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Economy driven by private sector, not government says Deputy Premier

Government 02 Nov, 2022 Follow News

Economy driven by private sector, not government says Deputy Premier

Hon Christopher Saunders speaking at the Chamber Luncheon

The Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at the Marriott hotel

By Christopher Tobutt 

Cayman’s economy was “Overall doing pretty good,” in its recovery from the pandemic, was the message given by Deputy Premier Hon. Chris Saunders, Minister for Finance, Economic Development, Border Control & Labour at the recent Chamber of Commerce Luncheon. He gave an overview of the current state of the Cayman Islands economy as well as projections for next year. He outlined a number of initiatives that the PACT Government was taking to help people cope with the high cost of living. But the main point he emphasized again and again was that the Government should be the facilitator of economic growth, rather than its driver which should always be the private sector. 

With an illustration of how the United States’ had become an economic powerhouse with innovators like Henry Ford, and from there become a global superpower, he said that Cayman had followed the same pattern. When the Cayman islands was an outcast in the British Empire, that forced us to innovate,” he said. “When Schooners didn’t come here, we created our own schooners and went to the world. We had an industrious never give up attitude.”

Just like the United States, there were three pillars of success: Community followed by the economy, and last of all politics.  “Because Cayman was left alone we developed organically,” he said. “The PACT government is determined to return the political system to its rightful place. The Cayman Islands must be driven at the community level by the private sector if it is to be successful,” he said. The PACT government’s goal was, “Equal opportunities, not equal outcomes.”

Sharing news on the economy, Minister Saunders said that Construction, real estate and financial services were all doing well, and since the border opening both the cruise sector and stayover tourism were making a strong recovery. The recent Labour Force Survey showed unemployment at just three percent in total.

Turning his attention to the soaring cost of living, Minister Saunders explained that Covid, followed by the war in Ukraine had disrupted the global supply chain. The Government would continue with the energy subsidy: “It’s a five million hit to the public purse, but its important….to maintain economic activity.” He said 

He also justified the Government stepping in to provide free lunches for children in all the public schools for 16 million. It made sense, he said, because the Government was in a position to buy in bulk and so keep unit costs down, but also because, during the pandemic it had become clear that many children here were, ‘going to bed hungry,’ and that was a situation the PACT government would not allow to continue. It was also a chance for the Government to provide more nutritious diets for the Nation’s children, leading to a positive impact on national health and health care. The Minister confirmed his government’s commitment to supporting education at all levels, by reintroducing private school grants, and increasing the amounts for scholarships to make tertiary level education at the UCCI and ICCI available free of charge.

In a move away from his speech, Minister Saunders advocated rules that allowed for much higher rise buildings, only in specified locations “We need to do something about building heights. 10 stories is not going to be enough; we need 20 story or 30 story buildings,” he said. He said he would like to see more hotels especially, because hotels create jobs twice, once during their construction, but then again as they look for workers to run them.

“We are taking certain step to increase our own food security,” Minister Saunders said, adding that new, more direct shipping routes between food suppliers Central were being negotiated, and that these would cut out food costs. He also spoke about the need to make sure local farmers are supported.

Government entities should keep control of the two main communications cables that connect Cayman with the outside world, adding that was too important to delegate to delegate to the private sector. 

Turning his attention to speeding up work permits, Minister Saunders advocated for the need to transfer such processes online, saying that the system should be, “Fully automated by the first half of next year.” Such a transition would help to eliminate human mistakes as well as the possibility of human bias in the decisions being made. Answering a question about PR applications, Minister Saunders talked about the need to shift the present points system away from wealth and land ownership, towards a meritocracy, and that this would help people that the country needed, like teachers.

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