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Premier’s New Year Message

Government 05 Jan, 2023 Follow News

Cayman Islands Premier Hon G. Wayne Panton, JP, MP

My fellow Caymanians, residents of our islands and friends of the Cayman Islands, welcome to 2023. Where ever in the world you may be today, I wish you and your family good health, peace, and joy.

May you enter this new year with a sense of gratitude for the blessing bestowed upon you and renewed optimism for all the good things that are yet to come.

Yes, we have challenges at home and there are external forces making things harder than they have been in decades. YET, there is still much we in the Cayman Islands can be thankful for. Let us take a moment to count our blessings and truly appreciate what we have in these three islands.

We have a beautiful natural environment.

We have intelligent, talented people.

We have a concentration of capital.

We are relatively safe.

We have a reputation as a leader and best in class service provider.

We have the rule of law.

We have an incredibly strong judicial bench.

We have financial wherewithal.

An almost destined geographical positioning.

We have fixed exchange rates.

A generally peaceful, calm and orderly society.

We have caring committed citizens who look out for each other, men and women who care about their community.

All around us we have thoughtful, kind people who always take time to check on their neighbour or relative, and make the time to help out with errands, or a cooked meal or a household chore

We have children and young people who are committed to excellence and succeeding on the world stage.

We have a premium tourism product and the benefit of our own national airline.

A thriving, sophisticated financial services industry.

We are successfully diversifying our economy with healthcare and tech, creating new and good jobs.

And we have an excellent reputation around the world as a country known for its leadership, and commitment to excellence and professionalism.

There are people in countries around us who would be keen to have a mere handful of the things we have going for us.

And it’s time for us to recognize it,

Cherish it,

Protect it and

Cultivate it.

2022 was a year of transitions.

Here at home, due in no small part to our fantastic Covid vaccine record, we were able to make a full return to everyday life for the first time in two years, and it was indeed reason to be joyful. We were able to gather without restrictions and travel without testing or mandatory isolations. We were able to return to life together, gathering in the community and opening our homes to friends and family.

We hosted a number of prestigious conferences and international dignitaries; the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council held its first sitting in the Caribbean here in Cayman and our talented youth are dominating the rest of the world in as far away places as Australia, and we welcomed our first ever female Chief Justice and our 5th female Speaker of the House.

However, 2022 was also a year where we experienced the sadness of people gone too soon. We lost a number of esteemed nation builders, community icons and young, bright stars. We also said a final farewell to former Governor Michael Gore. Each loss reminded us that we must cherish the time we have together.

In September, we joined the world in paying our final respects to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning monarch and head of the Commonwealth. We welcomed accession of her son, King Charles III and look forward to his coronation in May of this year.

2022 was a year we will not soon forget.

It was also a year where we advanced some of our most important objectives.

Thanks to the efforts and care of many, we were able to successfully reopen the country to travel and tourism, dropping the isolation and testing requirements.

Few countries in the world were able to reopen without needing to implement new restrictions afterwards. Thankfully, we have been able to manage the COVID cases thus far; with residents enjoying travelling freely again. Business travel has resumed in earnest, and tourism is booming.

Covid is still with us however, and will continue to present a challenge to manage through the vaccine and booster programs and the other common sense protocols we have all become so familiar with.

In the face of external forces – including rising fuel costs, significant increases in central bank interest rates to control inflation, supply chain issues, and global shortages – as a Government we came together to implement more than twenty different initiatives to blunt the effects of sharp increases in cost of living.

These include establishing 3-year fixed rate mortgages through the Cayman Islands Development Bank; providing the electricity assistance programme for more than 20,000 households over the past six months; and reducing or eliminating import duty on a number of goods.

We also passed the Financial Assistance Act, which replaced and significantly improves upon the previous Poor Persons Relief Act that had not been updated in decades. We modernised the legislation to help the most vulnerable in our community, particularly the elderly and persons with disabilities.

Your Government has been committed to being fiscally responsible and restoring the financial strength of the Country following the difficulties of the past three years. We are succeeding with those objectives.

Whilst we have had many unplanned expenses, mostly aimed at helping our people deal with challenges beyond their control, we are also on track to achieve record revenues with NO increase in taxes and fees and similarly we are on track to achieve our projected budget surplus for the first time in three years.

This is important because it enables us to begin to rebuild our reserves and maintain our ability to help our people in the face of any adversity that may come our way.

And knowing that the strength of any country also relies on its political stability and reputation for good governance, the Cayman Islands continues to build on its reputation and put in place additional measures to ensure good governance via the elected leaders in the form of a Parliamentary Code of Conduct. This Code of Conduct outlines the minimum ethical standards of behaviour that Caymanians can expect from their MPs. It has been signed by all members of Government including the non-elected official members of Parliament. I have written to the Leader of the Opposition to invite them to sign it as well. This is an important milestone in our democratic process.

