The Chamber of Commerce has led the way when it comes to advocating for local businesses since its inception in 1965, offering a collective voice on legislative and other issues affecting business and generally championing the business cause.
The Chamber was created by a team of founders, all prominent local business leaders of their time, and whose objectives have remained true to this day: to promote and protect Cayman businesses and ensure that their voice is heard within Government.
We take our Members’ opinions on topics seriously. Their collective views shape the policy positions of the Chamber. The Policy Positions listed below are the result of Members’ responses to our surveys, conducted both online and personally, and as told to the Chamber Council.
Government procurement is a major market place for Cayman business. Government spends millions of dollars on goods and services annually. The Chamber believes it is critically important that government procurement policy allows for an increased participation of Caymanian businesses in this significant major market. Existing guidelines place considerable focus on value for money when making purchasing decisions. Value for money is to be underpinned by four supporting principles: efficiency and effectiveness; accountability and transparency; ethics and industry development.
The Chamber supports a further review of the government procurement policy and guidelines to ensure Caymanian businesses of all sizes have access and are able to secure a greater share of the government procurement market. Local businesses should be in full compliance with local laws before being eligible to be considered for bidding on government procurement projects. The Chamber opposes Cabinet’s recent decision to waive duty for all Government departments, Statutory Authorities and Government-owned companies. This policy encourages Government to purchase from abroad bypassing locally licensed businesses that are paying fees and creating jobs and opportunities for Caymanians in business. Furthermore, the duty waiver discourages local spending and runs afoul of supporting Chamber members and businesses locally.
Small business development:
Encouraging the development of new small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is of paramount importance to economic growth and the retention of wealth by Caymanians. Government policies should encourage small business development in order to reduce the desire by residents to shop abroad. When products and services are purchased abroad, wealth leaves the Islands. This is a disservice to local businesses that pay Government fees that help to fund infrastructure and public services. A vibrant small business sector creates opportunities for Caymanians to own their own businesses and creates new jobs. The Chamber supports the development of a national SME strategy that includes robust incentives that serves to support existing SMEs while at the same time stimulating interest among Caymanian entrepreneurs to establish their own businesses.
Duty free allowance:
Small to Micro Sized Enterprises (SMEs) represent approximately 80% of the Chamber’s membership. These businesses continue to highlight the difficulty many of them experience with convincing consumers to shop locally. Family shopping excursions abroad, online shopping with the same duty rates as a holder of a Trade and Business License and the generous CI$350 per person, per trip duty free allowance are making it increasingly difficult for SMEs, particularly in the retail sector, to compete. The Chamber opposes any increase in the duty free allowance. Government needs to consider ways to promote and support local shopping and local businesses. The Chamber supports a review of the existing system. We are aware that merchants must also play their part to offer fair and competitive pricing and quality customer services if they are to change the mindset of local consumers.
There should be no misunderstanding about the crucial importance of maintaining the national budget in surplus. The Chamber will provide the Government with no leeway on this most fundamental of all macroeconomic principles. While it is possible that a deficit may occur as a result of unforeseen circumstances during the course of a year, the Cayman Islands Government must not borrow to fund recurrent expenditure. It is crucial that the Budget is kept in surplus and that if there is any prospect that a deficit may appear that the shortfall is made up through cuts to public spending. Raising fees is an unacceptable approach to maintaining a budget surplus. Higher fees acts to slow down business activity. Government’s introduction of accrual based accounting more than a decade ago should be fully embraced and systems put in place to ensure that consolidated audited financial accounts are produced annually for public release.
The Chamber of Commerce is committed to the development of a skilled and motivated Caymanian workforce that satisfies employer demands in the main industry sectors. We are committed to assisting Government in this process. We must equip our students to develop the skills required for the workplace. Additionally, Government must ensure that it sets aside sufficient funding in this area. Public/private partnerships in education, workforce and teacher training and leadership development should be encouraged. The Chamber operates a Professional Development and Training Centre that offers more than 65 workshops and courses each year. Mentoring Cayman initiative between the Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Youth and the Junior Achievement programme are two such initiatives that should be further promoted and supported. The Chamber supports further initiatives with the Ministry of Commerce and the Department of Commerce and Investment to provide training specifically designed to assist with the development of entrepreneurs and SMEs in our community. The Chamber worked in partnership with the Government in 1993 to establish the Employee Assistance programme to assist employees resolve personal problems that may adversely affect job performance. www.eapcayman.org
The financial sector is a major employer of Caymanians and has proven to be an attractive profession for many, delivering good paying jobs with good working conditions and is an excellent revenue source for Government. Every effort must be made to sustain growth in this sector. There can be no increase in existing license fees or work permit fees and indeed consideration should be given to rolling back the high increases levied in recent years. A review of the impact of the increases should be carried out to determine if our Islands have become uncompetitive in certain areas of the industry. The Government’s efforts to continue to advocate for a level playing field among all financial centres should be continued. The Cayman Islands should not be forced to introduce standards that are well beyond those operated by other competing jurisdictions.
