By Staff Writer
Hon. Premier Wayne Panton has outlined his PACT (People-driven, Accountable, Competent and Transparent) coalition government’s achievements within its first three months in office.
Giving the keynote address at the annual Legislative Luncheon organised by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, Mr Panton brought the gathering and the jurisdiction up to date, just days ahead of the government's presentation of its first Strategic Policy Statement (SPS) in parliament scheduled for Wednesday June 14th.
“Working towards our vision, in our first three months in office we have focused on reviewing existing COVID-related regulations and programmes to either extend or amend them as needed., Mr Panton stated listing a series of policy decision already taken by the government within the scope of its first 100 days in office, generally regarded as a grace period for new governments.
“We have extended programmes that provide essential relief for our people who have been the most negatively impacted by the pandemic,” he said listing the extension of the pensions holiday, the tourism workers’ stipend and the health insurance continuation programme. “These efforts continue essential support to those without jobs until our economy reopens and provides relief to businesses grappling with reduced revenues.”
Premier Panton reported that “beyond review and re-implementation of COVID-related programmes, the PACT Government has focused on the day-to-day running of the Government and attention to core public sector activities, while simultaneously developing the strategic policy statement, or SPS, for the next three years as well as crafting key strategic policies for this administration.”
He cited specific examples of core government activities including the launch of the national census, introduction of partnership regulations regarding economic substance to avoid being included on the EU’s list of non-cooperative countries for tax purposes, the continuation of national road infrastructure improvements, the addition of new national weather service observation stations, and ongoing work and public consultation to remediate and cap the George Town Landfill.
He also referred to the steps toward making the Coast Guard a reality with the preparation of supporting legislation due to go to Parliament shortly underpinning the Government’s intention of having the proposal enacted later this year.
According to Premier Panton, “No reflection of the past 16 months could be complete without an acknowledgement of the importance of financial services to this jurisdiction.”
With tourism grinding to halt and other parts of the economy and business community experiencing significant contraction caused by the pandemic, the financial services sector has played a critical role in keeping the economy - and government revenues - afloat.
The Premier credited the industry for “remaining open for global business during the height of the lockdown while having employees working from home played a key role in keeping this economy going.”
“Your financial performance and government’s coffers reflect that,” he acknowledged.
He pledged that his PACT administration will “support, promote and defend the industry as the lists of threats and challenges continue to grow.”
He also referred to his government’s decision to align itself efforts spearheaded by the G7 countries to impose a 15% per cent tax of multinational corporations, many of whom are registered in the jurisdiction.
“It is why the Cayman Islands has joined with 129 other countries and jurisdictions, considered by the OECD to represent more than 90 per cent of global GDP, in the G20/OECD consensus for a framework for reform of international tax rules.
“The new two-pillar plan is directed at international corporate taxation rules to ensure that large multinational enterprises pay their share of tax wherever they operate, and that aligns with the Cayman Islands' long-held position that taxes should be paid where they are rightfully owed.”
Noting a trend evident in the financial service sector, Mr Panton said that information and communications technologies are changing how the public sector provides services to residents, visitors and businesses in the Cayman Islands, and said that e-Government is helping cut costs, boost efficiency and improve customer experience.
In that vein, the Premier outlined steps being taken by government in collaboration with the police to safeguard against cyber-crime.
“We vow to lend our full support to the police to ensure that Cayman remains a strong, safe and desirable place to live and conduct business. A strong economy must be underpinned by safety and consumer confidence,” he stated.
Stating the success of businesses in the Cayman Islands means the success of Government and the economy, Mr Panton said, “That success gives businesses an opportunity to create jobs for our people and it gives our people an opportunity to contribute to the economic well-being of the country.”
Premier Panton also announced that his PACT coalition is replacing the Poor Persons Relief Law with Modern Financial Assistance legislation and the new Ministry of Investment, Innovation and Social Development is moving forward with the national ID programme, which he said will transform the way in which the business community and public conduct business with government expected to roll out in the early part of next year.
In his address to the business gathering at the Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative luncheon Mr Panton declared:
“I think everyone in this room is thankful to the Caymanians and residents of these Islands who have kept our economy going by supporting local businesses. I know many businesses would not have survived without citizens shopping locally, taking staycations, eating out, supporting charitable events and deliberately investing in our economy.”
Crucially, he also mentioned that the Government has “reviewed and re-forecasted” Government’s current and projected financial position for which he commended Hon. Deputy Premier Chris Saunders and his team “for our updated forecast.”
“We can’t accurately plan for the future if we don’t know what the costs of our actions – or inaction – are,” Mr Panton stated.
The government will present its anxiously-awaited first budget and Strategic Policy Plan(SPA) on July 14th against a backdrop of its that the financial and economic projections it inherited from the previous Progressives-led government were unrealistic with the deficit much larger than they had indicated.
“Next week we will table the 2022-2024 Strategic Policy Statement in Parliament. That document provides medium-term economic and financial forecasts for Government for the next three financial years covering the period from 1 January, 2022, to 31 December, 2024, along with Government’s Broad Strategic Outcomes, which will guide the development and implementation of Government policy during this period.