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PANTON PAINTS POSITIVE ECONOMIC PICTURE

Government 01 May, 2023 Follow News

Premier Wayne Panton

By Staff Writer

Pointing to a stable and buoyant economy, Hon. Premier Wayne Panton has outlined his PACT (People-driven, Accountable, Competent and Transparent) government’s policy agenda for the 2024 to 2026 period. The next budget for the next fiscal year will be presented towards the of this year.

In the two-year overview of the government’s plan contained in the Strategic Policy Statement (SPS), including the 2025 election year, Premier Panton painted a picture of a growing economy with good prospects for the future under the stewardship of his PACT coalition.

“Today, we stand before this Honourable House with a growing economy, a budget surplus and ushering in an economy that has created thousands of jobs and opportunities for our people,” he reported to the Cayman Islands Parliament.

The underlying strength of the economy as detailed by Mr Panton was a picture of economic stability with growth potential as Cayman continues its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

NUMBERS THAT COUNT

Economic growth as measured by GDP was 3.7 per cent in 2022 and 4.0 per cent in 2021, in contrast to a COVID-induced 5.1 per cent contraction in 2020.

Significantly for the Cayman Islands, the real GDP per capita in 2022 was estimated at US$70,790, higher than the United States and other advanced economies.

According to Mr Panton’s projections in the SPS, the economy is expected to grow by 2.3 per cent this year, a further 1.6 per cent in 2024, and an average of 2.1 per cent for 2025 and 2026.

An unemployment rate of 2.2 per cent is projected for 2023 with an expected average of 2.5 per cent annually between 2024 and 2026.

Government’s Total Operating Revenue for the SPS period is forecast to be $3.3 billion with spending expected to be $3.0 billion.

QUALITY OF LIFE

But, Premier Panton reminded that economic success isn’t the sole measure of progress.

“While our economic success is clear… It is important to remember, as former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair once said, “Real progress cannot be measured by money alone. We must ensure that economic growth contributes to our quality of life.”

On the social development front, he cited rush hour traffic congestion as one present-day local example of why improving quality of life is important.

“Yes, most Caymanians are well-off enough to afford a car - low unemployment and a high GDP per capita which are both accepted indicators of a strong economy. But how much does driving a car improve their overall quality of life if they have to sit in that car for several hours each day travelling to and from work?” he asked.

The quality of infrastructure is a key factor in this according to the Premier.

“Building a modern infrastructure to ensure a successful future for our islands also directly impacts our quality of life,” he said referring to mitigating traffic congestion through the delivery of important traffic infrastructure such as the extension of the East-West Arterial to Frank Sound Road.

He also addressed amending import legislation to restrict the quantity and types of vehicles that can be imported and developing a reliable, quality public transport system.

WORKFORCE MATTERS

While the Premier reported that Cayman was currently enjoying historically high employment, he nevertheless said there are issues of equity for Caymanians in the workforce which his government is committed to addressing including modernising the Work Permit regime with a new fully integrated Online Job Portal for Caymanian jobseekers,” he stated.

Revising the Permanent Residence points system and amending the Permanent Residence and Right to be Caymanian criteria are also on the to-do list, along with increasing maternity and family leave provisions.

The SPS also includes plans for an Affordable Housing Initiative (AHI) in all districts, along with projects “to make available affordable land lots across several districts, helping Caymanians to buy a piece of land on which they can build their own homes in due course.”

REGEN AT TIPPING POINT

Mr Panton devoted considerable time to addressing the REGEN major waste-to-energy project which has been subjected to much political scrutiny and which was at the centre of the controversy surrounding the departure of former finance minister Chris Saunders from the PACT government.

“It is a necessary project that has been a hot potato for several Government administrations,” he admitted while responding to the political controversy swirling around the project.

“Despite the comments made by various members of the Opposition, what was left by the previous administration was hardly a ‘nearly done deal’, in fact as some of the project teams have described it, “it was an agreement to sign 30 more agreements.”

Staying that ‘for forty years we have kicked this can down the road, and now we are running out of time,” Mr Panton concluded that “now is the time to solve the problem while we are at the tipping point.”

FUTURE-PROOFING THE ECONOMY

Mr Panton said his PACT Government is committed to maintaining a private sector-driven economy and outlined initiatives to strengthen the regulatory regimes governing the major industries and creating platforms for the growth of new industries.

Speaking of the Cayman Islands as a Global Business Jurisdiction,” the Premier noted that “we must remain alert to geopolitical disruptions and consider the potential impacts these may have on our future…Future-proofing acknowledges our vulnerability as small import-dependent Islands to external shocks such as natural disasters, supply chain shortages, global conflicts and health or economic crises.”

Mr Panton who champions sustainable development and climate change impacts noted that vital to securing Cayman’s future adaptability and success is supporting climate change resilience and sustainable development.

CAYMAN CULTURE

Addressing the delicate subject of culture, the Cayman Islands Premier had this to say: “The scale and pace of societal and demographic changes in the Cayman Islands have proven difficult for many Caymanians to circumnavigate.

“Many Caymanians fear being left behind or even excluded especially as it relates to our unique traditions, perspective and way of life.” He also said that with the Cayman Islands now hosting over 130 nationalities, and remaining heavily dependent on a largely transient workforce, “the need to unequivocally define who we are becomes even greater.”

PACT STILL INTACT

“Have there been issues? Yes, undoubtedly,” the leader of the ruling PACT coalition of independents admitted. “I don’t think any Government goes through any administration with no crises, no disagreements, no minor scandals and no divisions. However, as I present this Strategic Policy Statement to you, this PACT Government has stayed the course, moving ahead in one direction.”


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