Hon. Premier Wayne Panton on Monday evening formally announced his cabinet team saying their ministerial responsibilities aligned “around the key priorities of this administration.”
The anxiously-awaited announcement shows an eight-person team of ministers, three more than the previous government supported by three Parliamentary Secretaries.
The spread of portfolios reflecting the governing mandate of the PACT (People-driven, Accountable, Competent and Transparent) coalition of Independents.
Premier Panton has taken on the portfolios of the Cabinet Office along with Sustainability and Climate Resiliency, the latter previously the Ministry of Environment which Mr Panton held in the former People’s Progressive Movement-led Unity government before his departure.
Issues around development, sustainability and climate change were key aspects of his campaign during the election.
“As Premier I have also chosen to retain a smaller portfolio which will allow me to coordinate the work of my administration. However, I have created a Ministry to address the existential threats posed by climate change,” he said.
Premier Panton also retains responsibility for the budget of the Royal Cayman Islands Police’s Service(RCIPS).
As expected, Hon. Deputy Premier Chris Saunders has taken on the portfolio of Finance and Economic Development alongside Labour.
Premier Panton said, “Improving the lives of our people will be at the centre of everything we do. That is why we have aligned responsibilities around Labour and Employment (to tie in with the Ministry of Finance) as well as Social Development to benefit from innovation and inward investment opportunities.”
Hon. Andre Ebanks will lead the Ministry of Financial Services & Commerce coupled with Investment, Innovation & Social Development in line with the vision outlined by the Premier.
For the first time in two decades, the Ministry of Education will have the same minister continuing in the role with Hon. Julianna O’Connor-Connolly retaining the portfolio that she held in the previous PPM-led government.
It’s a portfolio assignment highlighted by the Premier against the background of repeated concerns during the campaign that education policies lacked consistency with a consequential impact on academic outcomes.
Premier Panton singled it out as a top issue for his government.
“As an example, the Ministry of Education will have policy continuity and a streamlined focus in a more strategic portfolio. This is the first time in over 20 years and 6 administrations that the same Minister has continued as Minister for Education,” he pointed out.
During the coalition negotiations Min. O'Connor-Connolly, who will also be responsible for District Administration, Lands and Survey crossed over from the Progressives camp to join the PACT, cementing the coalition’s governing majority.
The Cayman Islands new Minister of Tourism is Hon. Kenneth Bryan who will also have responsibility for Transport putting him at the centre of decision-making on the reopening of the critical tourism industry and resolving the challenges besetting Cayman’s local traffic network.
Hon. Hon. Sabrina Turner has been assigned the sole and all-encompassing portfolio of Minister of Health with a plethora of issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic, health insurance, access to healthcare, the growing medical tourism industry and related health areas.
The Minister of Home Affairs, Youth, Sports, Culture & Heritage is Hon. Bernie Bush with Hon. Johany Ebanks as Minister for Planning, Agriculture, Housing, and Infrastructure.
The Parliamentary Secretaries have also been named to support specific ministries.
Katherine Ebanks-Wilks is Parliamentary Secretary to Minister Andre Ebanks (Financial Services) and Minister Julianna O’Connor-Connolly (Education).
Isaac Rankine is assigned to Mins. Johany Ebanks and Bernie Bush (Home Affairs).
Heather Bodden will support Min. Kenneth Bryan and Min. Andre Ebanks (Social Development).
Premier Panton said: “My Cabinet colleagues and I are eager to begin tackling the business of the Government in a way that positively impacts our diverse constituencies. We understand that we are here to serve the will of the people and we feel privileged to work alongside the Civil Service towards this goal.”
He also thanked Hon. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and his team “for facilitating our introduction to the work of the Civil Service over the past few days.”
In extending his well-wishes to the new Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries on behalf of the Civil Service, Mr Manderson said: “We have been working behind the scenes for some time to facilitate the smooth handover of power to any incoming Government.
“Now we are very much looking forward to helping them settle in and move the country forward in a way that benefits the lives of all Caymanians and residents.”
Of the new administration, only Premier Panton and Minister of Education O’Connolly-Connor have had previous cabinet experience.
With several of the ministries re-named and re-assigned, it was not immediately clear which ministry will carry the responsibility for immigration, customs and border control.
And while some other ministers have held representative political seats, three of their colleagues - Andre Ebanks, Sabrina Turner and Jay Ebanks - have been successful for the first time in an election.