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(CNS Business): The implementation of the rollover policy has caused “catastrophic damage” to the local economy and must be modified immediately, according to Anthony Travers, former Cayman Finance Chairman. To remedy the damage done, Cayman must move swiftly to entice what he described as the exodus of financial service personnel currently taking place from Europe, all searching for a better jurisdiction in which to set up shop. “The economy cannot stand the drain of high net worth individuals leaving the island,” he said, adding that an effective new immigration policy needed to be implemented straight away.
A new policy on immigration should protect the rights of Caymanians when it comes to voting and should ensure that Caymanians are properly integrated into the workplace, he said, speaking on a panel at the Generation Now debate at the Harquail Theatre last week. This could be done in a straightforward manner by giving security of tenure for residents without giving them the voting rights of a Caymanian. Guaranteeing security of tenure did not have to apply across the board, he added, but could be limited to skilled or professional workers only.
Travers said that the landscape as it related to the financial services industry had changed post the economic meltdown and current financial services businesses were contracting in this new deleveraged age. With the financial services industry currently supplying the Cayman Islands government with around 50 percent of its revenue, this was a situation that needed to be immediately addressed, he told the audience. A thousand jobs had emigrated from Cayman, Travers said, and 50 percent of those jobs were Caymanians’.
He worried that this issue had not been fully comprehended in Cayman. “I don’t hear any understanding of how the financial services industry has changed,” he said. “There are fewer transactions in this deleveraged environment and the only way to survive is to ensure that new categories of financial services providers – such as broker/dealers and investment bankers – are encouraged, thus providing greater revenue from fewer transactions.”
But such professionals would not choose Cayman as their new home if there was a seven year rollover in place, he confirmed. There was a big move of financial service providers out of Europe right now due to various pressures placed upon them doing business there and as such, Travers said, office space in places such as Hong Kong and Zurich were impossible to get because these were the types of locations financial service providers were looking to move to. Travers said professionals within the industry were highly mobile and could set up shop wherever they chose.
Underscoring this mobility, he said, “There is currently a local law firm with 45 lawyers sitting in Ireland!”
Chamber of Commerce President James O’Neill echoed these sentiments and he talked about the “golden opportunity” for Cayman because more and more people were looking to move offshore because of legislation in the US such as the Dodd-Frank act and other new regulations in Europe.
“We need to look at the Cayman Islands as a business, and not gate caught up in the small issues,” O’Neill said.
In response to Travers’ suggestion to encourage new financial services to the island, panel member and independent MLA Ezzard Miller said that the islands introduced a 25-year certificate for that purpose and, to his mind, no-one had taken up the offer.
Panelist Sherri Bodden-Cowan, who chairs the Term Limit Review Committee, the Immigration Review Team and the Work Permit Board, responded that the 25-year certificate to which Miller was referring was the Entrepreneur and Investor certificate, which requires a minimum of CI$2.6 million in a local business and had nothing to do with attracting new financial services business to the island.
During the discussion, Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin noted that it was “naïve to imagine” that it would be possible to allow foreign nationals to settle in Cayman for long periods without giving them rights to participate in the democratic process.
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