The stage has effectively been set for the 2021 general election with Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin laying out in his annual State of the Nation address what amounted to a manifesto template for his People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) party which currently heads the governing coalition.
In part highlighting the successes of the administration he’s headed for his two-term limit, Mr McLaughlin also pointed to what he saw as the future course for the jurisdiction’s economic advancement.
Putting an end to speculation about his successor, the Premier has placed his Finance Minister Roy McTaggart, the architect of Cayman’s post-COVID economic strategy, firmly at the helm in anticipation of what he hopes will be the next PPM or PPM-led administration...although he did not not directly name him.
“Next May I will complete two consecutive terms as Premier and 20 and ½ years as a representative of my people. Although I will not be Premier again, I will stand for re-election in the constituency of Red Bay and God and my constituents willing, I hope to continue to represent my people and assist in governing this country I love so very much following these elections. But more important than that by far is that I am confident that the man who has managed this country’s finances during this term is more than up to the task of succeeding me as Premier.”
He cited particularly Mr McTaggart’s stewardship over the jurisdiction’s finances especially during the ongoing COVID pandemic and his recently-outlined blueprint for economic recovery.
“Cayman’s position has not come about by accident,” Mr McLaughlin posited. “It is the direct result of this Government’s fiscal strategy. I must, in particular, pay tribute to the Minister of Finance. The country has been fortunate indeed to have a figure of his stature and experience at the helm at this time. His stewardship of the public purse has been notwithstanding remarkable,” the Premier stated.
This puts to rest hints that current Commerce and Infrastructure Minister Joey Hew, was being groomed for the post as heir-apparent to PPM Leader McLaughlin.
However, in detailing his government’s record, the Premier lauded first-time minister Mr Hew for his initiatives in supporting the business sector, especially small businesses.
“I would like to thank the Minister of Commerce for the work his Ministry has done both to create a lifeline that meets the immediate needs of small businesses and to bring forward their plans and to open the new centre ahead of schedule,” he said while also praising him for overseeing a string of infrastructural programmes under his portfolio.
“Infrastructure provision by Government will remain a key enabler of growth in the new Cayman economy. Despite the interruptions of the last few months, the Government has made considerable progress on national infrastructure priorities.”
The McLaughlin PPM-led government has taken credit for placing Cayman in good stead to navigate the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
While he would constitutionally no longer be in the driving seat, irrespective of the outcome of next May’s election, the Premier used his State of the Nation address to outline the vision for a post-pandemic economy for Cayman.
It’s already clear that initially going forward, cruise tourism will not have the prominent role it played in the economy up to the onset of the COVID-19.
Mr McLaughlin outlined the vision, which while not deviating from the current core economic pillars of finance, construction, real estate and tourism, aims for diversification into the tech industry, especially fintech.
“I have throughout my time as Premier spoken of the need to diversify the Caymanian economy. In particular, we need to embrace the opportunities offered by digital business and the knowledge economy,” Mr McLaughlin stated.
Saying that the government has made “important steps in that direction” he listed the framework of protections created for intellectual property as “a crucial step” pointing Enterprise City and Tech Cayman which he said were attracting increasing numbers of new businesses to our shores as a result.
The Premier also highlighted the Virtual Assets Law as a significant regulatory provision to support the development of Cayman's financial services in the fast-moving world of cryptocurrencies and digital assets.
“For young people looking to develop their interest in gaming or app development or music into a career, it offers them the chance to create digital content and receive safe payment here in Cayman.”
“My government is willing to do more to support the location of knowledge-based business in the Cayman Islands,” he said, noting that the process had already begun towards a third undersea communication cable.
Cayman’s increasingly diversified economy as envisioned by Mr McLaughlin will create business opportunities for Caymanians.
With elections in the offing, the switch to campaigning mode was quite evident in the address with the PPM-leader taking several targeted swipes at his political opponents in a series of questions to voters.
“Next May, Mr. Speaker, the country has a really big decision to make. Does it retain its confidence in those whom it has seen deliver on the promises we have made and who have set out a clear and important vision for the future of our country? Does it stick with those who four years ago committed themselves to put aside political differences in the national interest and who have remained steadfast in that commitment?"
"Or does it instead turn to a mismatched group of individuals who in the past four years have shown that the only thing that unites them is political ambition and political opportunism?” the PPM-government leader asked as he fired off the first salvos of an expected heated election campaign.