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Chamber leader accuses CIG of appeasing minorities

| 05/10/2015 | 1 Comment
CNS Business

Barry Bodden, President of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce

(CNS Business): The Labour Relations bill is an example of legislation drafted to appease the concerns of a small minority and not the fix needed to grow the economy, the Chamber of Commerce president said in his address at the Legislative Lunch last week. Barry Bodden made it clear that the Chamber does not support the new bill, which he said “poses a material risk to the Cayman Islands economy due to its excessive additional burden on businesses”.

Government is attempting to address some of the major problems and inequities in the current employment market. However, Bodden said the Chamber members were concerned with the potential economic fallout from the changes proposed in the consultation draft and it would not support the bill, which is scheduled to reach the parliament before the end of the year.

“The business sector, as the primary contributor to employment and government revenues, is the driver of the economy. Policies aimed at influencing the behaviour of businesses must also take into account the risk to economic activity, such as the hiring and retaining of employees,” he said. “In our August submission, we listed 16 major points that we recommend the minister to consider.”

He said that the Chamber expected to be consulted and to discuss its proposed changes since it is the most representative business organisation employing the largest block of Caymanian voters.

“We support the minister’s goal to develop a revised Labour Relations Bill that will position the Cayman Islands as a business friendly jurisdiction that is regarded as a leader among our competitors in the area of fair and balanced labour relations,” he said, predicting that 2016 was going to be a year of change and compliance for the business community.

As part of the new labour law, government is aiming to introduce a minimum wage next March and is also amending the pensions bill. Next month it will implement the new Trade and Business Licensing Law and the Builders Bill will be debated next week.

Bodden said the legislation may in some cases be intended to improve the business environment but it would still increase compliance costs at a time when the economy is experiencing growth. He urged government not to introduce any more significant legislation or fees that could increase the cost of doing business.

“We call upon government to focus on policies and legislation that will stimulate investment and create new jobs,” he said.

The Chamber president also joined in the chorus of criticism of the education system and said students had to be prepared to compete and meet these challenges of the modern workplace. He called on the minister to “ramp up efforts to reform public schools” and toughen up the standards.

“We also need to attract the best possible teachers and compensate them accordingly, create innovative charter schools and ensure that parental choice is an option for all and not just for the wealthy in our community,” he said, as he pressed government to finish the John Gray High School.

As the Chamber boss called on government to do and spend more on education, he also called for a reduction in government. He said with some advocating for the unbridled growth of the civil service and a government-run economy, they were devising roadblocks to slow down reform initiatives but he urged government to push the reform agenda and cut the public sector.

“We must press ahead with government reform and consider the options presented in the Ernst and Young report issued one year ago,” Bodden stated, adding that the business community was eager for progress.

Just minutes before the premier took to the same stage at the Ritz and announced government’s plans to press ahead with the cruise port project Bodden urged caution about that potentially very costly proposal.

“Chamber members remain divided on this project,” he said. “Members are questioning how the islands will be able to afford to pay for its construction and the environmental mitigation.”

He said it would be financially unwise for the government to proceed if the business case is unable to confirm that the islands can afford it and can cap the building costs. Bodden said Cayman’s indirect tax system was already stretched and fees and duties could not be increased to pay for it.

Although the premier said that the government had seen the revised business case from PWC and it looked “favourable”, the document has not been released to the public.

Opening address by President Barry Bodden at the Chamber of Commerce Legislative Lunch 2015

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Category: Economy, Finance, Government, Law, Local Business

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  1. Anonymous says:

    All good comments

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