This Government, and the last, has certainly demonstrated fiscal leadership by creating substantial surpluses over seven years that were used to reduce debt by more than half, rebuild cash reserves and to fund large infrastructure projects from cash without increasing taxation or debt. Few other past administrations can claim similar accomplishments.
This administration, however, has an unprecedented track record of delivery to set alongside the achievements of the previous administration that I had the honour also to lead.
And this is before even considering the significant Constitutional advancements, the creation of an independent Parliament, and many significant pieces of Legislation, such as the Legal Services Act, which will benefit Caymanians far into the future.
These accomplishments did not occur by happenstance but through sound planning, judgement and leadership. The very same planning, judgement, and leadership that prepared the country financially for an economic downturn and helped guide these Islands through the worst of 2020.
And so, heading into this New Year, and into an election season, I take considerable heart that on all the main issues that matter to Caymanians, residents and investors, we continue to head in the right direction.
Our Financial Services Industry remains robust and despite recent challenges will grow from strength to strength.
The development sector as I have said also remains strong.
Over time we will see tourism recover, which will further help our economic growth.
Newer sectors such as healthcare tourism will continue to expand and become an even more important part of a diversified economy, whilst simultaneously significantly improving medical care for those who live here.
Our Islands have been made safer with the launch of our new Customs and Border Control service that is using the latest intelligence-led approaches to detect and arrest criminals entering our borders, bringing in drugs and weapons or illicit cash.
Our Coastguard is protecting our waters and making those waters safer for us to enjoy. Our second helicopter has strengthened the ability of the RCIPS Air Operations Unit to fight crime and to assist in the protection of seas and in search and rescue.
And with the launch of the Cayman Islands Regiment we have the start of an important uniformed institution that will be trained, as we have already seen, to help keep us safe in times of hazards.
The government has also provided more assistance to those in need by greatly increasing the stipends paid to veterans and seafarers and increased the ex gratia payments for those on social assistance.
We are building a new mental health facility and we have opened Habakkuk House so that separate specialist care can be provided for adults and children with special needs.
The improvements in education are bearing fruit as seen by improving exam results and the work of teachers to drive improvements in standards as being evidenced by the school inspectorate.
This past year has seen work started to cap the George Town Landfill, further serving to reduce fire risks. In the coming year, I expect work to begin on the new waste to energy plant that, when complete, will allow us to close the landfill for good.
The Government has helped more Caymanians to achieve the dream of homeownership. Our reductions in stamp duty to first time Caymanian homeowners and support for the extended Guaranteed Home Assisted Mortgage scheme are making homes more affordable while housing units provided by the National Housing Development Trust are making more homes available for young Caymanian families.
We have achieved much over this term. But we know there is still more to deal with, particularly with the pandemic and its consequences. We will not waver in our commitment to deliver on the ambitions we share for our people. We came together as a government of national unity and in this time of crisis, that unity has been more important than ever. We need to remain united and resolute as we see through what we have started and enable Cayman to grow and recover, ensuring that all Caymanians have the opportunity to share in the success we believe our country can enjoy.
In January on National Heroes Day, we will begin the year-long celebrations for our Seafarers, an integral part of our history, identity and heritage. I am confident that as the vaccine programmes roll out both here in Cayman and across the world, there will potentially be much more to celebrate in 2021.
We can look forward with renewed confidence. It is a confidence born not just in the success of science in defeating the virus but forged in the history of our people. In a short sixty years, Cayman has grown to become a modern economic powerhouse. That has happened because of the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of our people.
The last year has not dimmed that spirit. Indeed, if anything, our shared experience has renewed that spirit – I see evidence of that all around me. From the way, our community has come together to help each other to the dozens of small businesses starting up with advice from the new Small Business Centre.
From our new Parliament to volunteers working on community clean-ups and environmental projects. From the students in our schools, working hard to succeed in difficult circumstances, to the front-line workers who responded so magnificently when our community needed it.
Cayman is the place I am proud to call my home and I am humbled and honoured to serve as Premier of these Islands.
This year has been a tougher time than any of us can remember. Yet as a country we have come through the worst of this crisis and while there is still a long road to travel, as I have said, we are on the right path.
Let us face 2021 with a proud self-confidence that we will come back stronger. Most importantly, let us face 2021 together. It is our unity of purpose that has brought us to this position and it is our unity of purpose that will deliver us the rest of the way.
I wish each and every one of you a Happy and Healthy New year. May God bless our people, and May God continue to bless these Cayman Islands.