In 2023, we will continue to focus on sustainability and sustainable development. Sustainable development is not just about ecological sustainability, climate change, and preventing the extinction of species. It also has equally important economic, social, and cultural dimensions. As a Government we are committed to make decisions where we focus on fulfilling the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of our future generations.

Sustainability is often misunderstood. It consists of ensuring balance – not only balance within the environment, but balance between people, planet, and prosperity. We are committed to doing everything within our power to protect our islands from the global climate crisis. We must consider environmental stewardship alongside economic growth and social well-being.

As a Government, we are here to responsibly safeguard, and improve, the quality of life for this and future generations of Caymanians. Good health is essential to a good quality of life. In this coming year, I hope that we will all make a concerted effort to safeguard and improve our health – our physical health, our mental health and our emotional health.

As I have said on multiple occasions, our vision is of a Cayman Islands that is held up as one of the most sustainable countries in the world, a trio of islands where ALL of its citizens can thrive; a peaceful and prosperous place known for its resourcefulness, its diligence, its excellence, and its innovativeness.

We must agree on a shared vision for the future of our country and decide the kinds of physical, economic, and social development we want to see on our islands and at what pace. The priorities and framework must be developed with extensive input from the Caymanian people: students and business leaders, senior civil servants and frontline workers, multigenerational Caymanians and first generation Caymanians, retired persons, single parents of school aged children, educators, investors, voters and non-voters.

The input of people from all walks of life is essential to charting ONE Cayman, a Cayman that is unified, thriving and sustainable.

In shaping our shared vision, and for that matter, in ALL our dealings, we must be able to discuss topics, exchange ideas and debate issues in a way that is reasoned and reasonable.

We are small enough to learn from the mistakes of other countries, where dogma, prejudice and irrational polarization damages families and communities. We must be able to have differing opinions without attacking and eroding the character of each other. We must be willing to listen to each other and truly see to understand the opposing side.

As adults, particularly as leaders, we must remain calm and respectful of each other no matter how much we disagree. It is only through discussion, reason and logic, listening with our head and our heart, that we can bring forth the best in each other for the greater good of our families, our workplaces, our communities and our country.

Lest we forget, our children and young people are watching; we have a duty to set a good example for them. Beyond our shores, the world is watching, we have a duty to uphold our country’s excellent reputation in the region and around the globe.

As a Government, we believe in the importance of a strong, diverse economy; we believe in putting people first and at the centre of our decision making; and we believe in maintaining a healthy balance between the natural and developed world. A healthy environment is at the core of a healthy economy and a healthy community.

When it comes to sustainability and continued success, we must aim much higher, and be much bolder. We must push back against cynicism. There are seventeen different dimensions of sustainability according to the United Nations known as the Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs).

These are:

•             No Poverty

•             Zero Hunger

•             Good Health and Well-being

•             Quality Education

•             Gender Equality

•             Clean Water and Sanitation

•             Affordable and Clean Energy

•             Decent Work and Economic Growth

•             Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

•             Reduced Inequality

•             Sustainable Cities and Communities

•             Responsible Consumption and Production

•             Climate Action

•             Life Below Water

•             Life on Land

•             Peace and Justice Strong Institutions and a 17th dimension,

•             Partnerships to achieve the Goal

We need to consider each of these and decide for ourselves which of those 17 areas are most important for us in the Cayman Islands, which ones are the ones that, if we make substantial progress in achieving that particular goal, will make the biggest positive difference in your life, and in the lives of your children and parents.

Which of these 17 will make the biggest positive difference in our quality of life and in creating opportunities for our economy and our environment to thrive?

That is the work to be done in the first half of 2023 and soon you will have an opportunity to contribute to shaping our collective vision of a sustainable future.

I am confident that as a society we can do just that – define a shared vision and establish our own list of priorities for a sustainable future - but it will take collaboration, cooperation, and a committed alignment behind the guiding principles that WE choose to guide and shape our sustainable future for our beloved Cayman Islands.

As Caymanians we are a resourceful people. We are innovative and industriousness. Whatever challenges 2023 may bring our way -

be they economic, social, technological or environmental,

I am confident that we can and

we WILL get through them together.

In closing, I leave you with these words from Her Late Majesty [1]:

“Today we need a special kind of courage, not the kind needed in battle but a kind which makes us stand up for everything that we know is right, everything that is true and honest. We need the kind of courage that can withstand the subtle corruption of the cynics so that we can show the world that we are not afraid of the future.”

In the Cayman Islands, we welcome the future. Our courage is driven by deep and abiding hope. With each passing week, we are continuing to cultivate a peaceful and prosperous country, where future generations can thrive.

On behalf of the Government, my family, and myself, I wish you a very Happy New Year filled with God’s grace and blessings.

Thank you.

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