it ended abruptly due to technical problems).
The Premier had further teased that upcoming announcements next week include; "a significant increase in grant money to businesses, a new loan scheme which the government has been negotiating with local banks to give access to local businesses as well as a number of other things such as the new Global Citizen tourism programme.”
He also disclosed that a standby “substantial line of credit” for the government with a consortium of local banks was also close to being finalised.
He said it would give the government “a safety net to get through quite frankly to the end of next year, if that what it takes.”
Although he did not state the exact figure being negotiated, when the loan issued was first announced by the Hon. Minister of Finance Roy McTaggart, the amount stated was CI$500 million.
“I think within the next two weeks that we are going to be making some very exciting announcements and that most people will be very happy,” Mr McLaughlin promoted.
DP BILL EXERCISES CAYMAN PUBLIC
In a reference to issues which have been topping the social and political discourse since the last press conference, Premier McLaughlin quipped:
“We may have had to be dealing with things like the Domestic Partnership Bill, and even attempted coups (a reference to reports of disquiet within his Unity Government over the controversial Domestic Partnership Bill)” which has exercised many and split the community.
But he affirmed: “We have gotten on with the business of government”.
The moment was seized upon by Hon. Minister of Health Dwayne Seymour, an independent coalition partner in Premier McLaughlin’s People's Progressive Movement (PPM)-led government.
Mr Seymour, one of the cabinet members who had opposed the controversial Domestic Partnership Bill (on an agreed conscience vote), pledged his support for the Premier during the press conference.
He had based his opposition to the same-sex civic union bill on his Christian beliefs.
“I am not afraid to publicly express my love for God and I’m also not afraid to express my support for the coalition government and the Premier," Mr Seymour avowed.
“Yes, we’ve had our differences over the DPB (Domestic Partnership Bill), I won’t hide from it,” he said, but added, “I did what God and the people wanted me to do.”
Mr Seymour continued: “Now, we have a lot of work to do for this country” and he stressed, “I’m up to the task, never wondering whether someone on earth would give me credit for the wisdom God imparts to me daily but is satisfied in waiting for my reward in heaven.”
With a wry smile and whimsical jab back at the Premier, Mr Seymour countered: “Although the Premier took a cheap shot, I would say sarcastically, about the coup, hahaha,” he chuckled, “as a sprinter, it missed me and went over my head.”
“I will have no part of any coup just to make it clear. Premier knows he has my support and the team know they have my support,” the Health Minister declared.
Although he did not address the issue during the prematurely-ended press conference, HE Governor Martyn Roper is set to unilaterally enact the bill into law on September 1st under his Reserve Constitutional powers after it was voted down in the Legislative Assembly.
The Governor had said he would conduct public consultation during this period prior to the bill becoming law.
With elections scheduled to be held by May next year, the Domestic Partnership issue and economic management during the COVID-pandemic are already shaping up to be among the central platform topics.
The government has generally been praised for its handling of the public health aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The DP bill in particular has triggered debate about the Cayman Islands constitutional ties to the UK, the powers of the Governor, and has rekindled talk of independence.