PANTON PRAISES PACT FOR ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE
By Staff Writer
“Our occasional differences notwithstanding, time and time again, when it matters most, this Government has proven its ability to come together and to get things done on behalf and for the benefit of the people.”
When Hon. Premier Wayne Panton made that assertion in the Cayman Islands Parliament this past week, little was it known that later during the same session those same differences would have been identified as key reasons for one of his ministers to resign from his PACT coalition government.
Hon. Minister for Border Control and Labour Dwayne Seymour quit the government on Friday - the second to do so this year - in a blaze of criticism mainly directed at Premier Panton mainly over his leadership style.
“Since being elected in 2009, never have I experienced such disorganization and lackluster leadership,” Mr Seymour had said in his blistering castigation of Mr Panton’s leadership.
But when he presented his ‘State Of The Econony’ statement shortly before, Mr Panton highlighted his PACT coalition government’s (up to then including Mr Seymour) decision-making and economic management for guiding Cayman to post-pandemic recovery.
“I am proud to report that, as predicted, Cayman’s economy is strong and getting stronger; and we are steadily recovering from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“As Premier, it is my job to see beyond forecasts and indicators - beyond dollars and cents. Ultimately, all the spreadsheets, analyses and reports mean nothing if we don’t meaningfully impact the health, safety, happiness and general quality of life of Caymanian people. Because to be a successful society that offers value and meaningful service to its people, the numbers on the page can’t simply present a set of orderly, life-less, balanced accounts. If the people lie at the centre of everything we do (and they do!), then those numbers should contribute to creating a thriving, safe, smart and healthy population. Indeed, what good is economic success if our people, any of our people, are left behind?”
Painting a glowing picture of the state of the economy and a positive outlook, Premier Panton who just recently admonished that the government could require cutbacks to the tune of CI$ 47 million, assured that “the Cayman Islands continue to show strong and stable positive growth.”
In a sector-by-sector analysis, he pointed to growth and resilience in the economy.
“The hotel, restaurant, transport, storage and communication sectors all grew in 2022 and further improved in 2023. International business is thriving. Shops are bustling and, for those that want them, jobs are available up and down the economic ladder. Despite the hardships experienced during the global pandemic, the financing, insurance and business services sectors have shown remarkable resilience and have continued to expand even beyond expectations.”
According to Mr Panton, who took over the finance portfolio after the controversial exit of his former Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Chris Saunders earlier this year, preliminary indicators suggest that the economy of the Cayman Islands expanded in real terms by 3.8% in 2022, a continuation of the recovery experienced since 2021.
“The indicators for the first quarter of this year show that the Gross Domestic Product expanded by 3.4 per cent. This robust performance, Madam Speaker, was largely driven by a strong recovery in the hotels and restaurants and transport, storage and communication whilst maintaining strength in other sectors. In 2022, the hotels and restaurants sector grew 23.2 per cent over the prior year with projected growth of 29.9% in 2023 and 17.0% in 2024.”
And the Premier stated the outlook is equally encouraging.
“Having carefully navigated the critical recovery phase of the pandemic, our economy has emerged stronger. We are expecting economic expansion over the next two years with the Department of Economics and Statistics projecting overall economic growth of 3.1% in 2023 and 2.2% in 2024.”
He said when his PACT coalition administration assumed office at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, “we decided to prioritise the lives of our people and sustainably reopen our borders. Madam Speaker, the decisions governments have to take are often not easy.”
Mr Panton said that those decisions and policies have yielded positive results.
“Today I am proud and admittedly relieved to announce that we made the right decision. Not only was the loss of lives minimised, but the tourism industry has rebounded even stronger. It is in moments like these that we can see the tangible benefits of our actions in creating opportunities that benefit Caymanians in their everyday lives. And that makes this job worthwhile.”
Specifically regarding the state of the government’s finances - a matter which has caused considerable debate since he spoke of the need to curtail spending - Premier Panton was equally robust.
“Overall, I will say that the August year-to-date numbers follow the same trend seen in the first half of the financial year, with growth in work permit revenue over the prior year, which indicates that local businesses have rebounded after the suppressive effects of the global pandemic and are now staffing back up to their full complements. Additionally, we are seeing higher revenues from import duties and tourism-related fees and taxes compared to the previous year.”