The Chamber supports improvements to the cruise landing and the addition of new hotels and condominiums that are affiliated with quality international brands. For stay-over tourism, the Chamber supports airport improvements and the better management of the tourism product to ensure that our land and sea-based attractions are properly maintained and managed. There is a need to improve the overall cruise experience and measuring the guest experience and transitioning them to stay-over visitors.
Revitalisation of George Town
The Chamber supports the revitalisation of George Town and is committed to working with Government to implement a plan to improve the conditions that will increase traffic flows, development opportunities and aesthetics that will attract new development and multiple activities. Downtown George Town is the historic centre of commerce and we must work to retain its prominence and attractiveness for business and residents. This area stretches from the Godfrey Nixon/Eastern Avenue intersection straight west to Da Fish Shack Restaurant and south to Eden Rock and then east to the Government Administration Building.
This area incorporates dozens of local and international businesses from all industry sectors including financial services, restaurants, industrial, commercial, merchants and small businesses and includes the port, cruise ship landing and some of Cayman’s most historic and culturally significant buildings, the Legislative Assemby, the Public Library, Elmslie Memorial Church and the Courts Building. In recent years there has been a general decline in the number of businesses operating in this area and an increase in available office space due to the challenges with insufficient parking, downsizing by some businesses and the relocation of some businesses and residents to other locations in Grand Cayman. These conditions and the lack of a comprehensive, sustainable economic development plan for George Town, limited funding and ineffective leadership to develop and implement a strategy to address the neglected infrastructure challenges that have festered for many years has allowed this area to deteriorate and to diminish its position as the heart of commerce and community activity.
The Chamber supports the establishment of a district committee in George Town, to work with the Chamber, the wider private sector and the district residents on a plan to make downtown and central George Town more attractive for visitors, residents and businesses and to evaluate ways to encourage more activity in the city centre at night. The Chamber supports amending the Planning Law and Regulations to allow the development of residential apartments as part of commercial buildings and the improvements to the boardwalk area along the waterfront.
There is no other issue more important to our membership and to the country as a whole than the stability and vibrancy of the economy and the management of finances and Budget by the Government. Prudent fiscal and economic policy seeks to encourage a business friendly environment in which inward foreign direct investment is welcomed as long as it satisfies national policy objectives that promote sustainable development, environmental and natural resources protection and preservation, wealth retention for Caymanians, job creation and fair and equitable labour practices for both employers and workers.
Economic development plan
The Chamber supports the development of a medium-to-long term economic plan for the three islands in consultation with the private sector and the community. The benefits of such a plan are obvious such as investor confidence and investment. Government needs to develop an economic policy that will define the future strategy for the development of the Cayman Islands. Such a plan would incorporate strategies for the future development of all major industry sectors and would include strategies to diversify the economy in non-traditional and emerging sectors. The economic development plan should also focus on population growth and should incorporate new job forecasts and impacts on the physical and social infrastructure of the islands. The Chamber believes that the five drivers identified and supported by the public and private sector in the Future of Cayman economic development inititiative, www.futureofcayman.com should remain at the core of any future discussions.
Economic and demographic statistics
There is an urgent need to introduce the discipline of releasing regular and timely statistical information on economic performance and trends during scheduled periods throughout the year. At the moment statistics are kept by several Government agencies and departments and there does not seem to be an organised and coordinated approach or effort to produce a standard economic status report that could be used by Government and presented to investors who may be interested in conducting business in the Cayman Islands. The Chamber is prepared to work with the Economic and Statistics Office to develop such a report. The Chamber supports amendments to existing legislation that will allow for the timely release of economic statistics by the Economics and Statistics Office.
Business Growth and Development
The first step towards achieving the objective of encouraging business growth and better targeting government programmes must be to identify and understand the factors that drive Cayman’s business growth. Specifically, two key questions need to be answered. First, why does a business choose to locate and operate in the Cayman Islands? Second, what impediments are there to the growth of businesses in the Cayman Islands? Members report that public safety, Christian-family values and the relaxing lifestyle are among the leading factors for locating a business in the Cayman Islands. They also indicated that labour force stability, availability of specialised workforce skills, medical facilities, good infrastructure, quality of education, business and living costs and availability of jobs are important considerations for business when determining to establish and maintain a presence in the Cayman Islands. The main impediments are business costs (high fees), cost of living, limited supply of local labour in highly skilled and unskilled positions, challenges with obtaining imported labour and Government bureaucracy. The Chamber is committed to working with Government to improve the business climate for inward foreign direct investment, to develop wealth creation opportunities for Caymanians and to promote business growth and sustainable development.
The Chamber of Commerce opposes any move to introduce a system of direct taxation. Direct taxation is not the answer to remedy Cayman’s budgetary challenges. The Chamber supports controlling expenditure, reducing government debt, controlling costs and building up national reserves. The Chamber opposes any additional revenue measures which would further increase the cost of doing business along with any proposal to introduce any additional general corporate or any form of taxes on income, interbank transactions, payroll or property without a definitive plan to cut costs and reduce debt. The Chamber supports the findings and many of the recommendations in the Miller Shaw and the Project Future reports and is prepared to work with Government to evaluate and implement the recommendations.
