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Government 04 May, 2020 Follow News

Premier Alden McLaughlin

This week is crucial for The Cayman Islands as the government is set to unveil its COVID-19 economic recovery plan.

This ‘roadmap’ of the way back to economic stability for Cayman will be a blueprint not just for reopening businesses but for the very way Cayman does business.

Cayman is not the only one in this situation. Countries around the world are grappling with the same challenge as their national economies - and the global economy - teeters on the brink of freefall caused by a virus for which as yet there’s no cure.

The International Monetary Fund has warned that a prolonged COVID-19 outbreak would test the ability of governments and central banks to control the impact of the crisis on their economies.

That ominous outlook reflects an almost daunting challenge facing political leaders, their economic advisors and business people around the world.

The UK alone is staring at an economic slump of 35% if the current lockdown stays in place for three months - or one-quarter of the annual fiscal and business cycle.

The recovering British Prime minister, Boris Johnson, is due to unveil his government’s COVID-19 economic recovery strategy this week after he just barely escaped being added to the list of the virus’ mortality statistics.

In the United States, President Donald Trump is pushing for quick - some say ill-advisedly rushed - return to some semblance of social and economic normality.

That degree of optimism seems borne more out of a re-election strategy than rooted in economic reality.

In respects these global worries filter down to Cayman, a global economy in its own right, umbilically tied to the both the US and the UK; the former economically, the latter constitutionally.

This hits home at the top end of the political and business decision-making directorate and consequentially trickles down through the community where it impacts livelihoods.

The government has so far impressed with its handling of the public health emergency brought to our shores by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its phase-one roll-out of a package of relief measures for small and micro-enterprises was a needed lifeline for them.

So too has been the subsequent support alleviating the burden on citizens and its measures to ease uncertainty amongst work permit holders.

Now though, the government is faced with its other big challenge in this delicate balance between lives and livelihoods.

There has been a growing chorus - though not yet a crescendo - to gradually ease the economy back to activity.

While last week the government unveiled a 5-step reopening plan, it's the even more highly-anticipated economic recovery strategy which will lay the framework for the future of Cayman.

That is expected this week.

Cayman's economic future - and by extension, its very society - rides on it.

That will put money in people’s pockets and take some of the pressure off the National Assistance Unit (NAU).

It will allow businesses to do what they do best; make money.

And all of the above bring taxes into the government treasury thereby deferring the need to dip into the 'treasured' and carefully guarded reserves.

These are unprecedented circumstances, and Premier Alden McLaughlin was right when he had invoked the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ metaphor in admonishing the public of the part we have to play in this very real ’do or die’ battle with an unseen enemy.

But with the restrictions being relaxed from the previous Level 5 Maximum Suppression to the Level 4 High Suppression for the next two weeks, the Premier’s own words might prove prescient.

“We can’t get into July and August under these restrictive provisions that are currently in place which are constantly being breached by a minority,” he had said.

There’s still a way to go before we get to the Level 1 All Clear with Level 3 Moderate Suppression and Level 2 Minimum Suppression still to be navigated.

Cayman is not the only one in this dilemma with an unseen killer enemy forcing everyone indoors, driving people stir-crazy (in spite of all the new creativity it’s unleashing), and bringing societies and economies to a sudden, silent halt.

In the absence of a globally available vaccine, countries - Cayman included - must balance the dual priorities; save lives and save livelihoods by rescuing their economies. The two are interlinked.

To save lives you must save the economy and vice versa.

In that respect, this week is crucial for Cayman.

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