The 2nd annual Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum, held last week, provided over 200 attendees, including several Government and business leaders with the forecasted economic outlook for the remainder of 2019 as well as key issues facing local businesses.

During his opening remarks, Chamber President, Chris Kirkconnell, called for a review of the term limit policy, stating that over 70% of their members who responded to a recent online survey did not support the current policy.

Chris Kirkconnell, Chamber President, speaks at the 2019 Economic Forum.

“The survey received a good response from a cross section of business sizes and from a cross section of the Cayman economy,” Mr Kirkconnell said. “The respondents really showed us that they are unhappy with the current term limit policy that requires work permit holders to apply for permanent residency or leave the islands after nine years.”

“At the Chamber of Commerce, it is one of our key objectives to provide a collective voice for our members. Through the survey, our members have made it clear that the current term limit policy is disruptive to organisational stability; does not increase available Cayman employees and, while the route to citizenship should be encouraged, there could be an opt out option to allow individuals to remain here, subject to work permits.”

“We plan to work closely with the current administration to have these concerns properly reviewed and addressed,” Mr Kirkconnell said.

Mr. Kirkconnell addressed the forum theme “creating a sustainable economy” and shared the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Many of these goals are being addressed in the Government’s Strategic Policy Statement, he said.

Mr Kirkconnell shared members concerns about the ‘iconic tower’ being proposed by DART. He said he has spoken to many businesspeople from all industries and from companies of varying sizes and an overwhelming consensus is that Cayman does not need to become a high-rise jungle. 

“We are already pushing our limited with the current building height restrictions and Caymanians from all walks of life, including members of the Chamber Council all seem to agree that a 50, 80 or 100 story tower or skyscraper planted directly in the heart of Seven Mile Beach is not only not a sustainable way forward for our island, it is not needed nor wanted by the larger community.”

Many other business leaders and government officials provided insight into the current and projected state of the local economy.

Hon. Roy McTaggart, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, said Cayman’s gross domestic product (GDP) was at 3.4% in real term for 2018, with a positive growth predicted for the coming years, and overall unemployment was down to 2.8% in 2018 from 4.6% in the previous year. Minister McTaggart also reported that Cayman’s Economical Performance for the first quarter of 2019 in which the country has had a $215.4 million surplus.

Director of Tourism Rosa Harris reported that more than 40,000 stayover visitors arrived in the Cayman Islands in May which was the first time in Cayman’s history that this mark had been reached. She also unveiled the new ‘Dream in Cayman’ marketing and promotional campaign which includes beautiful underwater images and animation.

Answering questions from the audience, Hon. Moses Kirkconnell, Deputy Premier, Minister for District Administration, Tourism and Transport, revealed that the selection of the firm to construct the new cruise berthing and cargo improvement project would be announced in three weeks.

Sharon Roulstone, Director of Workforce Opportunities & Residency Cayman (WORC), outlined details of the new WORC strategy which would include a new paperless system. She was joined by Dr Stacy McAfee, President of UCCI, and Dan Scott, Chairman of the Educational Council, to discuss work place readiness and education in the Cayman Islands.

JC Calhoun, Managing Broker at Coldwell Banker, Paul Byles, Economist & Director of FTS, Justin Howe, Executive Vice President of Real Estate Development and Operations for Decco, DART Development, and Richard Hew, President and CEO at Caribbean Utilities Company Limited, participated in a panel discussion on the topic Cayman at a population of 100,000.  They agreed that rapid population growth presents challenges to the infrastructure including schools, roads, social services and public safety.  They cautioned that population growth should be steady rather than rapid so that it does not negatively impact the quality of life that Caymanians and residents have come to enjoy which is the reason why the Cayman Islands are so appealing for residents, visitors and investors to live, work and invest.

“We are extremely grateful to Chamber members for taking the time to attend the forum as well as the panelists and speakers for sharing their views on the forum theme,” Mr Kirkconnell said. “We would also like to thank our amazing sponsors, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, DART, Cayman First, The Department of Tourism, Coldwell Banker and CUC, for making this event possible.”