Premier calls for inclusive dialogue at Parliamentary luncheon

Premier Panton called for a new dialogue with all Caymanians at last month’s Parliamentary Luncheon: “I want my government to be the one who gives the citizens of the Cayman Islands the chance to tell us what they want to see in the Cayman of tomorrow,” he said. “We need to hear from individuals and communities across our three islands.”

Long-term planning was essential, especially in days of unprecedented change, but he needed the planning process to begin with the hopes and aspirations and dreams of ordinary people, and he wanted to open a forum to listen to them in a big new survey, which would be, “supported by the government, but not driven by it.”

Forces bringing rapid change came both from within Cayman– a rapid increase of more than 8,000 people in just a couple of years – as well as outside, like global inflation, and the ongoing effects of climate change and supply-chain problems. But Cayman’s businesses were resilient, and the economy had recovered well from Covid-19: “Tourism is really moving now. That means Cayman jobs for our people and profits for our businesses. We are growing and thriving even in these most difficult circumstances,” he said. 

But the Premier acknowledged that, even after having done their best to employ Caymanians, many businesses still needed to fill their vacancies with employees from outside Cayman. The Government had made new resources available, and they were already working, so that the work permit backlog would be cleared within “just a few months.”  That’s good news, because feedback from members has shown that work permit worries are among the top problems facing many businesses.

The PACT government had reached out to help Cayman’s families who were struggling with the increasing cost of living, such as providing free school meals, import duty waivers on food and other necessities, and help with electricity bills and helping with power efficiency measures. His government had taken a pragmatic middle-of-the road position, balancing protection for the most vulnerable members of society with their mandated obligation to good financial governance, he said.

Recent meetings with the Cayman Islands Bankers Association had resulted in a collective undertaking to give a minimum of 30 days’ notice before they implemented any further fee or rise in interest rates, Mr. Panton said, while expressing the hope that further benefits would arise from competition from within the group. He would be engaging with the insurance industry to address big increases in insurance premiums, which, like interest rates, are affected by global pressures. 

The financial services industry accounted for 44% of revenue, providing good, stable jobs for Caymanians: “Continued success of the financial services industry critical to our prosperity,” he said, thanking the Chamber for the Growth Matters series of videos – with Financial Services Matters soon to be released, and another series, Tourism Matters, just around the corner.

But economic success was not enough by itself. and the Strategic Policy Statement rested on five diverse pillars which embraced improving quality of life for all Caymanians; improving competitiveness while meeting international standards; and future proofing to increase resiliency: The SPS pillars ‘’are at the heart of every broad outcome, every specific outcome. But we have more work to do to ensure our country is not only prosperous but an enjoyable and peaceful place to live. These are very complex problems we have no magic wands, but we must try,” he said.

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