Infrastructure and economic development
The Chamber supports the development of a cruise berthing facility, a yachting facility, relocation of the cargo facilities, medical tourism development, convention facilities, revitalisation of George Town and waterfront redevelopment, attracting the reinsurance and captive insurance sector, private trust business and the introduction of copyright and intellectual property legislation.
The Cayman Islands Government and the private sector operate two separate labour systems. The Chamber opposes this division and supports a system with the same set of rules in the workplace. In this way, there is equality and all labour matters are handled under one set of rules for Caymanians and foreign workers.
Privatisation and outsourcing
The Chamber has advocated and supported privatisation and outsourcing as key strategies for reducing the size and expense of the public sector. The Chamber opposes Government providing services that are best delivered by the private sector. Government works best in a free enterprise system when it facilitates an enabling environment for private sector business growth, development and investment. Government should fairly regulate business practices through reasonable legislation and robust enforcement to ensure fair practices and competition.
Future of Cayman Economic Development strategy
Developing a vision for the future is essential for any society. The Future of Cayman Economic Development strategy was developed to identify five main objectives that all stakeholders agree are vital for Cayman’s ongoing and future success. The Chamber supports the final report that was produced and continues to press for collaboration with Government leaders to focus on the five main drivers and the objectives listed for each.
The five drivers are:
1.Develop Talent 2.Create a Business-Friendly Climate 3.Diversify the Economy 4.Enhance the Quality of Life 5.Build a Smarter Infrastructure
The Chamber believes that by focusing on these five drivers that the Cayman Islands can address the key foundational areas that will lead to a strong and vibrant economy and society. The strategy is accessible online at www.futureofcayman.com
One Person One Vote
The Chamber supports the introduction of one person, one vote and single member constituencies for all electoral districts in the Cayman Islands. A small constituency with a single member, as opposed to multiple members, encourages a stronger connection between representative and constituent and increases accountability. Voters are often afraid of wasting their vote on a candidate who is unlikely to win, so they may feel unable to cast their vote towards their most preferable choice. This reduces the number of wasted votes. Single member constituencies’ better serves every citizen and guarantees equality.
Daylight Savings Time
The Chamber supports the introduction of Daylight Savings Time. The business community would benefit from DST and the preliminary assessment that it does not pose any material challenges to the wider community.
Solid Waste Management and Recycling
Cayman Islands policy for solid waste management is driven by the Public Health Law and Regulations as well as components of other laws to protect the environment and public health. There is no separate national policy, law or regulations for the management of the solid waste in the Cayman Islands other than what is included in the Public Health Law. There is a need for a national strategy for solid waste management in relations to the environment, public health and the economy. The Chamber supports the development of comprehensive legislation to support a national strategy to regulate the solid waste industry and to introduce and regulate a national recycling programme.
The Chamber supports removing the administration of work permit grants from the Immigration Department and placing this responsibility with the Department of Labour and Pensions with adequate resourcing, systems and management. The Department of Immigration has two central functions: to protect the borders and to manage migration to the Islands. The Department is ill equipped to determine and assess the labour requirements of employers. This function is best served by a department that focuses solely on labour policies and employment. The current system frustrates employers and serves to restrain Cayman’s free enterprise system and business growth and acts as a proverbial brake pedal for the recruitment of international labour. The current system does not serve the best interests of qualified Caymanians who should be given first priority for job openings and places an unnecessary and protracted burden on employers to prove that there are no available Caymanians and their need to employ foreign workers. The Chamber supports the hiring of Caymanians who possess the skills, education, work ethic and desire to succeed in the workplace at all times but believes that the current system requires radical reform in order to meet the needs of Cayman’s growing economy.
Copyright protection in the Cayman Islands is provided for primarily under the UK Copyright Act 1956, extended to Cayman by Order in 1979. This framework is no longer adequate given developments in technology, especially as the UK has introduced the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as an overhaul to this area of legislation and to better reflect changes in international standards. The Chamber supports the introduction of domestic copyright legislation and believes there are sound economic advantages to introduce legislation that will foster new business opportunities in the Cayman Islands.
Crime and Public Safety
The Chamber supports the Crime Reduction Strategy that was developed by the National Security Council and adopted and agreed by Cabinet in May 2011. The Chamber believes that the prevention of crime should always remain a national priority. The rights and freedoms in our Constitution are compromised every time a citizen or business becomes a victim of crime. Not only does crime affect individuals and businesses residing in the Cayman Islands, it also impacts upon the reputation of these Islands as a safe tourism destination and place to conduct business. The Chamber recognises that Government cannot prevent crime on its own; it requires a partnership with the various stakeholders and the community at large. The Chamber remains ready and prepared to work with the Police and law enforcement officials to commit resources and expertise that is required to ensure that public safety remains at the forefront of national priorities. The Chamber initiated the Cayman Crime Stoppers programme in the Cayman Islands in 1993 and continues to support its activities. Cayman Crime Stoppers provides a safe and secure means for anybody with information about a crime to share it freely whilst protecting their identity. It could also earn them a reward of up to $1,000. www.crimestoppers.ky