Economic Forum attracts more than 250 government and business leaders.

‘Creating a Sustainable Economy’ was the theme for this year’s Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum on Friday 2nd February at the Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa. The full-day event included presentations from top government leaders including the Governor, Premier and Deputy Premier and the Minister of Tourism, and private sector leaders in financial services, tourism, healthcare, and infrastructure.

In her opening remarks, Her Excellency the Governor, Jane Owen spoke about the benefits of developing the close relationship that exists between the Cayman Islands and the UK: I am pleased as Governor that our relationship between Cayman and the UK is very strong and I think it is a good thing for Cayman,” she said. “We are planning on what they call bilateral compact agreements with all our overseas territories – we are looking to do that probably in the next couple of years with Cayman.”

Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Premier and Minister for Finance, Education, District Administration, Lands, and Cabinet Office, spoke on the theme: ‘Building for Tomorrow, Today: A sustainable path to a successful future.’

“We must apply sustainable economic principles to government budgeting, aligning financial decisions with long-term goals that prioritise social, environmental, and economic sustainability,” she said. The Premier stressed the government’s commitment to maintaining a private sector-driven economy.

“We must apply sustainable economic principles to government budgeting, aligning financial decisions with long-term goals that prioritise social, environmental, and economic sustainability…The key benefit that we have through a sustainable economy is the preservation or improvement of the quality of life for all of our people,” Premier O’Connor-Connolly said.

Hon. Kenneth Bryan, Minister of Tourism and Ports spoke about the importance of diversifying the tourism sector, away from the traditional ‘sun, sea and sand,’ model. The completion of the East-West arterial road would facilitate this process by opening new opportunities for small tourism-oriented businesses with a focus on preserving and promoting local culture, whilst helping to distribute the spread of tourists over the entire island.  

Hon. André Ebanks, Deputy Premier, Minister for Financial Services and Commerce’s presentation which linked many of the forum’s recurring themes of innovation, the effects of technology, and the importance of a solid fiscal foundation in creating a sustainable economic future. Minister Ebanks traced the history of Cayman’s financial services industry and how it had consistently benefitted to rise to the challenges presented by international AML watchdog FATF. The Cayman Islands had become an “Economic Powerhouse,” as a result, he said. New areas for development included innovations in intellectual property legislation, enabling patents to be enacted here and making Cayman an intellectual property hub.

Shomari Scott Chief Business Officer, Health City Cayman Islands, spoke about the future of healthcare. AI would play an increasingly significant role in pooling knowledge about health practices, effectively giving younger doctors experience beyond their years and freeing specialists to focus on their areas of expertise. He predicted the development of donor organs grown from the recipients’ cells, increasing availability, and reducing the risk of rejection. 3-D organ development using your cells – create organs and reduce the rejection rate. The way forward was to shift healthcare from treatment-focused to preventative, incorporating healthier lifestyles as a long-term goal of integrated healthcare.

Brandon Caruana, Co-Founder and CEO of Tenet Bank and Cartan Group spoke on the future of technology in the Cayman Islands and its impact on all our lives. In the past, innovation constrained large urban centres of population, he said, but now geographical limitations are becoming less significant. “If you wanted to get something published back in the 90’s it was consolidated to a few key big media publishing houses…. Now anyone anywhere can share their ideas instantly by uploading them to the cloud. Information distribution is now free and there are no limits,” he said.

Sasha Tibbetts, CUC’s Vice President of Customer Service & Technology, spoke about CUC’s sustainability goals: “Our mission is in empowering Cayman to be a global leader in sustainable development,” he said. Sustainability was something that CUC extended to every aspect of the company’s operation, including its human resource management, where succession planning through training and scholarships was key.

CUC was keen to transition to renewables – such as solar – but affordability was a vital component of sustainability too, he said. One of the barriers to not accommodating more solar energy was that output inevitably fluctuated according to sunlight intensity and availability, which was problematic for the distribution network. The answer was to create large banks of batteries, Tibbetts said, that could soak up the excess electricity and make it available at times of peak demand.

Chamber representatives included Nelson Dilbert, who presented the results of the Chamber’s annual State of Business survey, President, Chamber of Commerce, Joanne Lawson, President-Elect, Chamber of Commerce and Omari Corbin, Vice President, Chamber of Commerce, who acted as MC for the event. “The Chamber supports growth, and we believe that when you unleash the power of the free enterprise system it lifts the tide for all vessels, big and small. For us, small businesses are the lifeblood of our membership and, by extension the economy,” he said.

Paul Byles, Director, FTS hosted a panel discussion: “Where to next: a look at how our economy is shaping up in three key areas and where we are headed over the medium term. Panelists were Dan DeFinis, Chief Executive and Engineering Officer, Davenport Development; Sarah Hobbs, VP & Country Head, Scotiabank & Trust (Cayman) Ltd Charlie Kirkconnell, CEO, Cayman Enterprise City.

The interactive nature of the forum meant that, throughout the day, there were plenty of opportunities to ask presenters questions, either directly, or via phone messenger. There were also many networking opportunities.

The Chamber of Commerce thanks sponsors Dart, Ministry of Tourism and Ports, CUC, Logic, Ministry of Finance & Economic Development, CUC, Health City Cayman Islands, Cayman Islands Health Services Authority, B1, Cayman Enterprise City, and Tower for the invaluable support.